BRIAN BISHOP HAS BEEN BUILDING HOMES IN Florida for more than 20 years, but he'd never been through a hurricane until Charley slammed into the state's southwest side with 145-mph winds last year. “I was dumbfounded by the damage,” he says. “It was beyond my wildest imagination.”
It was fortunate, then, that Bishop's imagination for his panelized home building company, Englewood, Fla.–based Home Front, included developing SIPs made of fiber-cement Hardie board that can withstand 200-mph winds. Bishop, a former general contractor, opted to build homes with steel frames and cement panels, as opposed to standard SIPs made of plywood, to avoid the termite and water damage. He tested the panels against a variety of elements in a lab, but Charley provided real-world proof of durability.
Demand for Bishop's homes surged. Home Front built 35 homes in 2004; this year it's on track for 200, and Bishop forecasts as many as 500 in 2006. He's finishing a new 20,000-square-foot plant, having outgrown his first plant by the end of last year.
Though Bishop is encouraged by the pace of business, he's realistic about the work ahead. Among his priorities has been developing designs and production techniques that keep Home Front competitive with cement-block builders. Toward that goal, he has reinvested all the profits into new tools and equipment and kept Home Front's prices in the $90,000 to $200,000 range. “Our responsibility now is to make it more affordable and more available,” Bishop says.
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOME FRONT'S PANELIZED HOME PRODUCTION, VISIT OUR WEB SITE AT WWW.BUILDERONLINE.COM, CLICK ON “THE MAGAZINE” TAB, AND THEN CLICK ON “BUILDER ARTICLE LINKS.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.