Home Innovation Insights

Builders are willing to try new building products if they can rely on the claims -- back yours up!

J. Michael Luzier
May 30, 2014

Conquer Conservative Builder Syndrome: Get Tested!

Builders don’t react to new products like most consumers. For many products (think consumer electronics), public reaction to new or even updated products can be almost unbridled glee. The eagerly awaited iPhone 6 has people “buzzing with anticipation.” In comparison, you’d be lucky to evoke a tepid, “Meh,” from a builder after pitching a new building product innovation.

Does this mean builders are emotionally devoid? Incapable of anticipation when a new product or formulation promises to solve a difficult building science problem? No. Builders’ lack of enthusiasm for new building products has much more to do with the notable risk in using a new product in home building.

Understanding Conservative Builder Syndrome

Let’s consider product innovation from a manufacturer’s perspective. In general, building product manufacturers want to produce a superior building product that will provide greater value to builders than their competitors’ products. As a result, they keep their ear to the ground to better understand the problems builders are facing, and their experts in the lab to continually devise new and innovative solutions to those problems. For manufacturers, this can be exciting work! It is an opportunity to grab new market share and potentially increase profitability.

On the flip side, let’s consider new products from a builder’s perspective. Sure, the products a builder specs today might not be perfect, but better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. New products are unfamiliar. They don’t always install the same way as products used in the past, and that can add to construction costs. Or they need to be installed differently to perform correctly, which means subcontractors need to be retrained. New products are often untested, unproven in the field, and a builder has to take the manufacturer’s word that the product will deliver as promised. There can also be unintended consequences. A new thermal barrier might increase moisture problems. Even worse, the product could have unforeseen risks. What if the product doesn’t perform as promised by the manufacturer? Or fails in some unexpected way?

Product failures happen. Because they do, builders’ attitude of “sticking to the tried-and-true” building materials is worn as a badge of honor. There is a sense that wise builders don’t get fooled by new product claims.

Our research consistently shows that builders respond less enthusiastically to new building products than do consumers, and larger builders are even less enthusiastic than small builders and remodelers. Our research also shows the most important factor in a builder’s decision to try a new product is confidence that the manufacturer has done the proper testing and evaluation on the product.

Product performance is a critical issue for both home builders and homebuyers, and product failures can have devastating results for both. As a result, uncertainty and doubt about product performance can lead many builders and contractors to be very conservative about using new products.

So what is a product manufacturer to do when faced with the formidable barriers to new product adoption in the residential construction industry? Get tested.

Overcoming the Syndrome

Home Innovation Research Labs can help product manufacturers conquer “Conservative Builder Syndrome” by putting new products or new product formulations to the test in our state-of-the-art building science laboratory. Our building science and market research experts combine forces to understand your product’s unique value proposition to home builders, and then design a methodology to test specific performance characteristics and help you make reliable, independently proven claims that builders can trust.

The value of product testing is that it allows a manufacturer to validate performance claims before going to market and risking brand reputation and credibility. Our comprehensive testing services allow us to test your product for wide variety of performance characteristics: structural, durability and weathering, thermal, and moisture. As an accredited test lab, you can rest assured knowing your testing results will be accepted by builders and code officials as the authoritative word on your product’s performance. Product testing can even be an interim step toward product certification.

But, you may ask, if testing in the lab is good, isn’t field testing even better? Our staff is routinely asked by manufacturers to develop field testing protocols, but more often than not, we recommend that testing start in our lab. Why? Two reasons.

  • First, we believe our experience allows us to develop testing methodologies that yield more reliable (and more affordable) results in the lab where we have control over a host of factors including, but not limited to, unpredictable and often uncooperative weather. Though we always have the ability to “create” nasty, extreme weather in-house, if those conditions are required.
  • More importantly, failure should be a private affair. As I've said, product failures will happen; but as a manufacturer, it is far better to have your product fail in the privacy of our lab than on a builder’s construction site. Many new products do not perform as expected by the manufacturer – perhaps as many as 33% of products fail on the first go round of testing. If a product is discovered to have any shortcomings or other performance issues, we want to uncover them for the benefit of your marketing and product development teams, not expose them to your prospective customers.

My staff is committed to helping you get builders buzzing about your new product innovations AND sustaining that buzz with independent, third-party validation for all your product performance claims. If you would like to hear more about how we can help, just let me know.

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