Beau Dunavant IV LEED AP BD+C has been working in the field of natural building and sustainable design since 2009. He has worked with and studied under the like of Earthship Biotecture, the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, and Yestermorrow school of Design.
He has designed, built, spoke, and taught throughout the U.S. and abroad. Within the past year he has had a paper published titled “The Conscious Human Ecological Experience, Conscious Design, and the Evolution of the Built Environment” and with this has spoken at various sustainability conferences throughout 2015 and 2016 including: USGBC’s Greenbuild in Washington, D.C., Sustainable Cites 2016 in Alicante, Spain, and the EcoSummit in Montpelier, France. Beau Dunavant IV graduated from Yestermorrow’s Sustainable Design program in 2012 and has since been designing and building all over the world.
Welcome Beau, thank you for coming on board with us, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Raymond Buford Dunavant IV. On my fathers side of the family, every male has the name of Raymond Buford and on my mother’s side of the family, my grandfather is named Ray. My grandmother said that it was enough, so she named me Beau. Beau is short for Buford. I work in the field of Natural Building and Sustainable Design.
Can you walk us through the path you have pathed to where you are now as the founder of Gypsy Build?
Gypsy Build was diviritive of a description of me by a dear friend. She had called me a “Gypsy Tect”, as I traveled so much with my building and design work. While sitting in a cafe in Berlin I decided to change this description into a business and to as well change gypsy tect to GypsyBuild. Prior to this, I had the pleasure to work with, for, and learn from the likes of companies such as Earthship Biotecture, The California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture, and Yestermorrow School of Design. Aside from traveling the world to design and build natural structures and communities, the main purpose was valued more than they were goals and as such to this day. Change and empowerment. To foster, promote, and to create change in this world through the avenue of natural building and sustainable design. To empower people to take on the challenge of building their own homes and taking control and responsibility for their lives. Today I design, build, and consult with clients no matter their budget. My current projects range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to less than ten thousand dollars to projects with no funding whatsoever.
The projects that I take on are only challenging ones. All of my projects to date are autonomous of any utility grid, meaning that they are powered by the sun, the water is usually from rainwater catchment and snowmelt, and the structures are built with natural and salvaged materials. I do not design and build houses, I design and build homes and community. My clients do not receive basic floor plans and elevations, My clients receive my knowledge and a space that is an extension of who they are. I can design and build the projects from the ground up or I am brought in at times in the process where I am needed and I do not lock my clients into lengthy contracts. There is freedom in my process.
How is GypsyBuild funded and what is the start-up process like for you?
GypsyBuild was started with eighty-six dollars and a credit card with a five hundred dollar limit. This is not a success story of someone starting a company in their garage, because I did not have a garage. The start-up process for me was and a mixture of hard work (physical, mental, and emotional) as well as just putting myself out there. The weeks after I officially started GypsyBuild I had a paper published titled “The Conscious Human Ecological Experience, Conscious Design, and the Evolution of the Built Environment”. This paper began a slew of speaking engagements throughout the U.S. and Europe.
After this, I was given an opportunity to build one of my projects and to be filmed for a television show. As far as the funding piece goes, there is no external funding for my business. GypsyBuild is simply funded by the rates that are set for my work and the work that I accomplish. I see this as a blessing as I have full creative control over my business.
The start-up process, in short, has been an amazing, beautiful, and humbling adventure. Filled with romance, traveling the world, and personal growth.
Can you tell us why you chose to focus primarily on Sustainable Building Design and Construction?
I chose to focus on sustainability at the age of about twenty-one and I chose to do so as I saw quickly that I was very passionate about the work as well as the work is necessary for providing a beautiful and vibrant home for future generations.
What is the best project that you to date that I have worked on?
Honestly, this is a very hard question to answer, but I would like to say that the three projects that stand out thus far are three of my current projects. A home in Northern New Mexico, and home in California, and both a home and a community in Haiti. The project in Haiti is in the top tier of the most challenging projects to date as acquiring funding for the community and the structures are the current challenge. All three of these projects are extremely exciting.
Can you share with us a particular career highlight so far?
It has been one “career highlight” after another, hahaha, but I would say that DIY Network/Discovery Channel’s “Building Off the Grid” was a rather empowering highlight for myself. The television show was an amazing and humbling experience, but it was a realisation while traveling back to Denver after the last day of filming that was the true highlight. The realisation actually was very simple and came out of nowhere…”I have a career doing exactly what I want to do! Whoa…”
Number one rule in business you stick by?
I work to run a business that is in true alignment with both my values and my intuition. Decisions that are made with these two in mind will always be the “right” decision for me. For instance, I have had a few projects dropped in front of me that were in very exotic places in the world. These projects sounded great at first sight, but as I sat with them, my intuition said “no”. One of these projects in particular almost seemed like a dream come true, yet it did not feel right. It was just not in alignment with my values. I think that I turned this particular project down on a Tuesday and by Friday I had three new projects show up seemingly out of nowhere that was one hundred percent in alignment with me and my business.
What are your preferred marketing methods?
I aim to let my work speak for itself, creating value for myself and as a result, I believe that I am creating value for the world. When someone asks me for a business card, I do not give them one. I ask them not if they want to get coffee, but when shall we meet for coffee. I also offer a free of charge one-hour consultation to those that are interested. All in all, I do not spend my precious and valuable time at networking events rubbing shoulders and shaking hands. I work to create actual relationships with other people.
From the very beginning, I decided that spending what little funding that I had on social media advertising, extravagant websites, and buying every person that I met dinner had the possibility of depleting me of all of my resources, and it almost did.
My preferred marketing methods as far as social media goes is basically just Instagram, and I very rarely pay to promote nor is my account a business account, and within the world of Instagram, I use the story option more and more as time goes on. I also have a website that is very straight to the point and basic with a few pages that consist of straightforward descriptions of what the work that I do and ways to contact me for my services. My best marketing methods are word of mouth, my projects, and speaking engagements.
How are you looking to expand in the next five years?
Within the next five years, GypsyBuild will be a traveling crew (equally invested partners/owners) of designers and builders with the mission and values of empowering and creating change in this world through the avenue of natural building, sustainable design, and consulting.
What does #BEYOUROWN MAN mean to you?
The hashtag #BEYOUROWN MAN means to me, that the dreams and passions that we have are all extremely possible and we are more than capable enough to make these dreams come true and to have a career that we are passionate about. It implies our truest abilities of creativity and thinking outside of the box, is the quest for embodiment and most beautiful life.
Where are you looking to expand to next in 2019?
Expansion in 2019 is continuing to take on consulting/design and build projects while completing the projects that are currently underway and continuing to do the inner work needed to create the life and business that I want… and really taking the time to pat myself on the back and more travel! I also will be finally finishing up a book. The book is basically memoirs of my life of traveling with this work.
Instagram: @GypsyBuild #GypsyBuild
Image taken by Samantha Inman, RoomForRituals