Home Innovation Insights

The pace of change is accelerating in home building ... the pace of innovation needs to catch up.

Michelle Foster
November 14, 2013

What You Need, Is a Change of Habit!

“And if your head is in the sand
While things are going on
What you need, what you need
What you need is a change of habit

Elvis was right. “Changes are a-comin', for these are changing days.” The housing industry is no stranger to change; many of our clients have successfully navigated the cyclical housing market. But it certainly seems the pace of change within our characteristically slow-to-change industry has accelerated.

Consider Residential Energy Efficiency

Until the 2006 IECC, energy efficiency code improvements were largely incremental. Since 2006, each subsequent energy code revision demanded higher efficiency gains. Looking ahead, most industry experts expect energy codes will continue to ratchet up. Even with more stringent energy mandates, an increasing number of builders are voluntarily choosing to design and construct homes to be higher performing. Design standards such as DOE’s Challenge Home, the Gold and Emerald levels of the National Green Building Standard, and Passive House push builders to tighten building envelopes, use more efficient equipment, select high-performance windows, and install higher levels of insulation.

More stringent building codes help builders deliver homes that are more comfortable and less expensive for home owners to operate. However, increasing performance also creates constructability issues. For example, in many climates the only way builders can meet new building envelope requirements is to install exterior foam insulation. But insulation on the outside of OSB changes the wall dimensions, which in turn affects how cladding and windows are installed. Exterior foam insulation can also cause moisture issues if it is not installed correctly. Ai-ya!

For a builder trying to build cost-effective, efficient homes and not impact the quality of construction, change can be daunting. And more stringent energy codes are not the half of it. The Great Recession of 2006 hit the housing market hard and the longer term impacts on homebuyers and the housing industry aren’t completely clear yet. Analysts are looking closely at the Millennials to see how their homebuying preferences might differ from the Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, or even Gen Y’ers. Builders not only have to navigate complex construction decisions with regard to building performance, they also have to continually evaluate how their products align with consumer preferences, demographic changes, and changing household characteristics. Successful builders are continually on the lookout for better ways to satisfy homebuyers with improved quality, durability, performance, and price.

Fortunately, for building product manufacturers, great change brings opportunities for great innovation. And innovation can be the catalyst for growth. Builders are looking for products that help them solve the problems at hand. They need to make their buildings more efficient. They need products that install quicker and easier than what they are using today. They want materials that create less waste. They can’t risk building products that solve one problem (say, tight building envelope) but create other potential problems (oh, like mold and moisture issues).

Unfortunately, while the pace of change within the industry may be accelerating, the pace of innovation is not accelerating nearly as fast. Variable construction site conditions, numerous subcontractors, diverse local regulations, and poor flow of information throughout all of the market channels can impede the pace of innovation in the housing industry. At Home Innovation Labs, our collective expertise is focused on the goal of removing the barriers to your innovations.

The Challenge of Being Innovative

Bringing new products to market can be tough. Pragmatic builders want proof that your product truly is better than whatever product they are currently using – sufficiently better to justify a switch. Or that it’s an upgrade. We can help you validate your innovations. If your product is better than the competition, faster to install, or with fewer installation mistakes, we can help you provide credible evidence to support your claims.  Home Innovation Research Labs has a unique observational research facility that we designed and built specifically for evaluating real-time product installation. We help manufacturers by reviewing the desired claims, creating an appropriate evaluation protocol, conducting the evaluation, and issuing a proprietary report that summarizes the findings and methodology.

Want to accelerate market adoption of your new product or increase demand for an existing product? Arm your sales reps with independent, third-party research findings from Home Innovation. Builders don’t have to take your word for it; they can see our documented proof.

Observational research is not the only service we offer to help you achieve your goals. Maybe you need to quantify the potential market size or reevaluate your pricing strategy. Home Innovation Labs also conducts monthly omnibus surveys of builders, remodelers, and households to get you meaningful, actionable data from building professionals or consumers on construction-related topics. And unlike other non-specialized market research firms, we have the expertise to deliver better information more quickly and cost-effectively.

Change isn’t easy, but it is inevitable. Embrace it and recognize that with change comes opportunities. Let me know about the changes/challenges you’re facing in your market today. 

"Thank you; thank you very much." (picture that last part with an Elvis lip curl.)

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