Brian Bishop is a man of brazen words and bolder action. So when he says his company, Home Front, has built a hurricane-proof home, he means it. The former stick builder turned panelized champion recently revealed a new home design that because of its low-cost, energy-efficient, and wind-resistant design has the potential to mitigate the housing crisis in the Gulf Coast area.
The first Katrina Cottage II, a 770-square-foot, two-story dwelling that cost around $70,000 to build, was erected, from concept to construction, in about five days in a Wal-Mart SuperCenter parking lot in St. Bernard Parish, La. The interior was finished out and furnished in another 10 days.
The Creole-style home concept came out of a series of reconstruction planning charettes directed by new urbanist Andres Duany and including architects Marianne Cusato and Steven Oubre. Home Front was selected as the builder based on its ability to produce a stronger, more environmentally friendly home in less time and for less money than traditional builders.
“What used to take me normally 100 to 150 days now takes me three to five,” Bishop says. “The only drawback is my design is a little bit simple.”
Simple or not, the home's construction quality also suggests that this type of building may be a solution for not only temporary but permanent housing in the area. The home's steel frame and lightweight panels formed of closed-cell polystyrene foam layered between James Hardie fiber-cement planking provide serious wind protection. Bishops says that the home is designed for 140-mile-an-hour winds but predicts that even at 225 miles per hour, the home will still be together.
The Web site, www.2theadvocate.com, reports that compared to the 23- to 28-foot trailers that FEMA shells out $75,000 to provide to Katrina victims, Home Front's cottages offers better deals in the short term, given their deliverability, durability, and price point. However, the hiccup for the long term is the 1974 Stafford Act, which prohibits FEMA from spending money on permanent residential construction.
Bishop says the company will ship approximately 300 homes this year, excluding anything aimed for the New Orleans area.