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March 1, 2004

PATH Study Identifies Critical Role of Leaders of Innovation

"Technology Advocates" Key to Building Industry Advancement, Report Says

WASHINGTON-Leadership by example can move mountains-even a mountain as big and as old as the American homebuilding industry. So says a new report from the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), which points to the presence of "technology advocates" within a company as an important indicator of the firm's industry leadership in the adoption of residential building technologies. The report, "The Diffusion of Innovation in the Residential Building Industry," looks at how and why innovations spread within the residential design and construction industry. By taking full advantage of PATH and other technology transfer resources, a handful of bold builders both big and small are integrating little-used innovations and, bit by bit, pulling the industry toward the future.

"By example, it's the builders who demonstrate to other builders how using advanced building technologies pays off for them and their homebuyers," said Dana Bres of the Office of Policy Development and Research of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which administers PATH. "We need more of these innovation champions to help lead the industry to new standards of quality."

PATH continues to examine both creative and effective ways to speed the development and adoption of advanced building technologies. According to the report, the successful diffusion of innovations in the residential home building industry can have substantial social, economic, and environmental benefits to American homeowners, and to members of the housing industry as well. More innovative firms are likely to stress the importance of being creative and innovative, and so are often among the first to use these new products, the report says. The research focuses on "early adopters," home builders who adopt particular products and materials at an early stage of market penetration.

"We're just scratching the surface in learning how builders exchange ideas and how these connections influence their adoption practices," said Bres. "But the report findings provide a map for the direction of PATH's future work."

Lead author Theodore Koebel, director of the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, agrees. "Research on builders should continue to target innovators and early adopters," he says, "to better understand the characteristics of our technology leaders and the culture of the adopting firms." In addition to other goals for future research, he points to the need for better understanding of the information sources of and influences upon second stage adopters, who propel innovations toward market adoption.

According to the report, by incorporating new technologies into construction practices, it is possible to create more affordable housing; improve energy efficiency and conserve energy resources; improve the quality of U.S. housing stock by reducing the need for frequent repair and maintenance; increase the longevity of the housing stock; reduce the flow of scrap materials into the waste stream; and conserve scarce natural resources.

Download the full report: " The Diffusion of Innovation in the Residential Building Industry."

Content updated on 10/22/2004

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