Luis Imery

Luis Imery poses for a portrait at his desk at the Imery Group Office in Athens, Ga on Thursday, Nov 14, 2013. (Photo by Sean Taylor)

A graduate of the University of Georgia has made a name for himself in the green community — a name that has won several awards for sustainable building design.

Luis Imery, owner of Imery Group, won the 2013 EarthCraft House Project of the Year award for his building project Proud Green Home at Serenbe. The project is a residential net-zero energy home.

“We built a home that’s about 15 years ahead of the current energy code,” Imery said.

The home, which has EarthCraft Platinum Certification, received a score of -2 on the Home Energy Ratings System (HERS), according to an Imery Group press release.

High performance homes typically get in a range of 50 to 60 for a HERS index score, and a new home in Georgia would typically score a 90, according to the press release.

The home is considered a net-zero energy home, meaning at the end of 12 months, the home will have produced the same amount of energy — if not more — than it used.

Developed by the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and Southface, EarthCraft is “the Southeast’s standard for green building,” according to an EarthCraft press release. EarthCraft, a third-party verification system, promotes sustainable design by giving awards and certifications for building projects.

This year was not the first time one of Imery’s building projects won this award.

The Imery Group won the EarthCraft 2010 Project of the Year award for a home here in Athens in the Idlewilde community.

Only starting Imery Group in 2009, Imery said he had to work very hard the past couple of years to develop his business.

After graduating from UGA’s Terry College of Business in 2003 with a master’s degree with concentrations in real estate and entrepreneurship, Imery worked for The Georgia Club, helping develop building projects, but found himself out of a job when the recession hit.

“All of my experience being in the construction and real estate world, which was the industry that got hit the worst during the economic downturn, I figured nobody would be looking to hire somebody like me, and I guess I started thinking strategically through the entrepreneurship training and my MBA from Terry College,” Imery said.

With the crash of the housing market, Imery said he was forced to think with a degree of innovation.

“I recognized that the green trend was big in every industry and believing there’s a better way of building and developing communities, I decided to become an expert in that field,” Imery said.

Danielle Schwartz, a junior interdisciplinary studies major in sustainable design within the built environments from Dunwoody, interns at Imery Group part-time.

She said Imery taught her a great deal since she began interning in July.

“I’ve really learned a lot from working with him,” she said. “They do green certification, as well as building, energy assessments, auditing and testing. I think he knows a lot, and he just has a wealth of information.”

Schwartz said Imery’s personality makes him great to work with.

“I remember when I sent him my resume the first time, he responded to my e-mail in French, and I was confused,” she said. “I was like, ‘How did he know I speak French?’’’ It was because it was on my resume. So when I first came in for an interview, we began speaking in Spanish a little bit and then a little bit in French, so that was really cool.“

Schwartz, who writes blogs for the company’s website, manages social media accounts, does research, copy edits, reaches out to architects and designers said she wants to pursue a career in sustainability.

“I want to go into urban planning and landscape architecture, and I want to be able to design cities to be more sustainable and incorporate urban agriculture into the design,” she said.

Lara Mathes, assistant director of campus planning, said knowledge in sustainable design could be an asset looking forward for students entering the building industry.

“I think more and more, it’s becoming a mainstream component of all development and construction activities because it really makes sense for the bottom line of projects – sort of a triple bottom line of economic, social, and environmental accountability and the type of development practices that we see,” Mathes said. “I definitely think it only would give students if they’re entering the market that much more advantage to have an understanding of general principles of sustainability and how those are born out in the real estate and development world."

Imery said he would encourage students hoping to have a career in sustainability to be determined and continue to learn throughout their careers.

“It’s been a continuing educational process for me to build to the standards that I’m building,” he said.