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The Role of Information Technology in Housing Design and Construction

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November 1999, 37 pages

In November 1999, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy sponsored a roundtable to discuss how Information Technology (IT) could be used during the design and construction of homes to improve their quality and affordability. Hosted by RAND in cooperation with the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), the Department of Housing & Urban Development, and the National Association of HomeBuilders Research Center, the roundtable discussed the existing processes, barriers, and opportunities for increased use of IT in this important industry.

The roundtable consisted of leaders from a broad cross-section of the building industry including medium and large scale production builders, material suppliers, product manufacturers, software firms, information technology specialists, the code community, academia, the National Laboratories, and state and federal government.

The roundtable led to wide agreement that IT holds tremendous potential for increasing efficiency throughout all areas of the housing industry including design, permitting, construction, inspection, and manufacturing. More significantly, the discussion led to the realization that the benefits of information technology were less about automating existing processes and more about developing revolutionary changes in how the industry operates.

Within the public sector, participants felt that IT would enable state and local codes to be placed on the Internet, the permitting and inspection processes could be put online, and new ways of distributing, working on, and inspecting plans could be developed. Likewise, the private sector could benefit from better dissemination of information, increased manufacturing efficiency, substitution of manufactured components for traditional labor-intensive material, and increasing worker productivity. Each of these would save valuable time and money potentially lowering the cost of the consumer.

The roundtable ended with the participants issuing three recommendations:

PATH should implement a pilot project to show the feasibility and value of using information technology to distribute plans and streamline the inspection and permitting processes.

PATH should demonstrate that IT can increase the efficiency and lower the cost of home building so that all portions of the industry are more accepting of these technologies and likely to use them in the future.

A broad cross-section of industry should ask PATH to help create an "industry-owned" standards development group that would facilitate the development of communication and standards to increase the use of IT within this fragmented industry.

A summary of the November roundtable is now available and can be downloaded from both the RAND and PATH websites. The document includes both a summary of the discussion as well as an appendix that provides additional information and resources on the topics discussed.

For more information, please contact Scott Hassell by email at Adobe Acrobat (*.pdf, 395 KB).

Content updated on 12/10/2003

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