Naples-based BCB Homes celebrated its 20th anniversary on August 23.
The nationally renowned firm was founded by President and CEO Joe Smallwood in 1993.
Over the past two decades, BCB Homes has completed over 250 custom new-build and extensive remodeling projects in Southwest Florida’s most prestigious neighborhoods, including Port Royal, Aqualane Shores, Bay Colony, Old Naples, Mediterra, Grey Oaks, Estuary at Grey Oaks, Park Shore, the Moorings, Bonita Bay, Pelican Bay and Shadow Wood. Homes built by BCB are found in communities ranging from Marco Island to Sarasota.
That dynamic changed when people started building significant homes in Naples. We saw the market changing and realized there was an opportunity for a quality builder to get involved with these larger homes. That was in 1993.”
BCB Homes’ first project was a 10,000 square foot home in Port Royal that another builder had started. The project shaped a philosophy that continues to be BCB’s hallmark. Questions about how the home was being built prompted Smallwood to undertake his own research.
“The builder used a synthetic insulation system that had received negative publicity,” said Smallwood. “I said ‘I don’t feel comfortable with this system. Let’s figure out how to make it right.’ The person who developed the product lived in Port Royal.
I called him and said I needed to become an expert using his product. He told me everything I needed to know – why there were failures and how to avoid them. The product didn’t tolerate improper installation. The failures mentioned in the news stories resulted from improper installation. The lesson I learned was it’s critical for us to know the products we use, to test their integrity and how we install them on every job, to measure product performance, and to communicate with our vendors. We’ve been doing that since day one.”
While BCB completed its project in Port Royal, the company had other homes underway at the Strand in Bay Colony. As the company’s portfolio grew, Smallwood noticed many of the systems and techniques BCB was using could be applied to virtually any home.
By 2000, he was ready to diversify. That’s when COO Scott Weidle joined BCB as a part-owner.
“Building custom homes is more complex than building multi-family or commercial buildings,” said Weidle. “Each custom home presents unique requirements and challenges. At the same time, the techniques we were using to construct the building envelope could be replicated. As technologies such as dehumidification, ventilation, air conditioning, water heating and water treatment systems evolved, they could be scaled for homes of any size. Technology was catching up to what people wanted and it’s continued to do that, especially as the desire to build ‘green’ has become more prevalent.”
Before long, BCB was building custom homes beyond Port Royal and the beach and rapidly built a portfolio of residences in Old Naples, Park Shore, Aqualane, Mediterra, Estuary and other neighborhoods and golf course communities. Today, the company’s homes range from $800,000 up to $15 million to $20 million. While the product mix has evolved, the way BCB builds a home has not.
“Whether it’s 3,500 or 20,000 square feet, you can build the building envelope the same way,” said Smallwood. “The way it’s built and the quality of the envelope can be identical. That’s the way we build all of our homes. Some builders save on what their customers can’t see. That’s fine when you move in, but over time it’s not a responsible solution.
The way we build has evolved to where these systems we’re talking about are standard in every home we build. People have every right to expect their home is built as well as possible and that it provides a healthy living environment. It’s up to us to do the research and to test the integrity of every product every time we use it.”
While testing of every product installation may seem excessive, even the most reliable products can inadvertently present problems for a homeowner.
“In one instance, every French door we installed leaked when we tested them,” said Weidle. “The doors came from a respected vendor and we’ve used their product many times. Given our history with the vendor, it would have been easy for us to install the doors and move on. Our testing detected the problem. It turned out the factory had changed the specs on a gasket without telling anyone. Our testing discovered the problem and our approach is why we have great relationships with our vendors.”
BCB’s penchant for continuous improvement has made it one of the most respected homebuilders in the United States. The company’s commitment to building homes that are healthy and energy efficient has resulted in national and state green certifications for numerous custom home projects. Many of the techniques used by BCB to achieve superior levels of health and efficiency have been incorporated in the company’s standard practices. BCB’s voice is taking on new importance at the national level.
“I recently attended a building science conference,” said Smallwood. “Some of the new systems and products are intriguing, but what many of them overlook is how they can be implemented on a practical level. Homes are not built in a laboratory and the availability of skilled labor is an issue. New solutions need to be designed for mid to lower skilled labor and we continue to emphasize that at a national level.”
“Saying ‘I don’t know or we can’t do that’ is not part of our culture,” said Weidle. “That first house Joe built in 1993, he wanted to build it better than the first builder was prepared to do. That is what BCB is about. We build the next one better than the last one because we’re constantly measuring and evaluating. It’s not about getting a higher margin. It’s about reputation and being able to say we’ve done the best we can do.”
BCB’s approach has been carried into its remodeling division and a Learning Center designed to simplify the materials selection process and understanding of BCB’s methods for clients. The remodeling division undertakes projects ranging from small kitchen or bathroom updates to more complex total renovations. BCB’s clients have direct access to an ownership group that now includes six individuals, each of whom is engaged in the business on a day-to-day-basis.
“Our ownership is hands-on and client-focused every day,” said Smallwood. “That allows us to function as a small entity even though we generate a significant amount of work. Our people care about what we’re doing and our clients appreciate that. Our customers are getting younger and the product we’re building is constantly evolving. What won’t change is our approach to continuous improvement and building the best home possible. It’s gratifying to drive around Naples, see the footprint we’ve left, and speak with past clients and hear how they’re enjoying their home. It’s nice to know we’ve made a difference people appreciate. That’s the ultimate measurement of what we do.”