Argue that the US housing industry is not innovative, in short, horseradish. Or, at best, wrong. And it comes from someone who, through these pages and other channels, has championed innovation as a necessary element of operational improvement and business sustainability for builders.
A more appropriate, albeit controversial, critique is whether innovation in our industry is happening fast enough. Undoubtedly, there were significant hurdles for destroyers in other areas, but they were still moving much faster toward innovation – Tesla is struggling upstream against the car industry’s entrenched infrastructure to bring electric cars into the mainstream, being perhaps the best parallel to housing .
But I would argue that even Tesla’s journey cannot be fully compared to the barriers to innovation in housing, especially in manufacturing: our industry is much more fragmented, a collection of tens of thousands, mostly small, local businesses that depend from on low-tech materials and handmade. At least in the automotive industry, robotics and computer-aided design were well-established manufacturing technologies long before Tesla came on the scene – one with two players acting in accordance with strict federal and law enforcement standards rather than the luxury of government and local variations. the national code used by builders.
But none of this means that we are not innovating in our own way and at our own pace. Where were we before gypsum board, plywood and OSB, solid foam insulation and three-tongue shingles appeared to speed up production and improve productivity? In front of air guns for nails, cordless power tools and blown insulation?
And now – still slowly but much more confidently than before – we are seeing real growth in panel and modular construction as a legitimate alternative to production to help combat costly and chronic labor shortages and waste of materials. Rejecting the argument about production, housing has certainly boosted its game in marketing and sales and, to a lesser extent, with advances in operating technology such as financing and land valuation.
I would argue that even Tesla’s journey cannot be compared to the barriers that prevent the adoption of innovation in housing, especially from the manufacturing side.
In fact, housing lacks a broad commitment to true innovation, just as Ivory Homes, our builder of the year 2021, did by creating a separate unit that seeks out and integrates a variety of innovations into its activities – an anomaly in this industry, at least.
Yes, yes, for this reason and others, endemic to our heritage culture, housing lags behind most other industries when it comes to manufacturing and other innovations; we know it, thanks. But perhaps changing is not as easy as it was with taxis, hotel rooms and razors. We’ll get there. Just give us time.