How Do We Innovate The Component Industry From What It Already Is? Can We?

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Technology has advanced exponentially in the past 30 years. Computers now have the ability to run software that was only seen in science fiction novels. The processing speed, the resolution, the overall inter-webbing of a society. It seems like nothing is impossible… or is it?

The truss and component industries have seen technological leaps and bounds in the past 25 years. We went from calculating and cutting everything by hand, to designing it in a 3-dimensional space and knowing exactly how many pieces of lumber were in a house design before it was built. We now have saws that cut everything for us to the 1/16th of an inch along with laser tables showing us exactly how to lay out our components. These advancements in our industry have made us more efficient, saved us time and money. Like many other areas in our lives, we must keep up with technology or be left behind. It goes the same for your job or career. If you don’t take advantage of technology, someone else will and they will have the jump on you. I feel like this will be the case for our industry. If another plant can design, cut and build it cheaper and more efficiently than you can, because of their upgraded software and saw technology, you will start losing orders to your competition indefinitely.

So there are a couple things going on here. You have an ever advancing technology that is forcing us all to keep up with it or be left behind sooner or later. You also have a society that is infatuated with becoming bigger, faster, and more efficient with no end in sight. Every year we try to out do ourselves from the previous year because it is in our nature to advance forward, never backwards. Are we pushing forward faster than most of us can keep up?

Lets get down to the question of this blog, ” How do we innovate the Component Industry? “. In my opinion, I think we should start looking at house design as a  complete system, not individual pieces put together that fit. With energy efficiency becoming a growing issue, we need to start implementing new building methods into our components. You see a handful of companies in the U.S that are doing this but it has been common building practice for people in the UK for a decade or more.  You have wall panels in some cases to be almost 20” thick for increased R-value and air-tightness. The United States is so far behind with new building methods that promote higher household efficiency than the rest of the would. I’m sure politics have a major hand in all of this. I also feel like we, as a country, are more greedy and ignorant.  Contractors would rather build it cheap and fast to make that money than actually think about the bigger picture and how it will affect people in 20 years when the house starts to fall apart. It’s sad really. People have to start seeing the bigger picture in what and how we do our job in the component industry. We have a major impact on the building process as a whole. To innovate the component industry would mean to innovate the construction industry as well and I’m all for it. It is a new era in building. We all need to do our part though. We all have to do it together. That is the only way it will work.

I would love to hear from people on this. I am a component Designer and I would love to share my knowledge for the greater good…to innovate the industry to a new level. To use components to build a better future of homes We can if we try hard enough.

Cheers,

Darren F

4 comments

  1. Wow. Let’s see:

    (1) The US population is neither greedy nor ignorant but they also will not pay for ‘sustainable’ nor super-high efficiency living IF THEY CANNOT AFFORD IT! It’s that simple. Have you looked at the $/SF cost of the houses with those claims? Have you noticed you have to REALLY DIG for the numbers, if they are quoted at all?

    (2) The biggest problem, in my opinion, is the Federal Government forcing (Un-constitutionally) the State Code bodies to adopt stupid requirements, i.e., fire sprinkler systems in single family homes or changing the exterior wall R value to 21 vs. 20, knowing full well it will require 2×6 walls or substantial upgrade to the exterior wall covering, i.e., R-Board, to meet the requirement. Every consider what that means to the builder? Do you actually think they are going to absorb those costs without passing them on to the customer?

    (3) Do you have any idea what the before-taxes profit margin is for the typical builder? Or do you think that since they are in business they must be making a killing on the profit and sticking it to the customer? Do your homework; the profit margin is razor thin.

    (4) Codes – yes, I’m back to that point again. The Codes should ONLY exist to ensure that structural and electrical safety related items are followed and NOTHING ELSE, especially political crap like the GLOBAL WARMING B.S. The Market will determine, rather quickly, who has the best value for the $ and it is NOT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS ROLE to interfere, ever!

    (5) Innovation: the US population does not want the cookie cutter homes they are building in Sweden and other European countries. They want, and deserve, to have their home, their way. Rather, it is the responsibility of those of us in the business of supplying those dreams to produce them in the most efficient methods that also provides the ability to quickly erect them for the lowest cost to the builder. And no, I am not just talking about wall panels nor modulars.

    True innovation requires the right vision, software, equipment, people and the determination and support to do things right.

  2. Couldn’t agree more Darren. Our consumerism mentality must change. I purchased a small farm house built in 1977 because I wanted the farm. I have been rebuilding the house from the inside out since ’04. Looking back I should have struck a match and started over as my rebuild has only extended the life of a poorly designed house. There are systems that are so much more efficient and environmentally friendly,

    The same can be said for the component industry. I bought this house to take a job as the assistant manager for a wood dimension company that went out of business in ’05. The GM and I wanted to make major changes but the owner and the workers refused to do anything different. Their theory was we’ll just work harder, and they did. Instead they should have embraced the new possibilities. No magic wand could stop the flood of cheap parts from China during this period but pretending 1980’s solutions were tenable was a flawed plan. I used to them them we were building horse carts and the Mustang now had wheels.

    The market place is weeding out the chaff. I am seeing that the survivors in the wood business are mostly the innovators who have changed to meet the challenges. I would love to see the entire housing system change towards quality and efficiency with a heavy slant towards more sustainable systems.

  3. I also promote the Whole-House design as a Design Builder. Problem being is keeping up with the best practices. I’m researching ISP construction and find it frustrating that the panels–although used on roofs–are not thought as an integrated structural system. Everything I have found to date just piles the panels on a traditional roof structural system.

    http://gjconstructs.wordpress.com/