Systems Building Grows, New Englanders, Canadians Told
The nation’s weak economy and the growing popularity of green home building have given a significant boost to systems-built residential construction, which is likely to gain in importance on the other side of the housing recovery that now appears to be entering its early stages, Jeremy Bertrand, executive director of the NAHB Building Systems Councils, told the 33rd Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers earlier this month in Saint John, New Brunswick.
A graduate of the University of New Brunswick with a degree in forestry, Bertrand appeared at the conference on behalf of NAHB’s International Department.
Looking at the future of the U.S. housing market, Bertrand noted that the average square footage of new homes appears to be leveling off following the steady increases of the last eight to nine years, a trend that is likely to continue into the middle of the next decade.
The weakest U.S. economy since World War II and a collapse in the housing market has forced builders to reinvent themselves as a matter of survival, he said. Smaller homes for first-time buyers have accounted for the bulk of the improvement in sales in recent months, and in the period ahead consumers are expected to return to basics, scaling back the demand for more luxurious and ever bigger houses that predominated during the housing boom.
Utilizing systems-built construction allows builders to construct a home more efficiently and quickly, Bertrand said, and enables them to keep tighter control on the entire process, delivering a product with many green attributes, including a reduction in construction site waste.
“Home owners expect quality construction in any home they purchase,” he said. “The quality assurance common with any prefabricated structure is a sure way to get there.”
On the green home building front, he added, “A growing number of experts argue that to truly go green, especially as the codes get ramped up, you must incorporate building systems into the home. Resource efficiency and durability have long been staples of systems-built construction. Using any type of system — whether it be concrete, modular, panelized or log/pre-cut — can now be directly applied to meeting the National Green Building Standard.”
Bertrand also discussed opportunities within NAHB, including the International Builders’ Show, international membership within the association and the International Housing Association, of which NAHB is secretariat. The majority of NAHB’s international members are from Canada.
Among speakers at the housing presentations in which Bertrand participated was Bob Tortorice of Building Aleternatives, an NAHB member from New Hampshire.
The annual conference advances the interests of 11 jurisdictions in New England and Eastern Canada by providing a forum for sharing ideas, building on historic ties and collaborating with the private sector.
Over the years, the conference has addressed topics that have included the environment, economic development, tourism, energy, fisheries, trade and agriculture.
For more information on international resources available at NAHB, e-mail Susanna Connaughton, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8415. For information on building systems, contact Jeremy Bertrand, x8353.