Bob and Kathe Tortorice of Building Alternatives in Franconia, N.H., focus on providing energy-efficient homes in four states by employing a variety of factory-built and ­high-performance building components and systems—from panelized and modular to SIPs and ICFs. The firm earned the distinction of building the most energy-efficient home in New Hampshire in 2007.

Kathe Tortorice offers some sage advice about sustaining a building business, specifically one in the green realm:

  • Use planning and communication skills. Strategic planning helps to create better projects and buyer expectations, she says, which makes walk-throughs and homeowner education much smoother.

  • Leverage trade contractors. “If you respect their strengths, they will begin to see yours,” says Kathe, who holds an MBA but had little experience with construction before Building Alternatives. “My trade contractors helped me understand their work and how it affects the rest of the job.”

  • Be proactive. Write every idea down, she says, and always look for ways to improve the business and its processes.

  • Invest in design. Good design never goes out of style, says Kathe, who also feels that a builder with a woman’s perspective brings more value to the planning and design process, including decorating, furniture placement, the functionality of a floor plan, and the energy- and resource-efficient aspects of the firm’s work.