Saturday, July 18, 2020

Identifying the Innovation Weeds of Offsite Construction

I was recently talking to my neighbor about all the milkweed growing on her property and how I could get rid of them for her. “A weed is just a plant someone doesn’t like” she replied. I walked away.

The same thing can be said about all the innovations in offsite construction. Innovations have always been considered weeds until someone begins using it and teaching others to use it.

If innovation is the weed, then fear of change is the weed killer. We’ve all been guilty of being the naysayer to a new process, procedure or idea, probably more than once in our lifetime.

For decades modular construction methods have languished like soil that hasn’t been fertilized just waiting for the right seed to grow into something great. That wait is over.

Money is the fertilizer used to create marketing campaigns, do product introductions, talk at seminars and do video conferencing. The most fertilizer can be found at every IBS since the very first one. It would be interesting to find a show catalog from 2000 and see how many weeds are no longer in the garden.

The last few years people have been adding a ton of fertilizer and new modular factories are popping up all over the world to meet the demand for new housing and commercial construction.

But along with the fertilizer and good seed (the economy) there are weeds beginning to grow as well. Many of those weeds will eventually become good crops but what about the other innovation weeds?

A good example of a good weed that later became bad is Crownvetch. This weed, originally from Africa, found a home East of the Mississippi as a perfect ground cover along Interstate and local 4 lane highways. They choked out all other vegetation, provided ground cover and seeds for birds and food for deer. 

But it was also very invasive and soon began creeping into homeowner’s yards, farmer’s fields and is now considered an invasive plant in many states.

Unlike Crownvetch, the weeds of offsite construction are not invasive. Many have and will remain important parts of the construction process.

BIM is a good example of an innovation weed that became a good plant. Many construction companies are using BIM to save time and money. Others are just installing it into their factories while others can’t justify the investment yet.

What is making BIM more than an innovation weed?

It’s the fact that it is becoming a proven innovation that is actually being used. 

Are there bad innovation weeds?

Sure are. Just walk through any older modular construction factory and look in the dark corners. The weeds that tried to take hold at one time are now covered with old dusty tarps where the factory owner is storing them while still writing off the expense of buying it.

New factories don’t have dark corners...yet. Give them a decade and they will have a dark corner where weeds go to die.

Modular Construction Industry Observer and Information Gatherer

Gary Fleisher is a housing veteran, editor/writer of the ModcoachNews, Modular-homecoach blogs and the ‘coming soon’ ModcoachConnects Construction Consultant’s Directory. 

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