Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, "what you need to invent, is an imagination and a pile of junk."

An innovator of our present day, perhaps Google co-founder Sergey Brin, notes that "an invention discovers what is."

But before he or she started the process of inventing, investing the time and the brain power in using his or her imagination on that pile of junk, what is might never have been. Often, before that moment of invention, it may have been considered undoable.

Now, it's widely held that innovation of any sort in home building's materials or products or processes spends years in a limbo of "development," "proof of concept," testing, etc. before it can gain traction. If it ever does.

The reason is that there are plenty of products and materials whose chemical, physical, and integrative properties are proven over time and known, and therefore regarded as safer, more durable, more functionally effective, more aesthetically appealing, or more efficient to install than anything new. Also, there's experience across the decades that has shown that newly introduced technology sometimes introduces new problems, unintended consequences, and bad experiences for home buyers over the course of time.

What's more when products, materials, or workflows change from practices that have worked well enough in the past, somebody who's currently critically involved in the process may lose out. And it gets even messier when the holistic home building process requires parts and pieces of what someone or ones provide, but not the whole.

Progress stops suddenly when those who pay for goods and services to build houses are forced to pay for what they don't want or need in order to get what they do want or need.

Still, a singular driving force that motivates nearly every home builder in the business is this. They want to make a better home each time they start one. He or she or they want to build better.

To do that requires progress, and fortunately, on the product manufacturers side, progress never stops. Whether it's convection, conduction, radiation, absorption, fire retardancy, air quality, room comfort, water conservation, durability, automation, connectivity, privacy, security, natural day-lighting, indoor-outdoor rapport, curb appeal, storage space, flexible floor plan, flow, livability, or any other quality or property of a home, building products manufacturers are driving innovation into their offerings at every turn.

What's particularly heartening is that to an ever greater degree, manufacturers have begun mapping builders earlier and earlier into their research and development process. They're realizing that the advances they bring to market don't merely impact the discrete properties of that particular product. Their effect is on an ecosystem of inter-connected materials, products, parts of a system, or structural members of the envelope.

We're seeing innovation take hold, not only on the atoms of a house--its chemistry, physics, and biology--but on the data, the 0s and 1s that go into how it lives, how it works, and how it lasts and morphs over time.

In order to build the next house better, builders once upon a time would build a house on paper before they built it on a site. Now, they build homes virtually, sometimes two or three times over, to get design, engineering, costing, and performance to where they want it before they do it on-site.

What's happening now is that manufacturers are fully integrating themselves in this pre-build virtual build, this engineering pre-build process to support innovation in both the envelope and systems, toward building each house better, one at a time.

Here's analysis from the National Association of Home Builders that focuses on how builders have embraced the use of "green" products and practices.

Energy efficient windows ranked at the top of the list, commonly used by 95 percent of the builders, followed by high efficiency HVAC systems (at 92 percent). On average builders reported commonly using 10.2 of the green products and practices on the list.

Yes, they may be "green" products and practices.

They're also better products and practices.