This year, the Santa Barbara Contractors Association chose Dennis Allen to honor as its Builder of the year. "That was such a nice honor," said Allen from his home/office. "To get a standing ovation from your peers." It's particularly nice because, for Allen, who also won awards for best remodels and best Green Building, it means acknowledgement for something he's been trying to promote most of his life: sustainable building. "It seems like that old cliché: it's not easy to turn around the Titanic. But we're doing it. We're trying to change the whole industry."

Fighting for change is nothing new to the very successful contractor who began life in the groves of academe. Born in Arcadia, California, Allen attended UCSB in the palmy early days when ROTC was a mandatory class. "We had to go out there and march, and carry those weapons. And one day, I decided I just hated it."

Allen finished his academic career and returned to UCSB in the late 1960's, becoming the Assistant Dean of Students right during the worst of it. "There were the riots, and they burned the bank twice," recalled Allen, who decided then and there to leave the university and get involved in the peace movement in San Francisco, fighting to end the Indo-China war and the draft.

And from there to contracting? "I know it sounds odd," said Allen, "but it was a pretty straight road from one to the other." When he was working as part of the peace movement, Allen attended a conference on a newfangled idea called solar power. Later, returning to Santa Barbara to live, Allen explained his new obsession to a friend who then convinced Allen to build a solar home. "I not only learned how to do solar power building, I learned to build. And that has been my passion for all my life."

Though it was an arcane interest in 1974, when Allen first started building solar both active and passive; it soon became more in demand. "The oil embargo made everybody interested. Among many other impressive projects, Allen built Paul Relis' family house up near Mission Canyon and the Gildea Resource Center Foundation.

Allen and his company won four other awards at last week's banquet: best remodel under $250,000, best remodel over $250,000, best landscape and hardscape, and the Green Building Award. All of them make him happy, but he seems most pleased to see the group turn its attention to environmentally sound building. "I can remember back then the Association had 30 members and it was basically an old boys club. Today, there are 300 members, and all that time I've been holding up this kind of building as a worthy goal for our industry. It's starting to come around.


Allen Associates
1427 Tunnel Road, Santa Barbara, Ca 93105
Phone (805) 682-4305

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