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Home Building Industry to Roadmap Three Promising Housing Technology Areas

In May 2000, the Industry Steering Committee of PATH (Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing) designated three technology areas to be examined in detail by roadmapping task groups made up of builders, remodelers, manufacturers and researchers. Each of the three technology areas shows high potential for big gains in many or all of the PATH goals of lower cost, higher energy efficiency and durability, lower environmental impact, improved safety and better resistance to natural hazards.

The three chosen technologies to be roadmapped starting later this year are summarized below:

1. Information Technology to Accelerate and Streamline Home Building -- Information technology can greatly improve the speed and efficiency of the entire home building process. A roadmapping group will look at ways that computers, software, and communications (especially wireless and the internet) can improve speed, efficiency and quality in the home building process. Specifically, the group will look at:

  • Tying software packages together (integrating them) to speed up the entire process from design through materialsí lists to completion of the home.
  • Applying an approach called Enterprise Resource Planning - already used in many manufacturing environments - to home building.
  • Improving the quality and quantity of home building information provided by the World Wide Web.
  • Speeding up the permitting/inspection/approval process.

Information technology is, of course, already being used in some way for the above applications. The challenge for the roadmapping group will be to determine where and how coordinated efforts, including research, will lead to better and faster implementation.

2. Advanced Panelization Systems -- The potential advantages of shifting away from "construction in place" with respect to labor skills, quality control, standardization and economical engineering are undeniable. Panelization technologies promise significant benefits with respect to every one of the program goals. Some of the concepts that will be further examined during the roadmapping process include:

  • Integrated wall, floor and roof systems.
  • Homogeneous wall panels (for example, are extruded wall panels viable?).
  • Pre-cast insulated wall panels and panelized roof components.
  • Interlocking roof sections.

The roadmapping group will be asked to look not only at factory production, but also at economical on-site or near-site production methods to add flexibility. And, they will need to address transportation issues. Panels with already-applied exterior and interior and integral insulation or utilities will be considered.

3. Whole-House and Building Process Redesign -- The idea here is to take a systems-oriented view of houses and the process we use to build them to see if there are ways to do it faster, at lower cost, with higher quality. Concepts involve:

  • Reducing the number of components required to build a house.
  • Reducing the number of components assembled on site.
  • Modularizing bathrooms and/or kitchens, and similar functions.
  • Plumbing manifolds, wiring chases and HVAC distribution.
  • Flexible, adaptable space in the new designs.

The above concepts are unlikely to be addressed by individual manufacturers for a variety of reasons. However, a multi-disciplinary roadmapping group can step back and look at what is being built and how, with a special emphasis on simplifying and improving. The output of the roadmapping effort will likely be multiple research projects addressing various aspects of the home design process. Those projects could ultimately lead to product developments and/or process changes.

The technology roadmaps developed through this process will define what is necessary to successfully develop beneficial new technologies -- what is being done and what remains to be done. Roadmapping will also describe likely costs, risks, benefits and time required for technology development. They can be used by government agencies to analyze and assign priorities among alternative R&D; investments and to determine critical gaps in research that would serve PATH program goals. Manufacturers can use this information to develop plans for product development or establishing research consortia.

Each of the three technology areas will be roadmapped by a task group that includes builders and/or remodelers, manufacturers who are in businesses that use or can use the technologies, and researchers from universities or other research organizations.

To learn more about the technologies mentioned above, visit the PATH roadmapping website. This site includes a private area, for exclusive use of the PATH Technology Roadmapping group and a public area which you are invited to visit. There you will find more detailed descriptions of the technologies summarized above and additional other technologies under consideration. The site invites comments about the technologies so that you can read what others have to say and insert your own opinions.

Content updated on 1/22/2002 Back to Top Back to Top
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