Cake
  • Log In
  • Sign Up
    • kevin

      I added on to my house. It cost way to much money and contractors were way too slow. So it got me thinking:

      Why did they truck raw materials to a site and build from scratch? Almost every piece of wood, drywall, siding, pipe, wire, duct, sheet metal, etc. etc. was cut to size on site to fit. Just to cut, they have to bring a compound miter saw, table saw, Sawzall, jigsaw, skill saw, and even a hand saw to do the job competitively. Then they have cordless drills, impact drills, hole hogs, a drill press, nail guns, air compressors, hammers, and wrenches to assemble the materials.

      Just about everything else in our lives is built in a factory, with the assistance of technology, like robots and conveyor belts. And houses are still being built the same way 100 year old homes were built: with manual labor shaping materials from scratch on site. Why?! It's absurd. And my bank account hurts. In fact, everyone who rents or owns hurts financially from the inefficiencies that went into building their living structures. Can't technology help this archaic industry?

    • yaypie
      Ryan Grove

      A hundred years ago you could order a house from the Sears Catalog. They'd ship you all the materials, including pre-cut and fitted lumber, via boxcar and then you'd assemble the house at your leisure like a piece of Ikea furniture (or pay a local builder to assemble it for you).

      I've always wondered why nobody does that anymore.

    • pi

      BONE Structure seems to be making progress in this area, at least for the skeletons of the house. This article mentions that for Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson's house in California, "Putting the frame together took less than a week." Obviously a lot more needs to be done beyond the frame of the house but the result was a zero-energy home that's also possibly one of the most earthquake proof residences in the state.

      Then there's 3D printing houses in a day for a few thousand dollars =)

    • yaypie

      Nice! I hadn't heard of this company.

      One drawback is that it seems pretty expensive: $1.5 million for the house in that article. Admittedly it is a very nice house (I wonder if the solar panels and four Tesla Powerwalls are included in that figure). But to be affordable for most home buyers, that cost would need to come down by more than a million bucks.

    • kevin

      Yeah, there is a high-end pre-fab market is emerging. Blu Homes makes some epic houses too. I'd would have bought one if they weren't so expensive. Although their price tag per square foot is on par with traditional custom built homes, the final price is far far higher. For prefab, you have to add costs associated with site preparation including utilities and sewer hookups, delivery, inspection/building permit fees, assembly and a foundation. And yes, most jurisdictions required you pour a traditional foundation to place the pre frab home on. Many of those costs are not advertised when shopping for a pre-fab home.

      I'm sure someday price will come down. But they have an uphill battle. They have to fight the strength of trades unions and building codes to reduce costs.

    • kevin

      The ideal factory-built home situation is probably far in the future due to the red-tape associated with municipal building codes and union protected trades. And although house-size 3D printers are cool, they can only spit out concrete right now, which is far from ideal. You need steel and wood to build for earthquakes and residential walls need insulation, water, sewer, gas, and electrical.

      Right now, I think there is huge potential for pre-assembly shops. Architects currently use software detailed enough to draw out every screw, bolt, and wire, like Chief Architect. These programs list out every single building material and have precision to the millimeter. Imagine a business that consolidates, cuts and packages raw building material in a warehouse, then delivers the material on site with an Ikea-like instruction set for the builder to follow. It would eliminate waste and vastly improve efficiency while adhering to regulations.

    • dr

      Blu is great...if you happen to live on an acre of land, and can sprawl out. Yes, they are friggin' expensive for what you get. They do try for the "factory-fabricated" efficiency you envision, and their big selling point (besides the cool factor of their designs), is the incredibly aggressive on-site build time.

      And of course, everyone forgets that there *is* a market for extremely cheap prefab homes...till someone mentions the word "double-wide."

      There's a reason Blu only supports a few plans, and limited customization. I'll tell you one thing that makes stick houses so mainstream, compared to prefabs like Blu is the ability to divide labor into distinct labor pools, and not have to act collectively like a borg to get a highly tailored job done. Instead, your teams can act more autonomously, independently, and adjust in the field and deviate from design, with the field installation SME orchestrating decisions as things go in. This is largely appealing because the whole collaboration is complex, imperfect and highly individual, with *many* wild cards (black swans..."unknown unknowns") that may change the course of the project. Designers are often completely ignorant of the wisdom of fabricators. And fabricators of one trade will sometimes be ignorant of the wisdom of other trades. And *everybody* is relatively ignorant of what mysteries hide underground before the backhoes actually break ground. With a house, these become an incredibly complex set of variables and dependencies. Alot of trades are working around each other, acting and adapting to the progress they see on site, and the sticks 'n bricks approach does allow for alot of onsite flexibility, with the architects/engineers as the "composers", the plans as the composition, and GC as the "conductor." With this division of labor, you get high flexibility, and high tailorability. You get cost efficacy, because you can bid out to a large pool of contractors that know how to do their individual trades.

      It's certainly the *established* way to skin the cat.

      You can attempt to "agilify" the whole process, which I think would be pretty cool. But think about how today's labor pools would have to collaborate to get that done, and you start to realize, you're asking for significant changes to an industry. You're literally asking for the Architect to become an expert conductor, "designing" at an pretty detailed level. Or...you're asking for the conductor to burn his/her time helping the Architect compose a better composition. All along, you're asking for the first position oboe player to chime in saying "if you force me to adjust my reed clearance, I won't have enough lung capacity to hit that 32-note spread your client so wants." And when they discover that hey...the core samples didn't reveal a rock ledge that will add $30,000 to the budget to dynamite and cart off, or you could just adapt to a foundation 2' higher...redesign...

      I'm completely mixing my metaphor and my examples, lol. But you get the idea. I think of players like Blu like the small teams trying to disrupt the industry. But they really run some serious risks, and they can't bid out to a large pool of trades to do the work their way, because most of the players don't collaborate the way they would want to.

      Building a shed, I had quite a few prefab options. I decided to roll my own, because I wasn't satisfied with the design and spec decisions made by the prefab manufacturers. Some had horrible specs (24" OC framing...notably 2nd rate materials). Some were great, but didn't fit my space criteria...or didn't fit under the County's height criteria. Tons of little nitpicks added up to push me to go custom. Now I'm doing a stick-built shed of my own design. And that's just a shed! It's super hard to get everything right in a prefab house operation.

    • kevin

      I know what you mean having contracted out work to build my addition. To agility the process, and do prep in a warehouse, the consequences of poor planning are enormous. Builders know how to adapt for the unknowns on site. If you pre-cut all the materials, and some measurement is off, or the inspector calls for a change in the field, you could end up wasting tens of thousands of dollars of lumber.

      And having looked into prefabs, I ran into that problem: they can't use space efficiently because they're not adaptable. They don't take into account zoning setbacks and what not.

    • vegasphotog

      This company website is horrendous. I have toured this facility. LOVE so many things except their marketing. Working with some clients to start their own General Contracting company using their products and assembly but none of their marketing. The CEO does not understand the missed opportunity of letting someone "build" their house online and get a price. But, the 100% energy efficiency and bombproof (some treatments afford 50 cal proof walls). http://gigacrete.com/

    You've been invited!