Building systems have been a tenured history, but despite touting benefits such as decreased time, labor and materials, builders generally have been slow to incorporate them into their businesses.
Home Innovation Research Labs has been tracking the adoption of offsite housing in new single-family homes and multifamily projects for the past 20 years. The multifamily market has more readily incorporated offsite building methods than the single-family market, with a noticeable uptick in both in recent years. But even with this growth, as well as an increase in the number of concrete-framed homes, building systems still comprise only a sliver of the housing market.
So what are the barriers to more widespread adoption?
A survey by Home Innovations Research Labs last week points to uncertainty as a predominant factor among builders who are leaning away from offsite construction.
"There is a high degree of uncertainty in home building right now," shared Ed Hudson, MBA, director of Market Research at Home Innovation Research Labs. "Construction times are lengthening, supply chains have been disrupted, and labor supplies are less reliable than they had been in the past. With all that uncertainty, introducing offsite would be another big uncertainty to add to their business."
Last week's survey incorporated three additional questions related to COVID-19 and how the impact of the pandemic on builders' operations may have altered their attitudes about offsite. The majority — 72% — responded that their attitudes had not changed, while 9% said the current environment had caused them to lean away from offsite construction. Those whose attitudes leaned more favorably to offsite construction represented 19% of respondents.
Among the top reasons builders are responding more favorably to offsite construction in the wake of the pandemic include:
- Utilizing factory-built components should make it easier to practice social distancing on the job site.
- Reduced contact with builders, suppliers and vendors, and distancing of trade contractors on site reduces risks.
- The new building environment is more complex, which could be resolved with the more predictable process of offsite construction.
- As lumber and other supplies diminish and materials prices increase, offsite construction offers an opportunity to bring some cost control back to the industry.
Hudson will present the full findings of the survey, as well as comparisons to historical data and comparable surveys in 2020 and 2019, as part of the Building Systems Week webinar series to highlight trends in the industry. Learn more here.