Although the Florida market may not be softening too much just yet, Mercedes Homes is already sharpening its competitive edge. Recognizing its unique market position as a leader in hurricane-resistant technology innovation, the builder has decided to make more than a dozen features—more often than not offered as upgrades by builders—standard in its homes (see “Feature Show,” below).

Corporate vice president of operations Stuart McDonald, who is leading Mercedes' eight-year charge to build stronger, safer, and more efficient homes, says, “We have to remain competitive. And these features that we're offering standard in our homes—I'm not sure if there's anyone else doing it.”

To date, roughly 2,500 Mercedes homes have been built with the new hurricane-resistant features. However, because many of those products and features previously had been unavailable to some of the builder's divisions, Mercedes had to bring everyone—from construction teams to sales staffs to trade partners—up to speed on the various features' benefits and installation for the rollout to succeed. Within 90 days, McDonald had completed what he nicknamed “the hurricane-resistant features road show”—in-depth training on the products and processes for every division.

“I personally went around and took [the project] under my wing and trained every sales and construction person about the hurricane-resistant features,” he says.

But the training efforts didn't stop there. To ensure that every division was building and installing to corporate standards, regional vice presidents of operations and construction initiated hands-on training for their trades and field crews.

To offer continuing support, Mercedes also developed an instructional DVD that serves as a step-by-step guide to the proper installation of hurricane-resistant products. McDonald says the DVD has been such a huge success—“every one of our builders uses them,” he says—that Mercedes is working on a follow-up DVD that focuses on maintenance and repairs.

Feature Show With the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons fresh in home buyers' minds, Mercedes Homes looks to gain a competitive advantage by making some hurricane-resistant home features standard across all divisions. Here's a look at what's being offered:

  • Six-inch cast-in-place concrete walls
  • Roof truss and load-bearing wall alignment
  • Hurricane straps
  • Second-story solid-grouted concrete block walls
  • Steel cage
  • Out-swing entry doors
  • Tooled keyway in concrete slab perimeter
  • Removable hurricane shutters
  • Recessed seats
  • Water-blocking soffit and fascia design
  • Redesigned ridge vents and off-ridge vents
  • Continuous wall surface drainage plane
  • Self-adhesive roofing membrane
  • Color Wheel Flex Lox exterior coating