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Floating log cabins

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

For the longest time I thought that mobile log cabin is the most convenient of all log cabins. I tried to dig out info where to find them, which companies are making them, how to convert trailer into a trailer log siding home etc. No more! Now I want a floatable log cabin.

I just happened to surf to Floating Cabins site and found the product in all its ingenuity. Well, technically there is nothing special in floating log homes they just combine many good features that interest me. They are obviously floatable, because if they weren’t that site name would be Sunk Cabins dot com, eh? They are also movable so one could start a day by lakeside and end it at mountain top. Best of all, they are log homes, I guess, since the website doesn’t provide any technical information. Only thing left for me to do in this situation is to write to them and ask for details. I’ll see if I can get an interview from them.

Do companies care?

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

I remember the first time that I was dealing with Americans. Whenever I met people on the street that I knew, they said, “Hi, how are you doing?” I stopped there in the middle of the road “Well, now that you asked…” but they didn’t stop neither looked back they just kept on walking to the opposite direction. I wondered why they pretended to be interested but then just walked away?

That above memory came to my mind when I was reading an article at Seth Godin. He tells an example about corporate communication that sets expectations high. If you listen to the customer but don’t act accordingly, you will leave them standing on the street wondering whether to keep on walking or running after a real communication.

For few times I have sat in a development meeting where customer feedback has been the topic of the day. Just as many times the conclusion of those meetings has been that we need to change our marketing communication to better fit the image that customers have on us. We promised to deliver in seven days, but too often the delivery was few days late. Solution: we started to talk about two weeks as a delivery time. Problem solved. My experience is that customer feedback rarely changes business operations.

The future of log home business came to Finland

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

In the U.S. the log home industry has benefited from the strong economy and especially from the strong real estate market. At the same time, there has been some sort of revival of log home culture. Generation of baby-boomers is acquiring log cabins and log homes for retirement. Almost every established log home manufacturer is still alive and new players are emerging monthly. It has been all-out sunshine and none of that bad ultraviolet radiation.

How come any of that is even remotely related to Finland? It has been pretty much the same over here with the exception of our tiny home market. Finnish log home companies had to start exporting from early on to grow the business. Many companies were started to surf the latest money making trend. Unfortunately for our companies, the value of euro has been rocketing against U.S. dollar. This has made Finnish log cabins and log homes rather pricey compared to what they were before. Result – a severe drop in demand and therefore financial crisis.

mixedtechlogcabin
Out-dated design makes a poor seller.

In coming years, I hope, U.S. foreign debt starts dropping and dollar will rebound. That is the time when foreign log cabin and log home manufacturers resurface U.S. markets as tough competitors. They have weathered difficult times by rationalizing their operations and improving their models. Quite a few U.S. log home manufacturer will be in serious rough in coming 5 to 10 years.

Honkarakenne Oyj

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

FIFTIES
Honkarakenne Oyj is the company behind the Honka brand. Company was founded during the fifties. This was the time when Finland was being rebuilt in the aftermath of the WWII. Name of the game was speed and new technologies and materials. To stay with the competition, Honkarakenne took hand hewing and started to turn it into an industrial process.

SIXTIES
Industrialization and use of heavy machinery in the production of round logs cemented Honkarakenne’s position as one of the market leaders in Finland. Industrial manufacturing in turn helped Honkarakenne Oyj to increase productivity and that lead into sales expansion towards export markets. After all, Finland is a small market and wouldn’t suffice as a sole market area, thus next big areas of development were marketing, sales and exports.

SEVENTIES
Sales started to pick up and volumes grew rapidly. Increasing home market saturation and also Finnish mark (currency) devaluations were reasons for internationalization. Japan is the first big foreign market.

EIGHTIES
Stock market listing brings cash for the company to really kick-start international operations. Honkarakenne solidifies their status as a leading log home manufacturer and garners strength for future growth.

NINETIES
This decade sees Honkarakenne to complete their internationalization process. Honka brand is now known on all three main markets in Asia, Europe and North America. Subsidiaries are in charge of local business operations.

Honkarakenne expands outside their traditional business area and starts a subsidiary named Honka Holiday that operates cottage-renting business. Company is looking new markets to increase sales.

YEAR 2003
Honkarakenne agreed to build the world’s biggest log home to Russia’s Sochi. House was to cover 4500 square meters and would have swimming pool, several saunas, restaurants and other luxury amenities. This one log building was just a part of bigger project totaling 20 log house cottages.

Year 2003 was otherwise very challenging for Honkarakenne, as they started to rationalize their operations. They had too many manufacturing locations to be truly efficient and downsized as well as closed down their sawing operations.

Cottage renting business, which had been part of the company since 1996, was separated and it started to operate under the name of Honka Holiday – yet another attempt to streamline organization.

YEAR 2004
This year saw one life-changing decision from Honkarakenne. They introduced Aitokoti brand, a line of log homes, which were designed to fit suburban areas. Vacation home building has seen its better growth days domestically and now growth would be in the area of normal home building. This approach worked and is working well in Finland, which might be the reason, why Honkarakenne tested similar features in Germany.

Year 2005
Year was catastrophically dire for Honkarakenne because their sales plummeted in Germany and slowed in Japan. Traditionally these areas have been very strong for Honkarakenne. Moreover their recent investments on Alajärvi and Karstula factories have taken toll on company’s finances and while slowing sales mean less manufactured log homes – modernized factories have not been utilized to the fullest. Technology investments have also included information and process technologies to optimize production and logistics. place at different locations.

Problems in Germany can be pinpointed to the fact that company walked over their sales network and introduced new concept of selling housing packages. This move was aimed to higher visibility and ease of operation and increasing profit margins. In practice Honkarakenne was trying to turn into homebuilder instead of vacation homebuilder. However, German customers are used to unique and personal housing solutions and resulted mess dwindled sales. Now operations have been returned back to previous and sales have picked up. Year 2006 should therefore be much better.

Year 2006
This year has seen interesting developments at Honkarakenne. They have joint-operation with Finwood to manufacture lightwood storage cabins and other light structures. On the other end of spectrum they invested on TimberHeart and that increases their factory utilization plus they will have a shot for new inroads to get design-oriented customers.

In the United States, Honkarakenne decided to switch gears and instead of their subsidiary leading marketing and sales, they now trust in six independent importers to open the market.

21.07.2006 Honkarakenne issued a profit warning. Turnover isn’t developing as estimated and therefore profit is also going to be lower than expected. However, result is going to be better than year 2005 and because third and fourth quarters are the strongest quarters, they still might reach the goal for this year.

TODAY
Today, Honkarakenne has over 150 distributors, agents and dealers worldwide. Two thirds of the production is exported, and Honkarakenne happens to be the only log home and log cabin manufacturer that operates locally on all three main markets – Asia, Europe and North America.

Honka product lines include pre-designed but customer modified buildings and also totally custom-designed log structures. Company has introduced designer models to attract new customer segments.

Company has been trying to develop project building expertise by taking part into new construction projects with builders and investors. Holiday centers, spa accommodation, hotel lodging or vacation areas. These sorts of projects don’t have stellar profit margins but they do generate lots of turn over so they can be very lucrative for big industrial player. Here they have an advantage because not to many construction companies have such material expertise.

More about Honkarakenne Oyj at their website.

SOURCES FOR THE ARTICLE:
Financial statements
http://helecon3.hse.fi/FI/yrityspalvelin/pdf/2002/Ehonkarakenne2002.pdf
http://helecon3.hse.fi/FI/yrityspalvelin/pdf/2003/Ehonkarakenne2003.pdf

NAN financial statements from 1988 to 1999
http://www.nan.shh.fi/corp/Honkarakenne/index.html

Cooperation with communes, construction companies, builders, investors, developers
http://www.kaupunkiuutiset.com/artikkelit/arkisto/artikkeli.php?artikkeli_id=972
http://www.teijo.fi/lomarakentaminen/honkarakenneoy/
http://www.laatumaa.com/page.asp?Section=10&Item=496
http://english.forestindustries.fi/index.html
http://www.maastorakentajat.com/index.php?id=24
http://www.aitokoti.fi/
http://www.kerimaa.net/cottages.php

Process development
http://www.anilinker.com/anilinker/references/cases/honkarakenne.xhtml

Biggest log home
http://newsfromrussia.com/main/2003/10/15/50517.html

News
http://www.arvopaperi.fi/article/id=18695
http://www.yritysopas.com/uutiset/2003-07-02-Honkarakenne-irtisanoo/

Articles
http://www.yrittajat.fi/sy/home.nsf/www/yrittamisenjuhlaa1986_1990/$file/honkarakenne_oy.pdf
http://www.comfortloghouses.com/Honka%20brochere/Born+in+Finland+20060629.pdf

The Original Log Cabin Homes

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Just came to my mind that there is actually a big log cabin home manufacturer, which almost spells the name of this site. However, I am confident that aspiring log home owners won’t mix these two sites. After all, if people come here looking for log cabin homes, they will be guided to the Log Cabin Homes Ltd. or given information about log cabin homes in general. No manufacturing or sales competition here boys.

I would like to give all the possible kudos for the company for choosing such an excellent location – Rocky Mount. You can’t get more rustic, can you? I don’t know about you, but for a Finnish lad who never excelled in the geography of the U.S.A, Rocky Mount sounds a lot like Rocky Mountains. Glance at map proves my intuition wrong, but the labeling is already done. As I go to the company website, they follow their name and address with obligatory terms like tranquility, convenience, personal, tradition etc. I’m already sold to the idea of Log Cabin Homes.

As a private company, Log Cabin Homes doesn’t need to publish detailed financials. This is good, because they own a herd of buffalos, which double as company’s symbol, and having buffalos can be costly. One more thing, company was established as late as 1987 and therefore it doesn’t really belong to the group of traditional and old American companies.

Interviewing Kelly Hart

Monday, June 12th, 2006

I came across this wonderful site that is all about green home building. Green building – if traditional building methods are followed – can be very cheap way to build houses, so this site is of special interest for us back-to-the-nature log home builders, who might be discouraged by the high prices of modern log homes and log cabins.

Kelly Hart has a long history in the field of construction and publishes information on green home building in cooperation with many experts of this field. Mr. Hart was happy to answer few questions, so here they are:

Q: Post and beam log building is mentioned here and there on your site, but always as a mere structural framework. Why Greenhomebuilding doesn’t include log homes as an independent segment?

    A: This was a conscious decision on my part to not promote the use of logs for homes for several reasons. Primarily, I am concerned with the continued depletion of our forests, as expressed on my page about saving our forests. There are circumstances where logs for homes can be harvested sustainably, and I encourage this, but in general this is not the case. Another reason I don’t promote the use of logs is that they really don’t provide very good insulation as a shell for a home, and this is a very important factor in any climate with temperature extremes.

Q: You introduce several methods for greener building. Apart from earthbag building, which are your personal favorites?

    A: Interestingly, one of my favorites is also wood, in the form of cordwood construction. I like this method of building because it uses very small pieces of wood (more or less firewood size) that can be arranged in such a way as to provide a very well-insulated wall. This means that a considerable portion of the tree can be used, and that very small diameter trees that result from thinning a forest can be used. When the cordwood is stacked with masonry or earthen mortar and an interior void for insulation, you end up with a wall that has wonderful thermal properties because the interior masonry acts as thermal mass. An added benefit is that once you build the wall there is no more finish work necessary, either inside or outside, and it is a very durable, low-maintenance system. Building cordwood walls is a technique that is easily learned, requiring little skill.

Q: It is often so that pioneers create future trends by working very hard on their dreams. Do you think that at some point these green home building methods that you introduce on your website, will become popular among commercial constructors and home buyers?

    A: This is already happening, especially with strawbale construction, and to a lesser extent with rammed earth and adobe building. This movement gained momentum in the Southwestern United States and is now finding popularity in other regions of the world.

Q: Many readers of Log Homes Cabin are planning to buy a log home kit as their starting point for owner/builder home. How would you increase the greenness of such a home?

    A: First of all, make sure that the logs for that kit have been harvested sustainably; check with the Forest Stewardship Council about this. Then select a kit that is as compact as it reasonably can be to house your needs…extra space costs more, both economically and ecologically. Choose a design that will heat itself with passive solar, especially if you live where you have cold winters. And get one with the best insulation package possible, especially for the ceiling and roof where most of the heat loss is.

Mr. Hart, thank you for your time. I wish all the best and continue to follow your website for updates.

Honka mass mail advertisement

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Yesterday I got mail from Honka log homes company. They had printed several successful case studies from their various business categories and now were sending them around capital area.

I can draw some interesting points from their pamphlet. First of all, they have added Timber Heart on this ad. It is there along with their other independent divisions. You might remember this post that I wrote while back.

Another thing that catches my eye is the recreation and project services. They claim that their service package includes: lot search, design, building permissions, construction, after services and local knowledge. Nice punch of claims, sure sounds nice.

Mountaineer Log Homes interview

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Nice interview from associated press. Article goes through main issues like how modern log homes can be very convenient and beautiful compared to the old image of log homes. Nothing new in here but article tells the background of the company.

There are some brave claims made in the article for example this – (log home) it can be 35 to 40 percent more energy efficient than a traditionally built frame home. It might be true, but on average, log homes have difficulties meeting new insulation standards on both sides of Atlantic Ocean. Anyway, the owner of the company seems to be very dedicated person. I think you should consider this option if you are looking to build a log home or a log cabin. Read the article over here and go to homepage of the company over here.

Appalachian Log Homes, Inc.

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Lately I’ve been paying some attention to a fact that Appalachian Log Homes are practically invisible on the press release front. Much smaller companies fret about their miniscule achievements, just take a look at this if you don’t believe me.

Now there is something very positive in the silence of the Appalachian Log Homes, sure they must have their fair share of customer complaints, but you can’t find them from the pages of any well-known review site. Downside of this invisibility is that you don’t get praises either. Appalachian Log Homes is a member of the Log Home Council so there shouldn’t be a problem with their credibility. They are also a listed company so it is easier to get hands on their financials. Fascinating company indeed, does anyone have any experience with them?

Family business

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

This family has generations involved in the running of their log home business. They started with small cabins but have been expanding their product slate into bigger log homes. This warm news article goes through family’s ideas of taking the business into the future.

  • Log home photos

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