Golden Rule Builders designs and builds homes around lifestyles
The world has changed, and is still changing, and Golden Rule Builders is growing with the times and using home design to make their clients’ lives easier and more comfortable. Starting out in 1987 with two employees building spec houses, the company then moved to custom homes after the crash of 1989, and then on to design-and-build homes and remodeling. With a staff of about 30 today, the company has become a one-stop-shop for top-quality homebuilding, streamlining the process from beginning to end: initial concept, estimating, architecture and design, production, and then warranty.
Golden Rule Builders was founded by owner and CEO Joel Barkman who followed a Christian book ministry from rural Ohio to Fauquier County in 1986, and never left. “I love Fauquier County, I think it’s the best county in Virginia because you’re right next to the mountains, but also the big city. I grew up on a farm, so I love that it’s agricultural, and I love that there are a lot of unique folk here.”
Barkman and his wife Patty made their home in Catlett and raised five home-schooled children. Adults now, three of them work in the family business. Community service is as big a part of Barkman’s life as it ever was, with long term involvement in his local church and serving on the boards of both Fauquier Health and Lord Fairfax Community College. “I want to give back to the people who have welcomed us into this community and made our lives so rich. It’s so important to me because I feel like everything I have was given to me and I feel liking giving back is a necessary element.”
Barkman’s choice of name for his company reflects his Christian beliefs. “I wanted a name that spoke to the values we hold, and the golden rule, do unto others as you would have others do unto you, seemed to fit well. I wanted a name that would remind me of that.”
Golden Rule Builders lists more than ten awards and accolades on its website, from magazines to building organizations. But Barkman is prouder of the accomplishments that are made by his employees as a team rather than those honoring him personally. “We won an award for a green and universal design for an older gentleman whose wife had passed away. He had us design and build the house exactly the way she would have wanted it. It wasn’t a beautiful house, but the functionality was amazing. That took some teamwork. And the owner is delighted with his home.”
Another proud moment came in 2020 when Golden Rule Builders was chosen by the Gary Sinise Foundation to build a home for a disabled veteran. They built a completely “smart home” with full accessibility for the disabled veteran, enabling the active young family to function more normally. “We felt very honored to be selected, to be able to work with the Foundation, and to give back to the veteran and his family,” says Barkman
A big asset for the company is their design center and showroom. Clients are able to browse and select their home options right in one place, with experts nearby to advise and guide as needed. Barkman says, “It’s really been a life-changer for the client’s experience and makes the whole process more efficient on all sides.”
“I take great joy in improving people’s lives by design,” says Barkman. One thing he always mentions during a consultation with his clients is “Universal Design,” or aging in place options. “It’s something we always bring up in our design phase; we try to get people to understand that as they grow older the design of the home can make a big difference in their ability to stay in place,” he concludes.
A newer line for Golden Rule Builders is their Golden Rule Lifestyle line of homes, which is more focused on millennials who don’t want to go through a long design and build process. “This is a little more of your standard home that we can tailor to make it more efficient and economy minded,” Barkman explains, “but at the same time clients can be assured of the quality of Golden Rule.”
As with all companies, COVID-19 has affected Golden Rule as well, in this case making them even busier. Barkman says, “Clients are at home and realizing that the housing market is still behind so it’s been really a gangbuster year for us. We work hard, and pray hard to keep everyone safe and healthy. We’ve been able to surge ahead this year.”
Another effect of COVID-19? An increasing remodeling trend for Golden Rule. Barkman says, “Sometimes I have a virtual meeting with a client, and I can see that they’re in their kitchen or bedroom on their computer. COVID-19 has changed the way people live; kids are spending more time at home schooling virtually, and both Mom and Dad might also be working at home full time. The design of some homes is just not sustainable in the long term for those purposes. We can help with that.”