Industrializing the Residential Construction Site Phase III: Production Systems
The construction of homes in the United States has reached record highs over the last few years. While the home building industry has made incredible advances in materials and quality, it still lags behind other industries in technological innovation in production-that is, in providing new homes more quickly and more efficiently while still keeping homes affordable and at a high standard. There is much to be done, and there is much that all of the home building industry would like to see done.
Three years ago, HUD began an ongoing research project to address this crisis. While much of HUD's technological research work looks at the building materials, we realized how important construction processes are for homes and homebuilders. Ways to automate home construction processes, to improve construction workflows, and to coordinate construction sites-known as Industrializing the Residential Construction Site- became a new research focus. In the first year's effort, Phase I, researchers laid out five areas that best contained the possibility of transforming the construction site: production integration, operations integration, performance integration, information integration, and physical integration.
Of these five, HUD first explored "information integration" to see how information exchanges, relationships, and mechanisms shaped construction operations. The resulting document, Phase II: Information Mapping, included an amazing record of the information flows and breaks on construction sites, as well as recommendations for overcoming these breaks. The second project, which is detailed here in Phase III: Production Systems, explores the impact of such information breaks on actual workflow. A variety of technical and managerial approaches are studied that will lead to more rapid construction production, with better planning and coordination, and with more efficient material and labor use.
HUD's comprehensive approach to process, the basic building block of any industry's work, will have dramatic consequences for all of housing production. This ongoing exploration opens an entirely new approach to helping homebuilders and building trades understand how their work is structured, and how it can be improved. Ultimately, these improvements will also benefit America's homeowners. Research initiatives and results like those in this series directly support the home building industry's future production capacity and the quality and cost of American homes for years to come.