Research, data and knowledge sharing are key to growing offsite construction

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Ryan Smith and Ivan Rupnik shared key takeaways and future research topics identified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Offsite Construction Roadmap for Housing Research during the “Research at HUD: Past, Present, and Future of Offsite Construction” event during the 2022 Innovative Habitat Showcase.

“The concept of promoting modular, panel, and fabricated construction is challenging, but we recognize it’s part of the housing supply solution,” HUD Assistant Secretary Adrianne Todman said during the presentation. of the research roadmap. “This particular space has been particularly interesting [to learn about] in terms of what the future holds. This is why the concept of this research roadmap is so important. I hope that’s just not HUD’s roadmap. We are all in this ecosystem of learning and growth, and [I hope] let this become our roadmap.

Although construction methods and off-site housing have been in the market for decades, the rate of adoption has been slow and the sector still faces many regulatory, knowledge and cost barriers. However, Smith, Rupnik and Stephen Ayers, acting CEO of the National Institute of Building Sciences, identified offsite construction as a potential channel to address affordability issues currently present in the housing market during the event. .

“Offsite construction offers the opportunity to provide more affordable and accessible housing through scale, improved schedules, improved quality, improved safety and sustainability,” Ayers said. “However, industry and policy makers face a number of challenges before we can significantly increase market adoption.”

Rupnik said that while the United States has had offsite construction dating back to the post-World War I era, offsite construction — including volumetric modular construction and HUD code-compliant pre-engineered housing — does not represent than 13% of the housing market in 2018.

“Since 1968, construction productivity in the United States has fallen by half. While agriculture, manufacturing and the overall economy have improved since around 1970, construction has plummeted,” said Rupnik, founding partner of the Global Advice and Knowledge Exchange Network for the Construction Industry. offsite MOD X and associate professor at Northeastern University. “Offsite construction was seen as a solution to this productivity problem. According to McKinsey, manufacturing style production or factory building was considered to have a potential increase of 1,000% [to productivity]. This number comes from other industries that have seen these results.

Rupnik said that in addition to offsite construction technology, context – including the overall housing market, materials, labor availability and regulatory restrictions – business platforms and Product platforms are areas the industry “needs to do some homework on before it can measure up.” to the promise of these new technologies that could offer an affordable price.

Smith, founding partner of MOD X and director of Washington State University’s School of Design and Construction, highlighted the key research areas identified by HUD’s roadmap: regulatory framework; system standards and performance; capital, finance and insurance; project delivery and contracts; labor and labor training and management; business models and economic performance.

“Based on this research roadmap and using the Technical Committee of the Project [for the research road map]we think the top priority is the address[ing] regulatory framework and capital, finance and insurance. If we don’t get over how products are financed and insured to really allow offsite construction to happen and succeed, [the industry will struggle]”, said Smith. “The second priority of the research area concerns standards and system performance. The third, almost on par with the second, would be product delivery and contracts, training and workforce management workforce, business models and economic performance.

Smith said it was important to develop a research culture for offsite construction and reduce disciplinary silos to produce data to help demonstrate value. Additionally, Smith highlighted the importance of documenting and disseminating best practices, adopting pilot projects demonstrating the value and expanding education and training for an out-of-the-box construction workforce. site are key areas that can help the industry grow in the United States.

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