PATH conducts research on housing technology innovation with public and private partners.
Looking at all of the homebuilding industry's innovation potential, PATH has begun asking some fundamental questions about who innovates and how they do it. We actually know very little about how manufacturers have their "light bulb" moments and what they know of the industry to which they introduce their innovation. We don't know why some homebuilders readily accept new technologies while others are hesitant or even resistant, or why homeowners value some technologies over others. In fact, we're just beginning to understand how all of these groups get information about home technologies and who best provides that information. PATH has launched a series of projects to begin filling the blanks for these industry groups.
The work of Federal agencies bridges the gap between background research and technologies developed by industry. Universities and institutional researchers do not focus on developing products for the market, and manufacturers and industrial groups do not always have research development resources. Therefore, both groups are unlikely candidates for the interim work achieved by Federal research laboratories. Since its inception, PATH has worked with the largest Federal research facilities performing housing-related work including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory, the Department of Energy's labs, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. PATH conducts specific research projects to fill the knowledge gap.
To develop effective solutions for the housing industry, PATH must understand barriers to housing technology research and adoption. Barriers can be found in the building process; in the economic, social, or political aspects of a housing technology; or in general housing characteristics.
PATH anticipated a need for major studies to judge the capacities and characteristics of housing technologies and established a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop methods of evaluation. NIST is recognized as a worldwide, leading measurements and standards institution with a mission to develop and promote measurement, standards, and technology.
Technology development is one of the final stages in the R&D lifecycle, which includes the fine-tuning, testing, and market analysis needed to bring research products into America's homes. Frequently, background and applied research is completed on housing industry products that never reach the market, because product manufacturers lack resources and process analysts to invest in new technology development. Working with its partners, PATH hopes to reduce such obstacles to adoption of new technologies in the housing industry.
Technology scanning is one of PATH's major research support services. Technology scanning identifies technology developments in other industries, from other nations, from federal laboratories, and from other building sectors. PATH looks for breakthroughs in other industries that could be transferred and applied to housing. PATH works to unite technology developers from outside of residential construction with manufacturers in the residential housing sector.
PATH's primary link to academic research is through the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF-PATH Program Awards provide funding to spur innovative background research, a key component to technology development. Background research includes conducting technical investigations and creating new areas of knowledge or actual products, including innovation in housing materials, systems, construction processes, and management techniques.
Support for developing new housing related materials and processes has historically been lower than in other industrial and scientific pursuits. This lack of development in background research on homebuilding has placed a burden on product manufacturers to conduct research for which they have no resources. The shortage of funds for background research also has diminished the academic research community's interest in housing technology issues. The NSF-PATH Awards address the lack of background research in housing.
Content updated on 11/15/2006