CTI Blog - Offsite: If it's not a System, then It's not a Solution
This guest blog post is by Gerard McCaughey, CEO of Entekra Inc
In Europe wood frame construction market adoption varies widely from virtually 100% in Scandinavia to 70% in Scotland and about 30% in Ireland and many other central and western European countries. However, what is common in all the countries, where wood frame is used, is that virtually all of it is constructed using an off site construction (OSC) system.
Most of the customers in Europe, whether they are builder/developers or custom home end users, understand the benefits that off site systems (OSC) can deliver in terms of speed, efficiency, quality, energy efficiency and sustainability. It would virtually be as alien to a European to stick build a wood frame house, as it would be to buy a new car and have every single component shipped to your front yard and have a couple of local mechanics come out in a pick up truck with welding equipment and pneumatic tools to build the car. You simply wouldn't dream of it.
Why ignore that 100 years of innovation and progress
Yet in the US market this is exactly how wood framed houses are built, without taking advantage of the last century of innovation and ignoring the benefits of computers, modern automation or factory controlled conditions and quality systems. The real question is Why?
Really the question is better phrased as why have off site solutions not been more widely adopted by the US construction industry?
Off Site System providers not component manufacturers
A large part of the reason is due to the nature of the "off site" industry in the US. In Europe and other parts of the world, the off site companies are part of a dedicated off site industry and categorically see themselves as offsite system providers and not as component manufacturers. In fact the term component is hardly ever used by the off site industry outside the US as the off site companies realize that the customer is not interested in purchasing components but rather is seeking a solution. The so called components are merely an output and form elements of a system which is a solution to the problem the builder wants addressed. They are not the raison d'être of the off site company.
Off Site benefits come from an integrated approach
Until there are dedicated Fully Integrated Off Site System providers it will be very difficult for the builder/developer to gain meaningful benefits and for off site solutions to gain a bigger share of the framing market. One of the major obstacles to this is the requirement for an experienced in house engineering team, as off site solutions will always be compromised if they are forced to use engineering that was designed for stick framing.
In particular, design, engineering and manufacturing of Pre Fabricated Floor Cassettes (PFC) requires a lot of internal engineering expertise. PFC's are are a critical element of off site construction in the multi-story , multi-family and light commercial markets. Engineering for maximum off site efficiency requires a detailed in depth knowledge of factory manufacturing techniques, structural engineering and the off site building process and connection detailing including sequencing and materials selection.
Until those in the industry with a genuine interest and vision for the potential of the "off site industry" realize that they need to become more than just component manufacturers and instead act as off site system/solution providers and resource themselves accordingly, the industry will fail to reach its potential, despite the the labor shortage, which is forcing builders to look for new solutions.
True off site companies are solution focused businesses that happen to manufacture components as an output of an integrated system that's purpose is to facilitate the fast track construction of a building utilizing both labor and material efficiency. Off site companies may manufacture components but they are not component manufacturers!
*Gerard McCaughey is Chief Executive of Entekra Inc, a firm specializing in design, engineering and manufacturing of Fully Integrated Off Site Solutions™ (FIOSS™) for homebuilding industry. Mr. McCaughey previously co-founded Century Homes, Europe’s largest offsite building manufacturing company producing over 8000 house units annually, with five plants in Ireland and UK, which he sold in 2005 to Kingspan Group Plc. He is regarded in Europe as being one of the leading figures in off site construction and green building movement, and was at the forefront of regulatory reform in both Ireland and Britain. He has acted as an off site construction consultant in Eastern Europe, United States and South Africa and has spoken and written about green and offsite construction in many other countries around the world and is a previous winner of Ernst and Young’s, Industry Entrepreneur of the Year Award and recognized by US Immigration Service as a "Person of Extraordinary Ability" in green and offsite construction.