Hi-Tech Housing ’s Position and Role in the Off-Site Construction Industry
Hi-Tech Housing was formed in 1990 by Charles J. Fanaro Jr., a defensive move to build homes to his exacting high quality standards for Saddlebrook Farms… a large senior-living community founded in the Chicago metropolitan area in the late 1980’s. At the time, Fanaro’s dilemma was that he wanted to obtain the advantages of a leasehold community using manufactured homes (with the motto “an improved quality of life at a reduced cost of living”) but concluded that the homes must have features and construction quality superior to that of a typical suburban Chicago home. Finding no manufacturer who was willing to meet his specifications and quality standards, he acquired a recently closed housing factory in Bristol in Elkhart County, Indiana, recruited a management team, and began building homes for his active adult development. Hi-Tech built its business model on a simple statement: “Quality without Compromise,” and Saddlebrook Farms subsequently earned numerous awards and accolades as the best senior living community of its kind in the US. In 2014, the community had grown to over 1400 homes and will continue to grow by phases.
The twin precepts of “building what your customer wants, not what the factory wants to sell” and “quality without compromise” were somewhat revolutionary in the off-site construction industry, where arbitrary standardization, low-cost but problematic building materials and hasty construction were seen as unavoidable. New market opportunities beyond Fanaro’s own development arose immediately after its founding. The original homes designed for Saddlebrook Farms were coveted by other developers of high-quality communities. Those original home designs were also appropriate as high-quality modular housing, and Hi-Tech began selling homes to builders and modular retailers, gradually expanding the offering of homes to include a broad selection of ranches, cape cods and two-story models.
From the beginning, the highly successful marketing of homes in Saddlebrook Farms required a willingness to customize the homes to the unique requirements of the homebuyer to a far greater extent than found elsewhere with off-site construction. Hi-Tech, of necessity, had to create an infrastructure to accurately capture those unique features and specifications and then execute them faithfully in the factory. That ability to “mass-customize” opened further markets for Hi-Tech. Today, the company can produce a one-of-a-kind home designed by an architect, build a hotel, deliver a rugged drill-site office/barracks, a bank building and much more.
The economics of transporting completed home modules to a building-site has generally meant that individual factories focused on marketing their products within a 300 to 500 mile radius. Hi-Tech’s unique capabilities have led to projects from the Rockies to the Atlantic and from Minneapolis to New Orleans in the US and from Alberta to the Maritimes in Canada. Hi-Tech has also seen some demand for shipment beyond North America.
In 2007, Hi-Tech was able to acquire a larger and more modern factory in Bristol not far from its original factory. Hi-Tech relocated that year, made further improvements to the new facility and continues to upgrade it to serve customer needs and the latest technology.
Over the years, a number of companies produced exciting home designs with lasting value and revered trade names, but, for a variety of reasons from business conditions to management succession, ceased operations. Hi-Tech has been able to acquire the rights to a number of those design collections. In late 2010, Fanaro, formed an independent company, Custom Factory Crafted Structures (“CFCS”) to hold and market those designs. CFCS homes are built in the Hi-Tech factory in Indiana. CFCS has acquired design rights from such venerable companies as Pinnacle Building Systems, Sun Building Systems, Indiana Building Systems and Holly Park.
Marketing the CFCS designs separately avoids confusion between Hi-Tech’s original designs and those acquired by CFCS and avoids marketing conflicts among retailers who choose to concentrate their efforts on one or the other.