September marks the kick-off of Habitat for Humanity’s Home Builders Blitz, during which more than 230 homes are expected to be built, renovated, and repaired in 76 communities across 30 states. The event started in Raleigh, N.C., in 2002 when local custom home builder Tom Gipson rallied his friends and competitors to donate their time and skills to Habitat for Humanity, which ranks No. 17 on the latest Builder 100 list.
Gipson recruited 11 professional home builders to build one house each in a five-day period while donating as much of the materials as possible. Twelve homes were completed in five days at a total cost to Habitat of $84,000, not including the land. In addition to the donated labor and materials, the builders raised $100,000 in cash donations. Since then, the program has helped forge a path to affordable homeownership for more than 2,500 families.
“Habitat’s Home Builders Blitz is a partnership between Habitat for Humanity and the building industry that gives local builders a chance to give back to their community while networking with other builders and suppliers,” says Mike Welch, program director with the organization. “Home Builders Blitz also allows builders to network with and develop partnerships with community stakeholders, leaders in the local housing community, state and local housing advocates, and other housing industry professionals. These relationships fuel conversations and drive action toward local and state policy solutions that improve housing affordability.”
The effort sparked a yearly renewable challenge for builders across the country. Brian Calmes, owner and president of Calmes and Rohm Construction based in Seymour, Wis., accepted the challenge in 2018 and is now in his second year of working with the program. Calmes heard about the effort through his local builders association and was intrigued by the concept of building a house in five days. “We didn’t know what we were getting into,” he says, “but it was very satisfying seeing the new homeowner’s reaction when the house was finished.”
The homeowners typically work alongside area craftsmen to complete the home. The foundation is poured ahead of time but electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and finishes are all then knocked out in less than a week. “You’ll have 30 or 40 people working and collaborating on the house at the same time,” says Calmes. “When we did it was a mix of our regular subcontractors and other home builders that we normally compete with.”
Calmes is participating this year with his company tackling two local renovation projects that includes siding and soffit work. Meanwhile, Habitat is rolling out the big guns in Nashville during the week of Oct. 6-11 when former President Jimmy Carter and Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter will join country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood and hundreds of volunteers on the Carter Work Project, which intends to build 21 affordable homes in five days.