What Builders Need to Know About Building Systems

Committees and Councils

As home-building professionals continue to look for ways to grow and expand their businesses, one of the innovative solutions they may consider incorporating is building systems. There are a number of different options available, depending on what type of system or material may work best for the builder:

  • Concrete: Concrete homes offer solid, disaster-resistant construction, greater comfort and security, reduced energy bills, lower maintenance, as well as a home that is healthier to live in and easier on the environment.
  • Log: Log homes can be sold as kits or packages with the bulk of building materials delivered at one time. This method reduces fuel costs and carbon emissions compared to traditional site building. Additionally, pre-cut log home packages go up quickly and leave less waste on the job site than conventional construction.
  • Modular: Modular homes are constructed in factories, then transported to the home owner's chosen lot and placed on a permanent foundation by a crane. Each home is designed and constructed to meet all state and national building and fire codes, and a local builder does the final finish work.
  • Panelized: Panels can be engineered and fabricated in a manufacturing plant in just a few days before being shipped to a home site. Once at the home site, the shell of a panelized home can be erected and made weather-tight in a matter of days.
  • Timber frame: Timber frame homes are built from large wood posts and beams that form the structural support of the home and require no interior load-bearing walls. The timbers are joined by connecting a mortise (hole) on the end of one timber with a corresponding tenon (tongue) that fits precisely and tightly.

All of these systems offer benefits to builders who adopt them — including less on-site build time, as well as less labor and greater reliability because of the controlled factory environment in which the components are built — with additional considerations based on where they build.

"I personally feel the builder must take the time to determine what building system makes the most sense for their business and geographic part of the country," noted Michael Weber of The Euclid Chemical Company.

"Due to their strength, it makes sense building with a concrete system in frequent high-wind areas, or since concrete is non-combustible, where wildfires are a threat. Each system's competitiveness and product benefits have geographic considerations," he added.

The education component is particularly critical, Ken Semler of Impresa Modular stated, as many builders assume that, because the home components are built in a factory, the home is going to be easy to put together.

"They think it's just two or four modules to put together, and it's an instant home. And that's not what it is by any stretch of the imagination," he added, noting that builders should familiarize themselves with the design parameters for building systems first and find a contact they can turn to with questions.

Builders also need to allow themselves some time to adjust to a new building method and understand that the first few homes are going to present a bit of a learning curve.

"The biggest issue I see when I’m consulting is it takes at least two to three, or even four, homes to work out the kinks and the little nuances in the home-building process before builders become proficient with building systems," observed Dan Mitchell of Eagle CDI Inc. "Once they do get the systems in place, they become extremely efficient and are able to schedule much more effectively."

Builders can then increase the speed of their construction, Mitchell added, completing five to 10 homes in a row in 10% to 15% less time.

Those looking to get into building systems can learn more about the benefits of building systems and how to get started through the Building Systems Week webinar series. Weber and Mitchell will be presenting "Panelized Construction: Versatility for Every Project" on Sept. 22 at 10:30 a.m. ET, and Semler will be presenting "First Time Success with Modular Construction" on Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. ET.

Register today to reserve your seat.

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