As housing demand continues to outpace supply, more designers, architects, and builders are producing prefabricated homes at a fraction of the cost of standard home building.
Maya Kruchenkova Courtesy Adobe Stock

Top builders in the U.S. market joined Jennifer Castenson to discuss the ways in which material suppliers and builders can work together to bring value to each other at the ProSales 100 Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Chuck Chippero, the national director of strategic sourcing for Pulte Group, Royal Erickson, the vice president of national strategic sourcing and design studios of Meritage Homes, and Kevin Wilson, the vice president of purchasing and national accounts for TRI Pointe Group also spoke about panelization and its future in home building.

Chippero said more proactive collaborations between Pulte and material suppliers during the design phase could bring greater value. He additionally said some suppliers could be more open-minded to expanding their services.

“There are many pro dealers and CMs that are reluctant to look at installing windows in a factory where we panelize,” Chippero said. “It does take some investment, some risk, but we’re starting to see a lot of change there and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for the pro dealer to kind of grow into it and offer more services. Because for us minimizing the number of tracks we bring to the jobsite is of great value.”

Erickson said with many builders moving toward panelization, or off-site construction, they will need greater help in that regard in terms of efficiency and cost parity.

“We need to get to the point where we have some cost advantage of going down that path [of panelization],” Erickson said. “That’s one of the greatest things we can get out of our dealer partners. The other piece is transparencies in costs and working with the builder, the manufacturer, the distributor to establish pricing, to help us pull that through the supply chain to support the quality.”

While echoing the points of Chippero and Erickson, Wilson said some suppliers could take a step back and answer questions about why things are done the way they are.

“Circle back and ask yourself the question of why, ‘why are we doing it this way?’” Wilson said. “If we’re not going to change today, when is that going to be? We need to have a clear path. Costing, panelization, we know it’s coming, so if we’re not going to change today, when?”

The builders spoke at length about panelization, how many builders are moving towards such practices, and how panelization could be the future of the home building industry. Chippero said 55% to 60% of the products offered by Pulte are panelized, but they only use panelization where it economically makes sense. The builders said panelization can reduce variation and is being adopted in many of their markets across the country, particularly in California and Texas.