As an industry community gathers in Orlando this week, its members try for a few days to step out of the noise of economics and externalities and into the weeds of execution. It's there--down at the level of new products, new materials, and the yet-unperfected processes of applying both in the complex world of real-life job sites to make better homes faster and for-less--builders will focus during the National Association of Home Builders International Builders' Show this week.
It's said that when builders get on the floor of the show and start talking about their problems and challenges as builders, that's a good sign. It means they're not caught in the thrall of consumer indifference or economic paralysis--forces builders well know from only a few short years ago.
As IBS time rolls around this year, expectations for solid, fundamental demand for new homes are strong. A more-than-respectable jobs report this past Friday confirmed a non-stop run of 75 months of job creation, and showed outright encouraging numbers on the household wage growth side of things.
Yes, there's legitimate worry about what the Fed does and what happens to mortgage interest rates as monetary policy tightens the reins on borrowing money, which will raise monthly payments, while could scare away some buyers who're only now reaching the level where they can swing monthly payments.
Many builders know that while these outside circumstances and forces and business conditions are critical to consumer psychology and confidence, and they impact the cost to home buyers, there's still a great deal of opportunity area--a growing amount of it--in achieving cost savings and in their own operations and workflows.
They look at IBS as an opportunity to engage in conversations that will help them improve the very basics of what they do and how they do it. Manufacturers and materials suppliers have busily been developing the newest, latest, most technologically advance versions of their offerings in their respective innovation labs around the country. They've come up with safer, cheaper, more esthetically appealing, better performing, smarter, and more easily installed items, and now it's up to architects and builders and engineers to understand how to integrate these offerings into workflows and systems that have remained stubbornly unresponsive to new challenges and opportunities to speed up with greater quality, period.
The problems of integration, putting the new together into the old or the unevolved workflow template, or transforming a process--taking the time to save time--are the problems builders need to address these days.
Last week's show in Las Vegas--the Consumer Electronics Show--is like a ego-filled diva when it comes to home technologies, showing off "smart" devices, robots, interfaces, connective, self-learning, and responsive features and functionality in the home.
That's all good, and what CES shows off well is that new companies, ones not historically steeped in providing solutions for the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and front door, are disrupting some huge incumbent firms that should be dominating the development of this next generation of internet-driven home capabilities.
The same is true in the mostly behind-the-walls world of IBS, where technology, materials science, advanced engineering, data, microprocessor, sensor, and internet-driven solutions are changing every stick and every brick--or at least the way they're assembled. All that's lacking is the sex-appeal of these products and materials and, ultimately, builders and engineers and architects who will apply them to the current challenge for American housing--which is to make new homes better and for less.
When builders arrive on the ground in Orlando and talk about needing to speed up this process or that one, or to ensure 100% quality installation of such and such a part of the envelope or the systems in a home in a highly efficient workflow, or an information and communications management system that sucks out the errors and variance in scheduling the jobs, or any product or material or process or platform that allows them to take days out of the start-to-completion cycle while maintaining quality ... these are the kinds of problems and conversations and challenges that will improve home building and make home builders better at delivering new communities and neighborhoods profitably.
We welcome you. Why not get off on the right foot here in Orlando by joining us tonight out in Clermont, at the NEXTadventure Home, a living, breathing example of integration, collaboration, discovery, and solutions among architect, interior designers, landscape design, manufacturers, engineers, and such a wonderful team of builders at Taylor Morrison Homes' Orlando division and South Florida Region out at Esplanade at Highland Ranch. Get information here. One and all are welcome.