Renovate Park City & Passive by Design
by Lori Williams
Renovate Park City (RPC) majors in the minor details. They specialize in home remodels, major renovations, and large additions in the greater Park City, Utah, area, and now offer new builds under their new sister company, Passive by Design – residential construction focusing on environmentally-conscious and energy-efficient designs.
RPC has extensive experience in residential and commercial construction projects. They love transforming spaces and breathing new life into tired dwellings. Whether projects are large or small, RPC’s goal is to be the first source, earning lifelong clients. Says RPC owner, Paul Potempa, “Our team focuses on attention to detail. Everyone involved in a project from beginning to end pays attention to the minor details. It is the small things that catch the eye and contribute to the quality of the completed project.”
As a kid, Potempa worked alongside his father building cabinets and working on rental homes in the Chicago and North Shore area. He learned early in life how to work hard. “My dad never hired anyone; we just figured out whatever we needed to on our own,” says Potempa. After high school he started framing homes, continuing his passion. Potempa’s ability to problem-solve is one of his greatest skills. It is instinctive to him and essentially became the proving grounds for his business. In 2007, he jumped ship for Park City, due to the lure of skiing and biking. Potempa settled in, loving the outdoors and working with his hands in construction – he actually built a spec house – just before the 2008 real estate crisis. That impacted any immediate homebuilding, but opened up doors to an endless supply of small remodel projects like kitchens, bathrooms, window replacements, and rental condo upgrades. He became known as the ‘kitchen/bathroom guy.’
As with most communities throughout the region, times are changing. This has created more momentum for RPC and subsequently, Passive by Design. “Back when Park City was mostly second homeowners, referrals were difficult because nobody knew their neighbor,” Potempa explains. “They’d come in to ski and then leave. Our history in the area, combined with a greater population of full-time owners, has made us more well-known and allowed us to grow the company.”
“Everyone involved in a project from beginning to end pays attention to the minor details. It is the small things that catch the eye and contribute to the quality of the completed project.”
–Paul Potempa, Owner, Renovate Park City
Renovating a property does come with its share of challenges. One can always count on more delays and surprises on the job. Sometimes small renovations can bring to light deeper issues including leaks, electrical, plumbing, or building code violations. “With remodels, we are essentially working backwards, first to take everything apart, figure out where all the plumbing, electricity, and structure points are, and then engineering it back in a new way,” says Potempa. “When necessary, we’ll bring in architects or engineers to confirm if we can cut down a wall or move a roof line.”
RPC has an in-house designer who can take the ideas generated upon initial client meetings and turn them into renderings and 3-D models, allowing clients to see how the room(s) will look before they are finished. Potempa has a creative eye and enjoys directing his efforts toward that end of the business, along with jobsite management. “When I come into a home, I am able to visualize and share a creative design idea,” he explains. “Then the homeowner begins to see a new vision combined with their own. That’s when things really click. Soon it’s ‘let’s put bigger windows here, let’s move the kitchen to this side of the house,’ and then everything starts to flow.” RPC prides themselves for staying within budget constraints, and designing appealing upgrades with prospective future buyers in mind, subsequently raising the overall property value.
Passive by Design
In 2010, fellow former Midwesterners, Joe and Lara Mullen, initially needed help remodeling 2,200 square feet of home that was formerly run as a daycare. Potempa had been referred to them by a friend. As a result of this collaboration, RPC created a bedroom and mudroom out of the Mullens’ partially finished basement. Says Joe, “When we met with Paul, we knew right away we had found a winner. He is one of the most patient people I know, listens intently, cares greatly about his clients, and is a pleasure to work with. Renovate Park City provided top-quality services and craftsmanship.”
“With remodels, I’m limited to certain sections of the house or by the existing structure. A new build is a blank sheet of paper. Already we have requests to build two more homes the size of Joe’s ADU. In Summit County and surrounding areas, we are finding that landowners with extra acreage are wanting to build ADUs suitable for in-laws, guests, senior family members, or rental income.”
–Paul Potempa, Owner, Renovate Park City
Fast-forward to 2020, and the Mullens decided to move forward on an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) for Joe’s mother. Potempa was already on Joe’s mind. “We had an idea and I knew Paul was the man for the job,” says Mullen. “We had ideas and Paul helped make them a reality.”
The 998-square-foot home in Summit County is a two-bedroom, two-bath gem of a little home. One bedroom can double as a sitting room or office, and has ladder access to an additional loft area suitable for kids. The interior design offers generous storage solutions and the living room view of The Canyons Ski Resort is a sweet perk.
Says Joe, “The pandemic made a challenging build almost an impossibility. Paul helped us by suggesting that purchases be made early to minimize the skyrocketing costs of lumber, metal, electrical products, appliances, etc. Paul did everything he could to help offset these challenges. He worked tirelessly to delight us.”
Passive by Design provides a different challenge for Potempa’s creative process. “It’s a better way to express the designs that I have in my mind,” he says. “With remodels, I’m limited to certain sections of the house or by the existing structure. A new build is a blank sheet of paper. Already we have requests to build two more homes the size of Joe’s ADU. In Summit County and surrounding areas, we are finding that landowners with extra acreage are wanting to build ADUs suitable for in-laws, guests, senior family members, or rental income.” Potempa has a number of clients who have indicated the desire to move from a larger house to a smaller one, accommodating a lifestyle trend that reinforces the investment in quality time while working and traveling in and out of a home base.
The design stage is critical for passive home builds because every element has to work together to produce and embody rigorous levels of energy efficiency. That’s the creative space Potempa wants Passive by Design to be in. “We want to stay specialized in small- to medium-sized higher-efficiency home models,” explains Potempa. “We already know how to build, but we want to be on the cutting edge of passive efficiency and incorporating the green building trend that’s cutting carbon emissions and energy use.”
Potempa’s gift is listening to his clients. He gets them thinking about their goals and encourages them to find as many photos as possible for what they like in a house. Then the combined creativity is brought to life through renderings and 3-D models. “My wheels start turning after a client tells me what the lay of the land is,” he says. “Flat, uphill, or downhill, I want to imagine a great-looking house for the property. Then, I want to know what their lifestyle is and how I can design the home around them.”
Joe Mullen encapsulates both businesses well when he says, “Paul is one of the most honest, caring, creative, and competent contractors I know. If you are looking for someone you can trust implicitly, you have found the right team with Renovate Park City and Passive by Design.”