Written by Lauren Miller
There are few people who are doing more impressive work for preserving and promoting sustainability in Wyoming than Cory Toye. After graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2002 with a degree in Economics and Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), Toye worked in construction in Alaska, before ultimately returning to the University of Wyoming to pursue a law degree. Having a keen interest in environmental policy, Toye was especially interested in the environmental and resource aspects of law. This interest lead to Toye pursuing a career with Trout Unlimited, where he still is working today, as the Wyoming Water and Habitat Director.
Despite the bustle of work, Toye and his wife Morgan started flipping homes as a side project. Toye, having worked frequently in construction throughout his life, enjoyed the work as did his wife. Gradually, residents started taking notice of their work and requests for projects began rolling in. Thus, rather organically, the foundation for their construction company was born. The Toyes gave the choice of the company name to their son Joe, who declared that it should be called Builderman, LLC. The company is a family affair, with Cory and Morgan working alongside other family members to run the company. Toye isn't the only sustainable builder in his family, Toye's brother has worked in Alaska in the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. Also, Toye's sister-in-law and her husband work as talented carpenters and designers with a passion for sustainable building, alongside the Toyes. After the company started, it was not long before the requests for custom built homes began rolling in and the company evolved into building primarily custom-built houses. Many of the early projects, including the Toyes' own home, are traditional builds.
Alongside Toye's personal environmentally-oriented mindset, what established the dive into sustainable building practices emerged from an alumni magazine. Toye read an article about Jon Gardzelewski and his involvement with BERG. Having a longtime interest in sustainable building, Toye knew that this could be an opportunity to venture deeper into building science and sustainable building and reached out to Gardzelewski about being involved as a contractor.
Toye was involved in one of the first BERG projects in the state. As the project progressed, it garnered some attention, including that of Gary and Diana Hedlund. The Hedlunds, the owners of the Crowheart project, came to Cory and Morgan Toye asking about contracting their new home, which they hoped to build with strict, environmentally-minded practices. Because of the remoteness of the building site, contractors with experience in sustainable building practices were limited, as were locally stocked building material of the environmentally-conscious caliber which the Hedlunds were searching for. One hope of Toye's is that by increasingly implementing sustainable technologies, other clients and contractors will be able to see that not only are these types of builds and technologies possible, but that they can offer many benefits.
Utilizing new technologies and building techniques has been both challenging and rewarding. Some parts of the build, such as the Hedlunds' unique greenhouse room, have required a lot of personal research on the homeowners' part, as well as expert consultations to be able to refrain from "building the wheel" for the uncommon features. Many of the innovative aspects have been done through a sort of group collaboration, with input from the Toyes, BERG and its associates, the Hedlunds, and many others. It has required a lot from both the client and contractor sides, in terms of research, sourcing, and other aspects of the project, or "homework" as Toye refers to it.
Many aspects of the project were as innovative as they were foreign. The technologies are cutting edge and many of the building techniques are the first to be used in Wyoming, to the best of the crews' knowledge (the mechanics and specifications of the build will be explained more verbosely further on in the Frontier Zero Series). While there were a lot of interesting aspects to the build, one of the most impressive was the unique roof structure, which is only gently sloped and very well insulated, designed to more aptly blend in with the surroundings. One of the things which Toye is most excited about is working with the specialized HVAC system, and implementing similar systems in future builds.
The project has also given Toye the chance to work alongside other Wyoming innovators, "It's fun being around passionate people", says Toye, and this project comes with an abundance of passionate people. From the clients to the team of experts at BERG to the subcontractors, there are a lot of innovators in their respective fields. Toye also thinks that the BERG and Frontier-Zero models and general mindset are representing a paradigm shift in the wants of younger homeowners. Toye explains, "Most of my peers aren't interested in a big house, big mortgage. They're starting to look at ways that you can build smart homes that are healthy and low maintenance".
Most of Toye's heroes are blue collar, "people who are required to do things with skill, with craft". Toye believes that the attitude towards blue collar work is shifting. He believes that more people are adopting crafts not because they are unable to do white collar work, but as a conscious choice. Toye enjoys work that gives tangible results and thinks that the rewards are often much higher; Toye enjoys that this line of work which offers objective and concrete results. This dedication to hard work and craftsmanship is something which Toye and his wife are working hard at to give to their children, "We've always valued work more than leisure... Something that we've always stressed in raising our two boys is that they understand the value of the dollar, the value of work". Work experience starts young in Toye's family. While Cory Toye talked to the homeowners and subcontractors throughout the day, his son Joe ran around the site with his partner-in-crime Clementine, or as you could often hear Joe call to her, "Tiny". The level of family involvement in the company is something which is a point of pride for the Toyes, and a unique experience that they feel fortunate that they can share with their children.
The multi-generational and conservational mindset of Cory Toye is one which can surely benefit Wyoming. From his work at Trout Unlimited, to his presence on the forefront of sustainable building in Wyoming, Toye is clear to leave a lasting impact in the Equality State; not only through his own actions but also through the trades that he is promoting and skills which he is ingraining in the next generation of Wyomingites.