Just a couple years back, anyone who said they could build a $180,000, 1,600 square-foot house that featured foam insulation inside a high-performance wall system, high-efficiency solar-powered HVAC and water heating , a weather sensing irrigation and water management system, and home-control software to manage it all could only have been either an inmate or a member of Congress (nuts or a liar, or both). Just the systems involved would have accounted for nearly half the cost, leaving about $60 per square foot for construction, minus a very small profit. Meritage Homes (NYSE:MTH), Scottsdale, Az., has done just that at
Roughly 25 years ago, I saw my first CAD/CAM system outside of Chicago at what was then the largest U.S. manufacturer of Web offset printing presses for the country's biggest newspapers. It was a relatively rudimentary system by today's standards, but there were engineers designing on dedicated workstations, which were linked to a mainframe computer, which was itself linked to machines that made many of the millions of metal parts that went into these behemoth presses.