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Difference Design Lab
649 Auburn Ave, Suite 266
Atlanta, GA, 30312






Zach’s background is in real estate and construction. He began his careeer managing a residential real estate holding company and is a licensed real estate agent. The inspiration for his creation of difference DESIGN Lab came from his work remodeling and renovating houses to meet LEED and Earthcraft standards.

He graduated from Bennington college, and lives and works in Atlanta.


Sarah Boardman works in residential design and event planning in Atlanta, the Southeast and internationally. As lead designer of two firms, she has worked on houses ranging from Section 8-eligible and multimillion-dollar custom homes to large-scale multi-unit loft and condo developments.

She has also been lead designer on several large conferences, notably working with Deepak Chopra and The Alliance for the New Humanity. Throughout her work runs a strong current of social responsibility, from the Alliance’s humanitarian work in third world countries, to her housing design’s focus on environmental sustainability and emphasis on their occupant’s health and well-being.

Sarah lives in Atlanta and received her Bachelors with a major in Visual Arts from Bennington College and received her Masters degree in Interior Design from The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).


Dahlan is an industry expert in commercial real estate, an artist, a musician, and life-long student. From his wide commercial and residential real estate holdings, to his 25 years as the principal multi-media consultant to the United Nations, numerous college degrees, and a classical music education, he brings a wide range of experience to Difference Design. 

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree from Centre College, he went on to pursue Ph.D. degree in Art History at the University of Missouri-Columbia and his Masters Degree in Italian literature from Middlebury College. He recently finished his Master of Fine Arts degree at Georgia State University. Dahlan speaks Italian, French, some German, Danish and Russian. In addition to his academic pursuits, Mr. Foah is trained extensively in the fine arts, serving as assistant to world-renowned naturalist photographer Ansel Adams and is also an accomplished classical pianist and orchestral conductor. Dahlan lives in Atlanta with his wife Honora Foah.


Honora Foah is a multimedia artist whose work is an exploration of the alchemists’ guiding principle: as above, so below. As such, she is interested in direct experience, intense observation and science. She is the President of Mythic Imagination Institute and Creative Director of the production company, Visioneering International and a member of difference DESIGN lab.

In October of 2012, a multimedia opera she created and directed, The Birth of Color: A Marriage of Darkness and Light will premiere in Rome. She was the Chief Designer and Producer for two World Expo pavilions for the United Nations as well as exhibitions for Fernbank Science Museum, Sandler-Hudson Gallery and video art installations in several children’s hospitals.

Ms Foah is working on a book about taste exploring the multi-valent experiences and metaphors of the six tastes used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, pungent and astringent.

She will probably die of terminal curiosity.


Staffan’s interest in architecture stems from working on sculpture installations in rural up-state NY in the late 1980’s. After entering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture in 1990, he graduated in 1995 with honors and moved to Georgia where he eventually went to work for Surber Barber Choate & Hertlein Architects. In 2000 he started Dencity LLC.

Among their many awards, Dencity won the Emerging Voices Georgia award in 2006 and their work has appeared in numerous publications. While his background consists primarily of high-end single-family residential work and smaller commercial projects, the skills he has amassed translate well into all kinds of projects at different scales where there is a high level of design and craft. At Dencity his projects have produced work rich in materiality, craft and transparency. When not at Dencity he enjoys drawing, painting, and spending time with his family.


Jim is the founder and owner of RedBrick Homes & Development, Inc. Mr. Cheeks has been building and developing residential real estate for twelve years and has developed more than 130 new single family homes.

RedBrick Homes completed the Earthcraft certification in 2005 and LEED for Homes in 2007. The company has built numerous homes to the Earthcraft standard and has a project pending which will be certified Platinum by LEED for Homes.

The last few years have been shown a marked increase in rehabilitating single and multi-family properties for projects funded by various governmental organizations. Over the course of the last three (3) years RBH’s has worked on more than thirty (30) projects funded with HOME, NSP and city of Atlanta general fund dollars. The projects range from new single family, small and large single family rehabilitation and multi-family renovation. Most have been certified in the Enterprise Green Communities program, an initiative of the Enterprise Foundation.


Tim Verras has spent the last 10 years as a marketing consultant and instructional designer for the IT and transportation industries. In that role, he has worked with automotive clients ranging from Chrysler, Kia, and Toyota, to local and state governmental IT agencies. He has won numerous awards for his work on motorsports marketing initiatives for the heavy duty truck industry. His experience covers all areas of marketing from traditional print, radio and video spots, to social media and guerilla marketing. He has also written over 30 web-based interactive and live training courses and events.

Tim is a graduate of Bennington College with a focus on Philosophy and Theory. He has also extensively studied comedy, graduating from Second City’s improv and sketch comedy writing programs. He currently lives in Atlanta.


Hanafi Fraval has spent the past 15 years on the environment-positive technologies such as novel low-energy building materials and biomass waste conversion.

Earlier he has worked as a business consultant and property developer as well as founding and later selling two high tech companies. he has a creative approach with strong development expertise and financial abilities.


Susannah is a developer of real and intellectual properties. She is the former VP of the Mattel Toys new business concepts group which was responsible for the development of new design and technology for entertainment products. She currently ownes Developing Architecture, which develops projects in Manhattan Beach and Badger, California.


Mr. Taylor is the President of Tourism Potential and has worked with the Foahs for over 15 years, providing market research, feasibility studies and business development services for tourism and leisure projects in the United States, China, the United Kingdom and Australia.

With over 20 years of hands-on experience in operations and consulting, Stephen offers outcomes that are creative but pragmatic – especially for small business. Stephen has a Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Degree and Certificate in Property Investment Analysis, and has co-authored several business development publications. He has served on the advisory boards of several national tourism research organisations and as an Australian Tourism Awards judge.

Design Firm Seeks to Provide Affordable, Sustainable Modern Homes

Atlanta – difference DESIGN, a building and real estate consulting company, has officially launched in January of 2012. The company seeks to provide high-design modern homes at a price point much lower than is typically found for this type of construction. The homes will also be environmentally sustainable with an eye towards value engineering and low-impact building materials. Company founder Zach Hill had this to say about the industry:

“Construction is a $1.2 trillion a year industry in which 86% of projects come in over budget and overdue. In no other industry do people spend so much and expect so little, and the consequences of these lowered expectations are grim for homeowners, the US economy, and the environment.”

The company’s first home design is a modern three bedroom two and a half bathroom design called the Mark One. Drafted by award-winning Atlanta-based modern home architects DENCITY Design, the Mark One will feature a number of innovative building techniques such as utilizing intermodal containers for half of the building and cross-laminated timber (CLT) in the other half. While popular in Europe as an environmentally sound building material, the Mark One will be the first residence in the U.S. to be built with CLTs.


In addition to building homes, difference DESIGN also consults to builders to help them produce homes that are value-engineered, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable.

“So far, the sales pitch for ‘green’ construction has been ‘pay more now, save more later’” states Zach, “Unfortunately, there is already more than enough evidence to suggest that this business model doesn’t work, and never has. difference DESIGN focuses on providing sustainable builders and homeowners with a way to be cost competitive on day one, not year five.”

The company states that the first Mark One is being built in the Reynoldstown neighborhood of Atlanta and is slated for completion by the 3rd quarter of 2012. The company has plans to continue building more homes and is currently taking orders to build the Mark One or future designs as well as consulting arrangements.

ABOUT DIFFERENCE DESIGN Difference design is an Atlanta-based builder and consultant specializing in producing sustainable, affordable modern homes with an eye towards design and value. The company plans to produce multiple designs of single family and multi-unit homes that can quickly be built without compromising quality or design aesthetic. Contact the company at or visit

difference design lab

difference DESIGN Lab concocts cost-effective homes that feature award-winning, modern architectural design fused with the latest sustainable materials and building practices. We are a collective of designers, builders, and industry veterans who feel that an environmentally conscious, modern lifestyle shouldn’t just be for the wealthy. Let us show you how.

NEWS: difference DESIGN Lab launches! Read the press release HERE.


The Nitty Gritty

The Difference Design Mark One has been in development for more than two years. Everything from faucet placement to external envelope breathability to handrail sizes has been optimized, reconfigured, then re-optimized. Have we come up with something truly different? Or more importantly, truly smarter? Judge for yourself:

First Floor Second Floor


Views of Mark One

Sensible. Modern.

Yup, those are shipping containers stacked up on one side of the Mark One. It’s where you’ll find all the home’s complex systems like plumbing, HVAC, electrical. We put them all in the same place to maximize efficiency and drastically lower build time. We can also prefabricate those systems, which means they can be put together more precisely and more carefully.

The other side is made out of cross-laminated timber (CLT), inside and out. That’s right: no drywall to peel, sag, or kick holes in. CLTs are incredibly durable, rock solid, and and we love how they look either natural or stained. (To learn more about CLT, click here.)

CLTs also allow us to capture thermal energy during the warmest hours, which is slowly released as the day cools. The Mark One is full of sensible ideas just like this one. Want to learn more? Check out the FLOOR PLANS.


Fearless Asymmetry

Our first creation. We started with a simple idea: Engineer a modern home utilizing unconventional building materials that offers a sustainable living experience attainable by the average person. Next, we instituted a host of ideas to increase efficiency and maximize usability while allowing us to build it all super quick. And we tried not to forget about making it sexy. Meet the Difference Design Mark One. To learn more CONTINUE HERE.




So you have heard a lot about CLT'S, Shipping Containers, build times, and breathable envelopes, but what does this stuff look like? We've put together a few of our favorite projects to illustrate what we're talking about:

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These photos are not of the Mark One. They are only intended as an example of the product. All rights are reserved to the rights holders.



This is the material used to build most of the inside and superstructure of our homes. Beyond looking great, CLT has a number of wonderful attributes, the best of which is that it allows us to eliminate the use of drywall almost everywhere in the home. No dust, no sanding. No funky smell. Essentially, CLTs are made from layers of glued spruce and are affixed in such a way as to make them incredibly solid and durable. This kind of construction has a number of awesome benefits:


Intermodal Containers

They look just like the ones you see on the back of trains because they are. Containers make a great building material because they’re constructed to withstand the rigors of road, track, and open sea. We use them to house all of the complex systems of our structures, like plumbing and electrical. This allows us to complete them offsite and then simply drop them in by crane when they’re done, greatly reducing our onsite build times. Containers are built of steel and aluminum and are created to meet tight size regulations, which offers some impenetrable advantages:



We Have The Technology

This is where the magic happens. It’s where our confab of creatives and engineers do everything from testing the sustainability of our paint choices to value-engineering the coolest, most cost-effective door knobs around. It’s like our own personal skunkworks. Only it smells way better. Most of the time. Learn about what we’ve GOT COOKING.


Staffan Svenson architect, DENCITY design

Jim Cheeks builder, Red Brick Homes

Tim Verras marketing director

Hanafi Fraval consultant

Susannah Rosenthal consultant

Steven Taylor consultant


difference DESIGN Lab was founded in 2010 in Atlanta by Zach Hill and Sarah Boardman with the idea that there were a great many people who wanted modern architecture and environmental responsibility without having to spend a ton of money. They believed they could bring that idea to fruition, so they set out to collect a group of the smartest, most experienced people they knew. Here are a few introductions:

Zach Hill founder

Sarah Boardman founder

Dahlan Foah chief executive officer

Honora Foah creative director