Custom Versus Production Houses

It appears historically that when new and innovative techniques have been introduced for building homes, not just concrete for that matter, the initial attempts are made with custom-built houses, usually one of a kind. One of the difficulties with building and costing out one-of-a-kind houses is that there is no learning curve time.

The authors suggest that, in order to obtain a much more representative idea of cost and time, at least ten production prototype houses with the same or closely similar floor plan and architectural details be constructed. They should all ten be built with the same work crew for each construction trade. The crews should be specialized to a minimum number of activities. By repetition then, they become more skilled and efficient house by house, until the last house represents a fairly true picture of what might be expected with respect to building time and labor costs.

In making a cost comparison, the construction activities might be photographed with time-lapse techniques and studied by the project and construction managers to identify possible future improvements in time and cost that might be implemented. This technique has been called "work simplification" and has been used by some of the large construction companies for almost the past half century.

This approach might also permit some savings in material and equipment costs.

In order to develop true cost data, it is recommended that the prototype house exterior shells by themselves should be completed as a single contract and by the same general and sub-contractors. In this manner, the possibility of accumulating a more accurate cost picture to compare with a conventional wood-framed house would be facilitated.

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