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Brown grew up in Durham. He graduated from the NCSU School of Design in 1983 and founded Sun Forest Systems, a custom design/build firm, in 1984. The company was unusually successful at both custom homes and large spec homes. Bill Waddell joined Brown as a partner in 1987 and stayed though 1995 when they closed it to focus on larger projects.

Brown created BuildSoft, a software company, in 1989. He was widely regarded as a brilliant and visionary entrepreneur revolutionizing the construction supply chain -- which is estimated to be at least one-third waste. Brown changed the company name in 1996 to BuildNet, expanded its software line and began recruiting high-powered execs in the computer industry. By January 2000, the company raised an astounding $143 million from outside investors, and three months later prepared to go public. Even 1996 Republican VP candidate Jack Kemp joined BuildNet's board of directors. But that October, after the technology stock market crashed, BuildNet withdrew plans to go public and later the company sold its assets. Brown wrote The Builder's Revolution in 1996 describing his procurement vision with a sequel The Interactive Marketplace in 2000. Photos are by Keith Brown unless otherwise noted.

2014 Interview with Brown and Bill Waddell

Brown and Waddell published two issues of AB Builder, a glossy magazine of their design/build work.

Issue: One / Two

1987 - The Dale and Karen Gillespie Residence, 4130 Wallingford Place, Durham. Sold in 1993 to Vance and Elizabeth Brown, Keith Brown's brother and sister-in-law. Sold in 1997 to Todd and Allison Dimsdale. 3104 square feet. Features a parking area that extends directly off the street and a bridge to the main entry of the house. Sold in 2010 to Heather Paddock. Sold in 2013 to Kathleen M. Ollendick and William W. F. Lesesne, Jr. Sold in 2015 to Pamela Howland and Wendell Myers. Sold in 2017 to Jacquelyn K. and Jason T. Patterson.

1987 - The Philip B. Brown Residence (a brother of Keith's), designed with Bill Waddell, 4126 Wallingford Place, Durham. Features a parking area that extends directly off the street and a bridge to the main entry of the house. Still owned by the Browns as of 2012.

1987 - The Michael and Mary Matros Residence, 4108 Livingstone, Durham. Designed with Bill Waddell. Sold in 1990 to Elizabeth Sugg. Features a parking area that extends directly off the street and a bridge to the main entry of the house.

1989 - The Peter Huttemeier and Helene Benveniste Residence I, 1409 Pinecrest, Durham. Sold back to Sun Forest Systems in 1991. Sold in 1992 to the Pinto family. Sold back to Sun Forest Systems in 1993. Keith Brown and his wife Rebecca lived there until 2003, when it was sold to Bert and Candace Forbes; Bryn Forbes Trustee. 2830 square feet. Bottom photo by Leilani Carter. Sold in 2013 to Randy W. Narron. Sold in 2019 to Page S. Gardner and Ronald F. Rosenblith.

1989 - The Charles R. Adkins House, 1715 Faison Road, Durham. Built as a spec house and sold to Adkins in 1990. Sold back to Keith Brown's Sun Forest Systems in 2004. Sold in 2005 to Jon and Theresa Meliones. Four bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms. 4903 square feet. Sold in 2010 to Carrie Matteson and Corrie Odom. Sold in 2011 to Kirsten and James Bushick.

1990 - The Vance Brown House, 1602 Milan Street, Durham. Keith's brother. Designed with Bill Waddell. Sold to Christal Bowman. Sold in 2014 to Richard Nelson. Sold in 2015 to Avery M. McCoy.

1991 - The Roger and Carole Van Dyke House, 204 New Castle Place, Chapel Hill. Located in Durham County. Has a cantilevered glass railing, steel stair, a hot tub in the master bath suite, and a play loft in the kids’ bedroom wing. Sold in 2014 to Susan E. and James A. Datin.

1991 - The Peter Huttemeier and Helene Benveniste Residence II, 288 Highview Drive, Chapel Hill. Sold in 2003 to Lawrence Zelenak and Joanne Moskal.

1992 - The Dale and Karen Gillespie House, 2932 Buckingham Road, Durham. Built by Sun Forest Construction. The first Smart house in the Triangle. Sold in 2002 to William L. Hampton.

1993 - The Joan and Gustavo Montana Residence, 227 Stagecoach Road, Chapel Hill. Built by Sun Forest Construction. Sold in 2013 to Susan Niffenegger and Roger Zeller. Renovated by Bill Waddell. 

Sold in 2019 to Scott Teagarden and Alejandro Lizardo.

1995 - The Daniel Mark and M. Lee Cheney House, 55223 Broughton, Governor's Club, Chapel Hill NC.

1996 - The Richard and Ann Shachtman House, 185 Sun Forest Way, Chapel Hill but located in Chatham County.  Sold in 2017 to Barbara T. Hershey.

2002 - The Lara Anne Reller Residence, 618 Hamecon Place, Cedar Grove NC, on Lake Orange. Built from components in just 30 days.

Sources include: Keith Brown, Bill Waddell, Sun Forest Systems, Triangle Business Journal.