Lessons from an ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ project

March 31, 2014

ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover challenged Veridian Homes (of Madison WI) in 2008 to build a home for a family in need.  The home builder’s quality management practices and innovation culture were the foundation of the project’s success, as the team used modified approaches and creative solutions to race against the clock.

The TV show ended in 2013 and as I reflected on the impact of the experience with my colleague and co-author Gary Zajicek, regarding how critical Quality Management had been in the success of the project a paper was created for ASQs Quality Progress Magazine.

The full paper can be found at this link                                                                  


The challenge was to build a 3000 square foot home within 106 hours. There were eleven weeks before the start of construction during which time all aspects of design and project management had to be completed.  When the project was over, construction had actually been completed in just 96 hours to Energy Star and the WI Green Built Standards and a HERS of 54.

Ultimately, the lessons learnt and transferred from the Home Makeover project resulted in a 25% reduction in the Veridian Homes evenflow construction schedule, which had already been an industry recognized schedule.

Quality Management systems and culture were essential to making this challenge a success. They were improved through the lessons learnt and everyone was more appreciative of their value and made dramatically aware of the constant need to be open to new ideas!  There was a recognition, appreciation and confidence that with the quality tools techniques and systems in place the company was in a good position to tackle any potential challenges that might come its way, including the great recession of 2007-2009. Veridian Homes is still successfully in business today.

Creating a challenge, running a pilot program, or an improvement project that can create an innovative environment for your organization, challenging ideas and breaking mind-sets, can be created without being part of an Extreme Home Makeover.  For those in the homebuilding industry, creating a project to build a zero defect home or build a home in a week are two examples. For those in other sectors of the construction industry creating teams, setting design or new process or schedule challenges may create other options. Setting new bars, breaking expectations, creating dynamic and team focused positive change can present significant learning opportunities.

The following is a link to an edited 31 min video of this Extreme Home Makeover episode (Richland Centre, WI - Anders Beattie Family, Veridian Homes, July 2008 Season 6 Episode 3)  


Gary Zajicek is Chief Operations Officer at First General Services in Madison, WI. He is a Judge on the National Housing Quality Award and winner of Big Builder Magazine’s Apex Award for Leadership. (Gary was Vice President of Construction and Customer Relations at Veridian Homes during the Extreme Home Makeover.)  He can be contacted at gary.zajicek@wimci.com  (608) 514-0141 x503

ABC’s two time Prime Time Emmy winning TV show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ran from 2003 until 2013 with 201 episodes.  Each episode featured a family that had been faced by hardship, they had their home rebuilt while they were given a vacation for a week. A local builder volunteered along with other trades and members of the community to make this happen.


Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.