October 31st, 2018
Two Events Share One Message: Prepare for New Construction’s Evolution
Seeds planted at a pair of late October meetings in Virginia and Massachusetts promise to blossom into the construction industry’s next big markets. Door and window manufacturers selling into the new construction space are well advised to pay attention, as these trends unfold.
In Richmond, Va., the International Code Council (ICC) to a set of proposed changes for the 2021 International Construction Code that, in effect, would up to 18 stories tall. Those changes now must be endorsed in a vote by all ICC members, prior to year-end. Meanwhile, in Boston, several hundred people from at least half-a-dozen countries gathered for a semiannual conference on new frontiers in wood-based construction. Talk about tall wood buildings shared the agenda of the , with sessions on off-site construction methods, modular construction and other methods that are commonplace outside of the U.S., but remain a rarity here.
Mass timber encompasses a variety of techniques aimed at producing wood in thick blocks that can bear large-building-sized weights. Cross-laminated timbers, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and newly invented products, like mass plywood panels, are examples. Meanwhile, more than $1 billion has been invested into the off-site building concept. This push has been led by newer companies, like Katerra and Entekra, along with traditional groups, like Marriott International, which opens a new hotel somewhere worldwide every 14 hours. And it’s suffice to say that Marriott takes modular to the extreme, building out entire units in a factory, then trucking them with everything intact—right down to the fixtures and bedding—to be craned in and set at jobsites. (It doesn’t get much more modular than that.)
Advocates tout mass timber and off-site construction for being cheaper, lighter and faster to build than traditional commercial construction methods, as well as for being better for the environment. But this revolution will require some getting used to. All these techniques rely heavily on advance planning, computerized modeling and precise manufacturing—much more so than other techniques, like concrete construction, for instance. Expecting to make adjustments on the job site—or worse, not even thinking about installation issues until the frame is assembled—is taboo in this new environment. Wood flexes, especially amid large walls. With doors and windows undergoing a trip of potentially several hundred miles between the factory and the installation site, frames could end up being far sturdier than they’ve been in the past in order to shoulder those moves.
Like much else in construction, these changes will come gradually. But mass timber and off-site construction both have enough factors in their favor to suggest that they will become commonplace someday. For this reason, if you’re not calling on customers that are at least starting to discuss these developments, you’re well served to get out ahead by including this segment in your strategic planning for the coming year.