Good stuff, bad process

The OPEN Prototype Initiative was founded because of a conversation I had with Kent Larson of MIT’s Department of Architecture. One of main things Kent and I have agreed about since we first met is that the residential building industry in the U.S. is broken.

Through our personal conversations and organized forums at MIT’s Open Source Building Alliance (which Kent founded and directs), there had been much discussion about systemic problems, as well as some lively brainstorming about potential solutions. While the reports, research projects, and resulting presentations have illustrated better scenarios for the future of homebuilding, Kent and I shared a desire to turn the talk into action. We decided that we would engage in a partnership to build prototype buildings on a regular basis (every 18-24 months), that would become visible models of the future we envision.

Further, we are sure that many of the creative ideas to improve the homebuilding industry’s process and product cannot be realized without broad industry support. Our Open Prototype concept is therefore designed to engage industry in helping to turn the ideas into better products, systems, and processes. The solution to better homebuilding has to ultimately include the vast industry infrastructure that informs it and supplies it. The industry service, materials, and equipment suppliers also need to act differently and make different stuff.

Currently, the industry continues to thicken the defensive walls of conventional wisdom despite all evidence that it is wrong. Product innovations are endless (as anyone at the current IBS show can attest), but the lack of process and strategic innovations still lead to homes that are constructed inefficiently and incorrectly. Moreover, none of these material and equipment innovations can overcome the antiquated, unmotivated, poorly organized, and low-skilled construction system, so we still get shacks masquerading as mansions.

To make steps toward penetrating those walls of resistance built up by history and habit, my monotonous refrain here will be about America’s broken homebuilding industry. I’ll try not to get obsessive about it, but it is necessary to understand the illness in order prescribe the cure.

Bear with me. There IS a better way. The OPEN Prototype Project, OPEN_2, is coming soon.

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