The New Frontier: A New Kind of Home - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

The New Frontier: A New Kind of Home

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While driving down the main strip in Belt, Montana, Jack's Beans appears to be nothing more than a nicely constructed new business.

But what you can't see from the outside is that the final structure took only days to erect, and a few weeks of working days to complete... that's about 223 hours less than average.

It's called a "panelized home", and Terri Finnell says it's the new trend in home building..

"The labor shortage that we're seeing in the building industry has really set fire to Whisper Creek because it's all done, you're not paying a framer or somebody to stand out in weather like this and frame your walls, do your siding,” says Finnell. “It's not just a savings in labor and waste on the job site, but for years in the energy efficiency as well."

All those savings stem from Whisper Creek's method of building panels in a quality-controlled facility based in Hamilton. Everything is done in that factory, so by the time the pieces arrive to a site all workers have to do is piece it together.

Traveling back in time to the job site in January, it would seem like a pretty site. It's mostly men working, but what's interesting is it's all women who are behind the scenes calling the shots.

Finnell explains, "When you call into Whisper Creek and you're trying to find out about building a home, or starting your own dealership and you're in the U.S. or Canada, you're going to talk to one of the women in charge."

It's a unique situation that the building's owner and builder, Bill Nebel, says he doesn't have a problem with. And it helps that Finnell isn't afraid of getting dirty.

"I'm so used to it! I'm a very talkative person and I can get along with anybody, and I think once the guys see that I’m here, I'm willing to jump in and help out if need be, I'll run and get parts, whatever it may be, they're on board. I don't deal with a lot of negativity on the job site,” says Finnell.

But regardless of who is in charge, Finnell and the other women behind the scenes at Whisper Creek stand by their product, and their prices.

According to the most recent available data from the National Association of Homebuilders, the average cost of building a home comes out to about $103 per square foot. Whisper Creek homes usually fall between $165 and $250 per square foot. But Nebel says he's worked on homes in Central Montana as low as $115 per square foot... Finnell says the years of added energy efficiency are well worth the up-front price tag.

"A lot of people want to call it a shell of a home, we're not just a shell, we actually go beyond that, we engineer all of our homes to your build site. So that means we're taking into account your snow load, the wind shear, your foundation type you're putting it on, and everything comes stamped."

So as Whisper Creek continues to grow and expand across Montana and beyond, communities like Belt are entering a new age of building construction and transforming overnight.

For more information about Whisper Creek homes, visit their website.

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