Suppose you have an idea for a new product or process that you’re convinced will rock the home building world. That’s great, but raising money to turn that idea into reality is going to be an uphill slog when investors might need to wait decades before this idea gains a foothold with builders and contractors.

That’s what Virginia Tech concluded from a study it did about the pace of innovation in the housing sector. “This is a laggard industry,” asserts Michael Luzier, president of the Home Innovation Research Labs, which is what the NAHB Research Center now calls itself as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014.

It might seem counterintuitive that the lab—which has 400 to 500 manufacturer-clients and 500 builders participating in its green building program—would choose to include “innovation” in its name for an industry that seems allergic to anything new.

Blame this aversion on industry fragmentation, a complicated supply chain, locally enforced regulations, and what Luzier refers to as “a regional vernacular” in architecture and design “that has deep roots.” Consultants told the NAHB Research Center it needed to better communicate what it does, and its rebranding is an attempt to clear up what Luzier admits is “incredible confusion” in the marketplace about the facility’s purpose.

According to Luzier, companies use the Home Innovation Research Labs for three primary reasons:

  • Its depth of expertise in integration with regulations and codes.
  • Its status as an objective third-party validator of a manufacturer’s solution. “Every smart company wants a third partner to control for the impact of internal research,” Luzier says.
  • Its ability to help suppliers solve problems, such as those relating to certain provisions within building codes.

On April 1, all participating manufacturers had to begin using Home Innovation Research Labs’ certification mark. Currently, Home Innovation is encouraging co-branding to alleviate potential confusion among code inspectors. “Our mark is meant to prove compliance in a regulatory context and code,” Luzier explains. The certification also provides a degree of efficiency—a shortcut, if you will—for inspectors.
Luzier admits that consumers typically aren’t familiar with the lab, but surveys show that with a description of Home Innovation’s work, homeowners say a certification mark on a product would help guide their buying decisions. Some green builders already use the brand in their advertising, and more might be inclined to do so in the future as the Federal Trade Commission cracks down on bogus green marketing claims.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.