Panel Briefs May/June 2004

Conference Ponders Ways To Increase Market Share

Judging by the standing-room only attendance at the seminars on panelization at the International Builders’ Show this past January, this open wall construction system is proving popular for site builders in an age when traditional framers are in short supply.

Yet more can be done, especially since site building remains the norm for much of residential construction. That is why an industry advisory group met April 28 in Washington, DC, to ponder ways to increase the market share of panelization nationwide.

Housing & Urban Development officials met with researchers from Steven Winter Associates (Norwalk, CT), a longtime advocate of building systems technology, to discuss recommendations.

“This is part of the research that we are currently doing for HUD on the panelized home industry and how to increase the use of the technology,”says Michael J. Crosbie of SWA.

Participants first discussed and debated the merits of the system and its performance in the marketplace, and then planned the next steps needed to expand the adoption of this construction technology. BSM will report on the recommendations of this advisory group in the next issue.

PATH Outlines Advantages/ Disadvantages
A recent study on panelization by the government-sponsored Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) points to a number of factors hindering this system from holding more market share.

These include:

  • Lack of training for code officials who evaluate the benefits of panelized systems.
  • Panels arrive on the job site square, straight and true, which is wonderfulÑunless the foundation isn’t square.
  • Lack of industry-wide education and training on installation procedures.
  • The inability to run down to the local lumber supplier for a spare panel, which may have been be lost or damaged in shipment. The panel has to be ordered and shipped separately from the manufacturer or framed on site.
  • Lack of accepted industry-wide performance standards shared by all manufacturers.

“Individual manufacturers have focused on development, refinement and protection of their own proprietary designs, and are marketing those as complete packages in addition to securing the necessary code approvals for them. This approach can be economically beneficial from a manufacturer’s standpoint, but it is not conducive to rapid industry adoption and use,”states the report, entitled “Technology Roadmap: Advanced Panelized Construction, Year One Progress Report.”However, the benefits of panelization are substantial, according to the report.

These include:

  • Better quality and increased energy efficiency compared to site building.
  • Use of less labor, at lower wages, from a broader pool of laborers.
  • Requires less on-site storage than raw lumber.
  • Lowers costs of housing by reducing theft and vandalism since structures are sealed quicker.
  • Reduces costs by shortening the construction cycle time and the chance of weather-related delays.
  • Generates less scrap and waste, which means it’s an ecologically efficient system.
  • Better than site building in the mud.

The full report is available for download from the PATH Web site at (in the Library/Reports section).

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