Since 1975, Michael Rose has been building houses here as president of a small firm called KRB Inc.

Since June, he has been running the business from a wheelchair.

The victim of a shooting, Rose drives a specially adapted van to get around. Rose was shot in the spine and paralyzed last February in an unexplained assault by one of his construction superintendents, who now is in a psychiatric hospital.

Anyone visiting the 34-year-old builder when he's behind his desk might not notice the wheelchair. Rose, however, is just a little bitter about the harsh blow of fate.

"I really don't feel that much different but I must have more patience with myself and with everything and everyone around me," he said.

Hospitalized from February to June, Rose was unable to return to his office on the second floor of a building in Seabrook.

"I was told it would take four months to get back into gear," he recalled the other day. "But I made it in a month.

"First, I had to buy a van and have it customized with special controls to be able to use my hands totally in driving.I went to a special driving school and now have a special license. I'm restricted to vehicles with hand controls."

Rose connected two trailers to use as a construction office near his current housing development site, a wooded area called Woodstream outside of, Seabrook. The office has a ramp and wide doors. From his desk, Rose can see the new town houses being completed.

A tall man with brown hair and a light complexion, Rose said that he still enjoys bowling. He works a slightly shorter day now because it "takes longer to get ready in the morning."

"I'm healthy," he said. "I have a good appetite. I take certain pills and vitamins. You see I still have a bullet between two vertebrae."

The native southern Californian, his wife and their two yound sons live in a town house in the Inverness development off Seven Locks Road in Potomac.

"We bought it in 1971, when I was with the Carl M. Freeman firm, which built them," Rose said. "It was $40,000 then. Now resales are in the $108,000 range. And new town houses nearby are $114,000."

Rose installed a chair lift in his home to get from the first to second floors.He says that his wife and sons have been a big help, first with their understanding and now with their acceptance of him as he is: "If I ask one of the boys to get me a drink of water now, he will say 'get it yourself.'"

In making his recovery, Rose has gained added respect from his small office staff.

"He never complains," a secretary said. "He just does his work and exhibits more patience than before."

Before the shooting, Rose generally was recognized by his peers as a talented, highly confident person with a low threshold for inadequacies or mistakes.

But other builders and developers who know Rose also recognized that he was totally dedicated to what he was doing. His first job in the Montpelier area won prizes in the local homebuilding contest.

Today, Rose would rather talk about houses than about himself, although he considers himself an expert in marketing and identifying markets. He is particularly interested in land development.

"Here at Woodstream, our planning now calls for 175 single and 500 town houses on 167 acres," he said. "But it was previously planned for more houses. I'm convinced this lower density makes the houses more sellable. And these is little - maybe 5 percent - additional cost to the buyer," he said.

As to the future, Rose said he wants to do more in selecting good sites and planning them. Right now he is working with a group of Japanese investors who are seeking "a viable alternative to single houses" for a site near Gaithersburg.

One thing has changed about Rose's building plans for the future. He has promised himself to pay more attention to the problems of physically handicapped persons in designing houses. "If we have a physically handicapped, purchaser, we now make the necessary changes for free," he said.

For recreation, Rose likes to take his family away for a weekend. He acknowledged that's tough finding a place that can accommodate a wheelchair. "Otherwise, I still like to go out and look at the houses being built in the area," he said. "It's my life, no matter what."