The future for the homebuilding industry
Precast concrete can become the building material of future residential construction. The following are some of the things the industry can add to the use of prefabricated products in residential applications:
supply. Prefabricated manufacturers must provide these products locally. Since the average residential project is not expensive relative to commercial work, transportation costs must be minimized and the product must be as readily available as traditional building materials. For example, each city in the United States has a lumber yard. Builders and homeowners can easily purchase wood seven days a week. Most builders want products that are readily available within a relatively short distance.
Acceptance and research. Specifications and standards need to be changed to include precast concrete. The NPCA and Foundation subcommittee led the work by submitting the 2006 International Residential Regulations (IRC) to the Precast Concrete Foundation System. Some of these have been approved and will be included in the 2007 IRC Supplemental Code, which will eventually become part of the 2009 IRC. These changes will make the precast concrete foundation easier to specify and implement. Prefabricated wall and floor systems require similar development.
Code changes have also become more stringent. Due to recent disasters, many places are considering changing specifications to be more selective in setting standards and using materials that can withstand hurricanes, floods and fire. This is a good thing for prefabrication because it performs very well in these environments.
Marketing. The new residential market is an industry worth more than $300 billion. It includes single-family homes and multi-family homes such as apartments and apartments. Although prefabrication is gaining momentum in the multi-family home market, the low cost of single-family homes makes it harder for builders to justify their use. Prefabricators should use the advantages of prefabricated products to exhibitors and owners as well as home and garden exhibitions, builders' associations and other groups to promote the advantages of prefabricated products.
perception. The prefabricated value must be communicated to the owners so that their impact on the market can be realized. Large-scale production builders may not use prefabrication extensively until the market needs them. Therefore, some strategic plans should include providing information to potential new home buyers.
education. All stakeholders need to be educated about the value and benefits of precast concrete products. Builders are likely to be interested in initial costs, time savings, construction methods, and reduction of construction site impact and planning. Owners are most likely to be more interested in long-term value, design flexibility, life cycle cost, safety, and initial cost.
Modularity and flexibility. Use modularity and repeatability to develop adaptable systems to reduce costs. Systems can be developed that allow basic shapes to be combined in a variety of ways to allow prefabrication of prefabricated systems.
cost. Although cost is always a problem, the slightly higher initial costs of prefabrication can be offset by long-term gains. For example, using precast concrete products can reduce life-cycle costs, including utility usage, maintenance costs, and insurance costs. Selling pre-products to owners may be the best method for those interested in these long-term costs. Many insurance companies will provide incentives and discounts for precast concrete houses.
Widespread acceptance will require prefabrication workers to unite and work in several different ways to create change. In general, this is a good opportunity because it is a very large basic market and the prefabricated share is currently very low. Prefabrication is the next step in residential construction.