Last year LP invested $45 million in Entekra, one of the nation’s leading off-site homebuilders. As this type of construction gains popularity in the U.S., a number of architectural firms have asked Entekra to do presentations about how to successfully design for off-site homebuilding.
“What we really stress to them is the importance of advance planning,” says Entekra CEO Gerry McCaughey. “In Europe, it’s common for architects to provide all the details in advance. But in the U.S., it’s a different story. Entekra often gets architectural drawings where some of the details say ‘to be verified in the field.’ But we need to create a 3-D model of the house before it’s even built, so architects can’t omit details like the window dimensions.”
As the industry continues to grapple with limited staff, smarter building solutions and simplified building methods are a way to help speed things along. One of the major benefits of off-site homebuilding is construction speed. But when key architectural and engineering details are missing, Entekra has to spend six to eight weeks trying to track down the information and get the drawings completely ready. “That really elongates the building process unnecessarily,” says McCaughey.
Architects and specifiers also need to know that some building products are ideally suited to off-site manufacturing. “We use a lot of LSL, and that’s a material that’s under-used in the U.S. in our opinion,” adds McCaughey. “It solves a lot of the problems that builders have with lumber, especially in the upper end of the market. We’ve also found that fire-rated OSB also works very well, particularly for multi-story buildings.”
“Architects and builders are starting to realize that a lot of what’s broken in this industry is due to lack of forward planning and information-sharing,” says McCaughey. “We can’t get drawings that say ‘field verify’ anymore. Architects need to remember that off-site facilities are building homes with high-precision automated equipment – and we can’t do our work if the details are missing.”
The supply of modestly priced starter homes continues to drop nationwide. A recent report by Realtor.com found that the number of homes priced above $750,000 grew 11 percent last year, while the number of starter homes priced under $200,000 fell by 8 percent.Continue Reading
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While it’s perfectly alright for a jazz musician to improvise, that approach doesn’t always work as well in homebuilding. Architects, specifiers, engineers and product reps spend many hours collaboratively choosing the right materials for each job – and an abrupt substitution to save a few dollars can ironically be very costly in terms of callbacks, design underperformance and even code violations. “Ideally, all parties involved – the architect, builder and developer – have reviewed the spec before it’s final and have agreed on all the products being used,” says Karen Alves, LP Brand Marketing Associate. “That’s because finding an ‘equivalent’ for siding or fire-rated sheathing involves not just the substrate but the codes that the product meets as well.”