Home Innovation Insights

Some surprising findings surface regarding labor and offsite construction.

Ed Hudson, MBA
August 30, 2019

Study Finds Current Labor Climate is Both Opportunity & Barrier for Offsite Housing Solutions

At Home Innovation Research Labs, we’re continuing to monitor the building industry climate and market opportunities for offsite housing construction through our surveys of home builders. Most recently, our August 2019 Omnibus Survey of builders included several questions on this topic, such as:

“Considering your company’s decision to use (or not use) pre-fabricated building systems and components, what role does the availability of construction labor play in that decision?”

Respondents were given a blank space to write their thoughts. Interestingly, only about a third of respondents said that labor quality or labor availability played a moderate to large role in their decision to shift to offsite solutions—it was more than any other category of response, but still less than we’d expect given the attention the labor shortage has gotten in the past few years. The remaining two-thirds of respondents indicated labor plays little to no role in their decision.

Among this labor unaffected two-thirds, two of the most commonly-expressed issues coalesced around 1) lack of availability of local solutions, and 2) higher cost of components without corresponding savings in labor, making offsite options more expensive than stick framing. Other issues expressed included:

  • Difficulty of training current workers or subcontractors
  • Personal preference for site-built
  • Greater difficulty in coordinating construction or longer lead times
  • Homebuyers’ negative perceptions of “pre-fab”
  • Inflexibility of subcontractors to adapt to change
  • Need of flexibility for last-minute changes in framing
  • Offsite solution provider capacity limits when the market heats up

While these findings did not necessarily show a cause-and-effect relationship between the construction labor shortage and offsite construction solutions, there is still some helpful news for those who offer offsite solutions. The findings reinforce the need to educate various stakeholders for greater acceptance—builders, trade contractors, and even the homebuying public—and to create training programs, particularly for subcontractors. The findings might also suggest a gap that needs filling for turnkey solutions and/or providers within the offsite space.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be digging deeper into this topic and share additional findings. I’ll also be presenting a more detailed analysis of the findings at the 2019 Building Systems Housing Summit in Pittsburgh this October.

If you’re interested in how this research relates to your business, or in fielding surveys related to other industry topics, let me know.

Back to Top

Filed Under:

Add your Comment

All fields marked with * are required