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Integrating Panels into the Production Homebuilding Process

Release Date: 
September 2005
Posted Date:   
September 1, 2005

How do builders decide whether to use panelized house systems? What factors come into play when a builder is contemplating making a move to panelized construction? And for what reasons would builders who are inclined to try a new building technology choose not to use panelized construction? These are some of the questions asked in this study conducted for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s PATH (Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing) program in an effort to understand how builders decide to use panel systems.

The study found that higher first costs and an inadequate understanding of panelized housing technology appear to be the most common barriers cited by builders who have not used panels. Competition with other builders is not a major factor in deciding to use panels. Some code officials appeared to remain behind the curve of understanding how panel systems work, but most (according to the builders) are accepting of the technology once they are educated about it (supplied in some cases by builders using panels). Among builders who have elected to use panels, cost savings in the long-term, shorter construction time, and better overall quality are the major deciding factors. Some builders have carved out niche markets in building energy-efficient homes; they claimed that the energy efficiency of structural insulated panel (SIP) construction helped them to serve this market. Some of the important factors for the successful use of panels cited by the builders were trained crews experienced with the technology and good communication and coordination between the builder and panel supplier.

Ultimately, a bedrock finding of the study is that builders willing to trust in advanced technology are most-times rewarded for their efforts in a variety of ways: lower material costs, lower labor costs, and fewer call-backs.

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