IBS And Pine: A Strong Combination In Structural Building
By Matthew Fite
Middlebury, Ind.–Indiana Building Systems, LLC, (IBS) located here, produces custom-built and modular structures, such as homes, apartments and other buildings, that can be chosen from pre-designed plans or custom-built.
Founded in 2000, Indiana Building Systems purchases 2,500,000 board feet of lumber and about twice that much in doors, windows and other wood items annually. It buys SPF, SYP in No. 2 and Better. It also purchases dimensional lumber, laminated beams, timbers, OSB and plywood. The company purchases a significant quantity of FSC-certified wood products.
Pictured is a two-story Make-It-Right Foundation home in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. Indiana Building Systems purchases approximately 2,500,000 board feet of lumber, specifically SYP and SPF, for the manufacture of various types of structures.
Indiana Building Systems buys its lumber just-in-time, which is a discipline within the modular building industry. It is located in a large center for building products distribution, near South Bend, Ind., which makes this purchasing practice easier. Lumber purchasing is usually brokered, but some is bought directly. Here is an example of the company’s forte:
Recently, a Chicago architect emailed plans for a project to Indiana Building Systems CEO John Guequierre, asking what his company’s specs for this structure would be. Guequierre asked if the architect wanted his company to match the architect’s plans exactly because if so, “We can.”
The company builds modular structures in everything from affordable homes to $1 million estate homes to apartment buildings to motels to highly custom homes. It constructs offices, dormitories, classrooms, retirement homes and medical clinics.
It built nine shotgun-style homes in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Guequierre says each had the look and feel of a 100-year-old home, but included contemporary features.
Guequierre says the company’s most spectacular work was done for the Make-It-Right Foundation in New Orleans. These were duplexes that were needed quickly.
Indiana Building Systems is working on a house near the Chicago Loop that will be LEED-certified and will conform to all applicable Chicago building codes. Indiana Building Systems does not operate according to the traditional business model for modular building companies.
It used to be that these companies each designed a line of buildings and marketed them to builders and home buyers as a product that “you want to have,” Guequierre says. A growing part of Indiana Building Systems’ business is agreeing “to build what people want to buy, especially architects and developers,” he says.
The company also sells and delivers its structures much farther than the traditional 300-mile-radius, within which hauling of freight is more affordable. It has projects in 20 states and in four C a n a d i a n provinces. It sells its modular structures from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. Most sales are within a 400-mile radius of Middlebury.
Indiana Building Systems does not sell directly to home buyers. It sells buildings to independent builders who, in turn, offer them to the home buyers.
A module for a two-story home is built on the assembly line at the Indiana Building Systems plant in Middlebury, Ind.
The company also is a federal contractor.
Home styles range from contemporary to Colonial, French Colonial, Craftsmen and more.
Indiana Building Systems works with a number of well-known architects including Graft (Berlin, Germany), BNIM (Kansas City) and Shigeru Ban (Tokyo, Japan).
The company’s engineering staff makes sure that all structures meet building codes in the locations to which the buildings are sent. This can range from the snow belt of Michigan where snow loads on roofs are considerable to the Gulf Coast where winds can pack a punch of 130 to 140 mph.
The company sells several hundred buildings each year.
Its goal is “to make houses that homeowners love and fill us with pride,” according to the mission statement.
The company has 80 employees. Guequierre says that in peak times, that number reaches to 200 employees. Included are engineers, drafters, skilled carpenters, a sales staff, people who are knowledgeable in electric ity and plumbing and more.
The company has “a core of extremely talented people,” Guequierre says.
Employees get initial and ongoing training according to recognized, industry standards.
Key personnel for the company, besides Guequierre, include CFO Lisa R. McGlashen and President Donald L. Swank. The company’s management team has more than 150 years of experience in the factory-built modular housing industry. Housed in two buildings of 97,000 square feet each, the company has an assembly line and room for storage and support facilities.
The assembly line has 20 stations. Typically, one moves down the line, stopping at each station, produces a module for a structure. Once all modules for a structure are complete, the modules are placed in large, steel carriers – each with wheels and axles – and attached to a truck that hauls it to the location.
Indiana Building Systems contracts with builders where each structure is to be erected. These builders assemble the structures, affixing them to the foundations.
Sometimes, Indiana Building Systems employees assist with building assembly.
Of late, Indiana Building Systems has built many green structures. “We have focused on this expertise,” Guequierre says. The firm has lumber- treating methods, HVAC systems with low emissions, water-saving devices and other components that help make a home green-certified. Guequierre says that green building and custom homes help make his company viable. “We’re happy to be upright and not prone,” he adds.
The company, he says, is seeing “a modest amount of business, not a large uptick.” He says IBS is also seeing more business in Canada.
In the second half of 2010, Guequierre expects “modest growth” for his company.
Marketing for Indiana Building Systems is carried out on the Internet and by traditional target marketing of builders and others.
However, Guequierre says the company’s good reputation has begun to precede its marketing efforts and to draw people to the company.