PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology


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PATH: Technological Innovations in an Industrially Designed and Manufactured Modular Housing Concept for Low Energy, Prefabricated, Low-Rise Low Income Housing Units

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

* Harry Giles, Principal Investigator
* Steven Skerlos, Co-Principal Investigator

Starts: September 15, 2005
Expires: August 31, 2008


The overarching objective is to create a new way of conceptualizing housing design that integrates technological innovation with manufacturing processes, resulting in a more socially responsible outcome. The principal investigator and his colleagues promote innovations consistent with:

They address the housing industry's inefficiencies and fragmentation, caused by the slow adoption of new housing technologies, by setting out a number of research objectives that promote a paradigm shift using automotive technology transfer methodologies in the design and procurement process for housing. The types of methodologies used are:

  1. Process based innovations will include technologies appropriate to industrial design by adopting Product Design Development Process Modeling associated with Life Cycle Analysis appropriate to industrial ecology to form the basis of restructuring the traditional supply chain process and supporting sustainability imperatives respectively.

  2. Alternative mass customization opportunities for manufactured housing systems and their interaction with production line activities will be explored, taking advantage of improved construction accuracy and sequences of assembly through multi-dimensional digital simulations using object oriented digital design.

  3. Component design innovation will include systems integrated thermally insulated panels that perform as combined wall and floor systems that will sustain passive energy exchange within the house enclosure.

  4. Energy systems will incorporate integrated performance based controls that will optimize on energy consumption. Their proposal for a new paradigm will require a step change in thinking by the industry and as such the project has identified a strategy for engaging with a broad range of industry partners. The project will be run as collaboration between university units, which build on a project prototype for a prefabricated and transportable house that is powered exclusively by solar energy.

Current housing manufacturers exploit a short-sighted, least common denominator market that maximizes profit at the expense of social and environmental quality. In contrast, the investigators seek to elevate the technological knowledge base in housing design towards a highly efficient design and manufacturing approach that uncompromisingly integrates environmental and social sustainability features.

A technology transfer paradigm shift is proposed by the investigators that will transform traditional construction methods into a mass customized production process that will benefit society through improved property performance, which will directly impact national concerns about the environment, the state of the housing infrastructure and the improvement of low income housing communities. Their ideas include:

The project objectives are motivated by the potential to create opportunities to repopulate blighted urban areas. Therefore, the investigator and his team will be creating an initial focus on sites situated in the Detroit inner urban area, as a model for repopulating these denuded urban zones. Significantly, the principles of their proposal will be equally relevant to the re-densification of cities throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

The project's pedagogical value will be diffused through student-based design studios and research projects, set within this research framework across multidisciplinary boundaries, which form part of a social outreach program already in existence within the university.

For additional details on this NSF award.

Content updated on 9/21/2005

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