During the final segment of the Housing Innovation Alliance’s November Live Round Table held in Denver, an innovation consultant, a technology provider, an off-site construction expert, and a large production homebuilder shared their insights on how to drive attainability through a more thoughtful integrated design, engineering, production and home delivery process.

While we couched their insights under the umbrella of PRODUCTION at the time, PROCESS is a broader and better lens to look through. As our friend Gerry from Entekra likes to say, “The profit is in the process.” We’d propose passing some of that profit along to the end consumer to make housing more attainable.

Here are some of the insights from our expert panel from– IBACOS, Simpson Strong-Tie, Innovative Construction Group and Mattamy Homes.

1: Collaborate to Innovate

We need fundamental change to happen in our industry in order to overcome challenges, including labor shortages, increasing codes and standards such as California’s Title 24, and the need to deliver consistent quality every day and keep lawyers at bay.

Many builders think in silos. That’s been the norm. Why? Because it’s fairly easy to do, and change is not easy. Builders, manufacturers, consultants and others in the industry need to begin to think differently. One way to do so is to collaborate.

Ryan Melin, president and co-founder of Innovative Construction Group (ICG), says that the real value he’s able to create in working with Cliff Nelson and Mattamy’s Jacksonville team is to streamline their production process. By collaborating with Cliff’s in-house architectural manager and incorporating wall panels, trusses, framing, labor, structural engineering and other services into their partnership, ICG now delivers the same work that six or seven trades do on Mattamy’s site-built houses.

ICG also works with Mattamy’s team to find smart ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality. For example, they asked Mattamy to move a toilet six inches within a bathroom, so that they could take three joists out of the floor system. Mattamy made it work from a design perspective and is now saving roughly $300 to $400 per house. (Get the full ICG-Mattamy Homes story here.) 

2: Use Systems Thinking  

“Rethinking how we design our homes, how we specify our homes and how we deliver our homes ultimately will bring new value to the homeowner,” said Anthony Grisolia, IBACOS’ managing director of innovation programs. “It’s about ‘systems thinking.’”

A home is a very large system comprising hundreds of smaller systems. If you’re on a product development team for a manufacturer, you have to think that system through and really understand its value proposition, not just for your product but for the system and the whole house as a system. This can have positive impacts from both a home performance and a profitability / attainability perspective.

Anthony shared examples of two products that do just that:

PUReWall, which increases the value proposition of a wall system by integrating insulation and water management during the panelization process – improving system performance, reducing waste, eliminating a trade in the field, and increasing productivity
RHEIA, a new PEX-like system for HVAC that will provide better performance through small diameter ductwork, reduce the number of SKUs required by 90%, and increase the efficiency and the productivity by at least 50% at the rough-in stage

He added that builders also need to start thinking beyond material costs. “Look at the systems cost, labor and materials and how efficient it is to install in the field. What does it mean from a risk profile? Look at all those aspects.”

3: Throw Out the Thrash

“BIM [or building information modeling] is a process intended to reduce “thrash,” the associated waste between all of the groups within this industry,” said Tim Beckman, Simpson Strong-Tie’s director of customer-facing software. “It’s that churn that happens as projects get handed off from one group to the next, causing a lot of rework.” 

If we can figure out how to hand off the right information to the right individual at the right time, it’s going to help with the coordination of different phases of construction, quality assurance, on-site and off-site construction efficiency, and just-in-time delivery logistics.

Rather than giving trades a 200-page set of documents that reflect all variations of a plan, use BIM to digitize your core plans and options. Then create a site-specific model based on customer selections.

Connect your architect to your trades and/or off-site provider to review the digital model before construction, so that you can solve any issues when it’s cheaper—before things get physical. Once the model is finalized, you can convert that information into a streamlined set of construction documents in 10 minutes rather than two hours. You can also harvest the information you need to develop a bill of materials with specific SKUs for your purchasing folks.

Doing things this way increases the throughput of your team, and it can improve trade relations. By eliminating thrash, you’ve become the builder of choice with that trade base.


What else can you do to drive attainable housing through the home delivery process?

We gave the 120+ experts at our event some questions to dig into during table-based think tanks – allowing the crowd to share ideas and accelerate innovation in this space. Check back in early 2020 and learn what they had to say.