((L-R) Mike and Cindi O’Neil and Geoff and MaryLea Harris | Photo by Julia Duke)
When Mike and Cindi O’Neil decided to retire and sell their business, Solaire Homebuilders, they knew they had to find someone who shared their passion and vision.
To their delight, they found two people — Geoff and MaryLea Harris of Bend who purchased the company in April. “They are a really good fit for becoming the new owners of Solaire,” Mike said. “They have the skillset to build quality houses along with the mindset to build a better world.”
Mike and Cindi will be working with Geoff and MaryLea for the next year to assist with the transition. “Every builder has a choice on how they are going to design and build a home, yet 90 percent of builders make the choice not to include energy-efficient methods in their homes,” Mike said. “That’s why I am excited Geoff and MaryLea have made the choice to continue our work while also bringing in their own ideas.”
The vision for Solaire — a combination of the words solar and air — happened when Mike announced he wanted to build higher quality homes that were aesthetically pleasing and convened the sun’s power. “We also wanted to build homes average people could afford,” Cindi said.
Since starting Solaire Homebuilders in 1995, the O’Neils have been pioneers and leaders in designing and building green and sustainable homes in Central Oregon. A few of Solaire’s accolades include having the first Net Zero Energy, Earth Advantage and LEED Platinum homes and the first installation of a Tesla power wall solar battery.
Mike holds several certifications in green building including Earth Advantage Sustainable Homes Professional and National Association of Homebuilders Certified Green Professional. He gives back to his industry through leadership roles at the local and state level. Mike contributes locally and internationally as an active member of the Rotary International Greater Bend Club.
“Mike won’t brag about what he’s done,” Cindi said. “He’s adamant about making sure a home is built correctly such as choosing the right materials to withstand Central Oregon’s seasons and making sure homes are sufficiently insulated. He’s always been willing to go above and beyond to design and build quality energy-efficient homes.”
Geoff Harris has more than 22 years of professional home building experience including in construction, sales, customer service and executive leadership. MaryLea Harris is a professional artist, real estate investor and social media/brand manager.
He and MaryLea have worked together for more than 27 years renovating and designing homes. Together, they are excited to use their talents to design and create healthy and energy-efficient homes as the new owners of Solaire Homebuilders.
As a LEED Accredited Professional, Geoff’s passion for energy efficiency, healthy buildings and sustainability in construction will support Solaire’s legacy in the green-building space long into the future. “We are all aware something needs to be done to help the environment,” MaryLea said. “We hope our work at Solaire will make a positive impact in the long run for future generations and the environment.”
They are grateful for everything Mike and Cindi O’Neil have done to evolve Solaire over the last 27. “We are here to carry on what they have done and as lifelong learners, ask questions on how we can continue to provide personalized service and care to people who want to build a Solaire home.”
Mark LaLiberte is the co-founder and president of Construction Instruction. He has dedicated more than 30 years to the building industry to provide builders, architects and manufacturers with an in-depth look at the current and future state of housing. He met Mike and Cindi more than 20 years ago.
“I have an incredible amount of respect for Mike and Cindi,” LaLiberte said. “There are a handful of people I know who have exemplary personal integrity. I believe integrity is doing the right thing when nobody’s watching. Mike and Cindi have committed their careers to doing exactly that.”
LaLiberte added there are people who make a living and people who create a legacy. “Mike and Cindi were working to make the world a better place when no one else was even considering ways to create low energy, high-performance homes,” LaLiberte said. “They were committed to doing things that matter, always evolving and asking questions on what they could do better. They have truly been trailblazers in their industry, and I think they are exceptional people.”
Deb Flagan, the president of Central Oregon Builders Association, shared that Mike and Cindi O’Neil were involved with the initial green building construction in Central Oregon. They also were a prominent supporter and founding members of the Building Green Council, which provides leadership, education and support for new or interested members. “Solaire has been a leader in the homebuilder industry for well over 20 years with Mike serving as the Central Oregon Builders Association President in 2005,” Flagan said. “In addition, Mike and Cindi have been active in Rotary for years volunteering and contributing to numerous service projects with Veterans Village being a recent recipient. We appreciate their years of service.”
Flagan said she looks forward to Geoff and MaryLea Harris’ involvement in COBA and the industry to continue the green building efforts that Mike and Cindi created.
Matt Douglas, the manager of Earth Advantage for Central Oregon Residential, said Solaire Homebuilders has been a leader in energy efficiency and sustainability in the Central Oregon community. “They were the first Earth Advantage builder in Central Oregon, one of the first builders to build an Earth Advantage Zero Energy certified home and continue to push the building industry to build better by example,” Douglas said.
A few of the ways Solaire designs energy-efficient homes is by incorporating energy modeling including using thicker wall framing to allow more insulation and installing efficient ductless mini-split heat pumps for heating and cooling, Douglas said. “Solaire Homebuilders brings value to the community by being the example of building sustainable and energy-efficient homes,” Douglas continued. “They also show the building community that there is value and a consumer demand for sustainable and energy-efficient homes.”
Mike and Cindi O’Neil shared the most valuable tool in their job belt is “old school integrity.” “We always did what we said we would do, and we have been willing to look at the process and methodologies of how to achieve our goals.”
Cindi and Mike are looking forward to sharing everything they have learned with Geoff and MaryLea Harris. “Geoff, Mike and Cindi all have amazing communication skills and they’re able to paint a picture for our customers explaining why it’s so important to build the way we do,” MaryLea said. “Mike and Cindi took a risk or leap of faith to start the company and now we are ready to carry Solaire’s values forward as we grow into the future.”
Geoff added he and MaryLea are honored and excited to carry on Mike and Cindi’s legacy. “As lifelong learners, we know how important it is to ask questions so we can continue to provide personalized service and care for Solaire homeowners,” Geoff said.