Panelized Homes: The Next Big Thing for the Building Industry?

An example of panelized construction (thanks to Blenker Companies for the image)

Can you really build 3x the amount of homes with the same labor force? Last week at the International Builders’ Show (IBS), I attended a presentation by Jason Blenker of Blenker Companies, Inc about panelized construction and it’s got me intrigued.

So we’re clear, here’s a good definition from Castlegate Homes of what panelized construction means:

The entire house super-structure or “shell” consisting of component parts (wall panels with integrated insulation, roof trusses, floor systems, and optional windows and exterior doors) are built and installed in a controlled, automated factory and then transported to the building site for final assembly according to the house blueprints.

This is different than modular construction (which I’ll cover in another post), but why is this any better than traditional stick-building? Jason’s analogy was this:

“Ford builds a good truck. But how good of quality would that truck be if they sent a mechanic to put it together in your driveway?”

Here’s a few additional reasons panelized construction makes so much sense for builders:

  • Projects are planned in advance, usually using 3D BIM technology, which allows all parties involved to collaborate before the construction starts.
  • A panel factory can cut lumber up to an accuracy as good as 1/16” – you won’t find many framers that can do that on a jobsite.
  • A typical 2000 sq. ft., 3 bedroom, 2-car garage home can be completed, from digging the foundation to homeowner occupation, in as few as 62 days.
  • That home can go from foundation-only to completely enclosed in 2.5 days with only a 3-man crew and a crane on the jobsite.
  • The construction waste from those 2.5 days was small enough to fit in a 55 gallon garbage can.
  • There’s no limit to how “custom” a home can be when you build with panelized. To prove that point, I saw photos of a 30,000 sq. ft., $20 million home that was built with panels from Blenker’s factory.
  • The price is comparable to traditional stick framing, when all factors (materials, labor, waste, extra deliveries, time delays, weather-related issues, callbacks, etc.) are considered.

In 2010, less than 5% of new homes in the US were built with panelized construction. It seems this is a trend just perfect for the future of our industry. What’s stopping us from considering this different approach?

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  1. Pingback: Top 8 Ways to Onboard Rookies to the Building Products Industry « Depth Finder

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