With Habitat for Humanity, Building Homes and Empowering Lives

Brent Stutzman accepts the award for 2014 Build Sponsor of the Year.

Stutzman (left) accepts the award for 2014 Build Sponsor of the Year.

Since 1985, Habitat for Humanity of Indianapolis has built homes for those needing safe, affordable shelter in Indianapolis and its surrounding counties. Duke Realty has been a build sponsor with Greater Indy Habitat for 11 years and, in that time, Duke Realty associates, contractors, and volunteers have helped to build 16 homes. At the Indy Habitat Kick-Off for 2015, the organization honored Duke Realty as its 2014 Build Sponsor of the Year.

Brent Stutzman, Construction Operations Manager and coordinator of Duke Realty’s Habitat for Humanity efforts, says the honor is due to the commitment and the quality of work that went into two brand new homes in Indianapolis last year. “We’re very conscientious about the end results,” Stutzman says. He points out that if any work on the house is not up to his standard, he makes sure it gets done again. “It needs to be a house that I would move into,” he says. “It’s kind of how we’re programmed in our work at Duke Realty.”

As build sponsor, Duke Realty enlists six of its specialty subcontractors to donate their labor to each build project. (All materials are provided by Habitat for Humanity.) Specially licensed contractors, such as HVAC, electrical, and plumbing, donate their services. Duke Realty’s roofing, flooring, and drywall partners—who have skill and speed that untrained volunteers can’t match—also donate their services. But for the rest of the build, untrained labor gets the job done.

Brent Stutzman, left, Duke Realty Construction Operations Manager, and other volunteers on a 2014 build first volunteer day.

Stutzman (left) with others on the first volunteer day of a 2014 build.

A build sponsor is responsible for supervising each volunteer day, with between 16 and 20 volunteer days per build. Between two and four Duke Realty associates are present on each of these volunteer days to facilitate the work and ensure that it is done correctly. Stutzman particularly appreciates the extra volunteer days Duke Realty has allotted so that he can see these projects through.

The Habitat partnership is really special, Stutzman says, because of the chance to help community members who are also helping themselves. “The future homeowner has around 400 hours of class time and work time to put their sweat equity into the home,” he says. “On many days, you see them working on their house.”

In 2015, Duke Realty will sponsor a two-story home, the first in the company’s involvement with Habitat. Stutzman predicts that the project will run at least a few weeks beyond the usual one-story build schedule. “We’ve got some challenges,” he says, “But I’ve already worked out in my head how we’re going to attack it. We’ll be just fine.”

The 2015 build will begin on August 20 and wrap up during the first part of November.

There are two moments in every build that stand out in Stutzman’s mind. The first is the day the walls go up. “When we put the first two panels up to create the first corner of the house, our tradition is always to let the homeowner pound that nail. That usually gets a tear out of the owner, because they’re putting the first nail in for the first two walls of their new home.”

The second is during the dedication, when the volunteers are all invited to return and the home is officially turned over to its owner. Once again, Stutzman says, the occasion is powerfully charged. “Most of the owners get pretty choked up,” he says, “But if they cry, I’m happy, because I know that we’ve done our job. It’s a very emotional thing.”