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Could Offsite Construction Lower Home Costs?

Analysis by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) from Harvard University states digitalization cannot change the “long-discussed but not-yet realized” promise that offsite construction will reduce the cost of home building or improve its quality. 

Instead, increased use of digital tools will only occur when entities adopt “platform thinking,” according to the study’s authors, Ivan Rupnik (Northeastern University), Ryan E. Smith (University of Arizona), and Tyler Schmetterer (MOD X LLC). 

They describe platform thinking as systems that use the modules to take advantage of the economies of scale associated with standardization but are flexible enough to respond to customers’ needs and preferences. 

JCHS’s piece says this approach has allowed other industries to increase productivity and is also being used by offsite construction forms out the U.S., including Japan and Sweden. 

“The international examples also underscore the importance of creating industry-wide standards for modular and offsite construction,” the study states.

An additional study, “Artificial Intelligence for All: Perspectives and Outlooks on the Role of Machine Learning in Architectural Design,” notes developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning could speed up how housing is not only designed and built, but also reduce production costs. 

“In particular, AI and ML make it possible to iterate design approaches more quickly, which, in turn, should reduce the time it takes to develop final plans for projects,” the study claims.

Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti, of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, said both papers show that “digital transformation in housing design and construction is a complex, but not insurmountable, socio-technical challenge.”

A study by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), published by Builder Online, said lumber’s price volatility has caused the average price of new single-family homes to rise. 

While prices have settled from their highs in the spring of 2021, when softwood lumber prices added approximately $36,000 to the price of an average new single-family home, softwood lumber prices are still contributing to price appreciation in both the single-family and multifamily sectors, according to the NAHB.

About Author: Mike Albanese

A graduate of the University of Alabama, Mike Albanese has worked for news publications since 2011 in Texas and Colorado. He has built a portfolio of more than 1,000 articles, covering city government, police and crime, business, sports, and is experienced in crafting engaging features and enterprise pieces. He spent time as the sports editor for the "Pilot Point Post-Signal," and has covered the DFW Metroplex for several years. He has also assisted with sports coverage and editing duties with the "Dallas Morning News" and "Denton Record-Chronicle" over the past several years.

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