The United States is currently going through one of the greatest shortages of housing. It has taken a decade to under-build millions of homes but now there is a race to bridge the gap and increase supply after a decade. This main discussion is to highlight the prediction of construction companies about Americas Housing Shortage.
In the backdrop of this, several construction companies are trying to overcome the problem with advanced techniques and technologies. There is hope within the industry that these approaches can ease the demand pressure on America’s decreasing housing stock availability from off-site construction to bypassing the labor shortage.
However, it is important to analyse how bad things are before we look at these innovative approaches.
America’s Housing Shortage: The Worst in a Generation
In the last decade, there’s been a dramatic drop in the number of homes, with the latest figures putting the number at 6.5 million.
- The labor shortage is just one of the reasons why new homes have not been developed.
- The pandemic had another unwelcome twist in the production chain.
On the other hand, there is a positive note; housing companies have acknowledged the problems and come up with the most creative solutions. As a result, the US experienced the highest level of household formation in the last decade last year, with more than 2 million new homes completed.
The following are some ways and technologies new home builder construction firms can make use of to get back on their feet.
1. Off-Site Construction for Increase in Affordable Homes
The affordable price points is one of the important pain points in the US housing shortage. Therefore, home-building companies have been looking for ways of constructing houses at low costs and fast.
- Some construction firms have tried to attain this height through off-site construction, off-site construction is sometimes called modular or prefabricated construction.
- This is a process of constructing large areas of homes in a factory and later transporting and putting them together on-site, as the name suggests.
- This method of building can deliver homes 20% to 50% faster compared to conventional building methods and save on costs of up to 20%.
However, it is not quite the silver bullet which many industry analysts would hope for. At least, not yet. Progress has been slow in this area due to a patchwork of state and local regulations.
This new building method needs to be more effective in delivering millions of quality affordable homes to the market.
2. 3D Printing to Solve the Labor Shortage
The construction industry has a long time history about labor issues. There is still a significant skill and physical shortage, despite the best efforts of the sector. Innovatively, it is observed that companies are getting rid of the need for human labor in many facets of the home construction process.
- Such as companies like Diamond Age have utilized a mixture of 3D printing and robotics to automate up to 27% of the labor needed to construct a house.
- In 2024, their construction lines will become portable, and the company expects to automate 55% of the homebuilding process.
With this, two major challenges facing the sector could be solved in theory.
- labor shortage
- The lack of affordable housing.
Experts will be monitoring to check if technology will be the way out of the problem like it worked so well for so many other inefficient industries of the past.
3. Shared Facilities to Speed Up Infrastructure Installation
The other reason why construction on new homes takes as long as it does is the installation of essential infrastructure for each homestead. Installation of associated infrastructure such as HVAC ductwork and systems, electrics, and plumbing for each home slows down the construction process. One solution to this problem is to provide a single system for a community and connect the houses to the system.
- This objective is easily achieved through district heating and cooling.
- Each house can be heated or cooled by air pumping through a centrally located geothermal hub for the community.
This eliminates the need for extended air conditioning duct work, electric or gas-powered boilers, or water pipes, which significantly accelerate the process of building new homes. Leading national home builders like LGI Homes have pioneered this approach. This communal approach to heating and cooling have seen them develop whole communities under their Terresa Homes sub-brand, thus significantly reducing construction timelines.
Even better, this system is powered by solar, making it possible for these homes to produce as much energy as they consume leading to net zero living.
4. Construction Wearables to Increase Worker Productivity
Labor shortage is also a problem that the industry is trying to address. Additionally, the productivity of this sector’s workforce has been declining for quite some time. Homes, therefore, are taking more time to be complete since the manual labor input is slower than it used to be. Overworking also constitutes as one the major causes of the decrease of productivity, which later translates into illness and injury.
- One out of every three construction workers develops one or more MSD.
- Moreover, these chronic conditions are usually treated with opioids, with prescription rates being three times higher among construction workers with MSDs than without any MSDs.
- The result of such situations is a whole range of problems, including addiction.
Old Precautionary Measures
- Wearable tech as old as smartwatches.
- Traditionally, construction workers wore hard hats vests and boots
Modern Precautionary Measures
- Site managers now have GPS, heart-rate data, activity trackers, air quality monitors and many more tools to identify workers who are unfit to continue on-site.
- Increased monitoring, making it possible to spot signs of fatigue and more serious conditions that may lead to injury, could be the solution for this problem.
- now monitoring systems are included in the attire that helps to prevent accidents while at the same time boosting the production of the workers.
The innovation will also free a project manager of most of his micromanaging as workers will be sent home before accidents and other injury-causing incidents occur after automatic thresholds are set and reported. It will also prevent construction being down for some days or harming workers and reducing labor capacity.
5. The US is constantly short on housing- But the industry responds
Although the United States may have never experienced such a severe housing shortage, several pioneering companies have adopted new technologies and construction approaches that should help narrow the gap in the next 12 to 24 months. A lot of much needed innovation is going into the industry, ranging from wearable tech that protects workers and keeps them productive to automating large swathes of the construction process.
For many of these innovations, such as shared heating and cooling systems and modular construction, the responsibility now lies with local governments to enact legislation and draft regulations that will help, not hinder, this new dawn of new home construction. A nationwide approach would go a long way in solving the housing shortage in a much more coherent way.