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Editor’s note: Manufacturing harkens a brighter future in 2 ways

Builders are blurring the lines between industries with good results

Of all the industries we cover, manufacturing gets the least attention. But more and more, it’s creeping into the mix of stories about contractors and specialty contractors, engineers and architects, developers and the like.

It’s not because US Builders Review is interviewing more manufacturers. It’s because, in a way, more and more builders are becoming manufacturers.

Take Zarrilli Homes. The New Jersey-based builder makes high-end modular homes on assembly lines. Its clients, including classic rocker Bon Jovi and former late night personality Jon Stewart, appreciate that their houses were made in climate-controlled facilities, meaning their living rooms were never exposed to the occasional rain shower. And they cost 10 to 15 percent less than site-built homes.

It’s not just modular homes that are being manufactured, though. Components of homes and more massive structures are also being manufactured in shops.

Two glazing contractors from Texas—Denison Glass & Mirror Inc. and Dynamic Glass—recently told us they increasingly frame, glaze, cap and waterproof windows in shop to make installation faster and more precise. That allows them to keep up with demand in one of the busiest building markets in America.

Denison Glass even built a 40,000-square-foot facility for this purpose. Which, some might point out, is beyond the means and muster of many. And they would be right.

There’s another variation on this theme: Manufactured precast components, and companies like Genest Concrete are providing these components to remove some of the construction steps.

One of Genest’s products, the Comfort Block, is a lightweight masonry unit used for constructing walls. It has hollow spaces in which insulation can be inserted and electrical wire can be run. It has a rough texture that easily takes plaster and stucco. And it ensures not only time-efficient building, but mold and mildew resistance, higher R values, fire and insect resistance and sound dampening.

Workforce shortages are among the most frequently referenced roadblocks in our conversations with builders throughout America.

Likewise, Bautex Systems manufactures lightweight, composite wall-building blocks whose particular benefit may be blending concrete and foam into a proprietary blend. “The absolute genesis for our style of construction is its simplicity,” Bautex’s president, Paul Brown, told us.

Yet not everyone finds comfort in this minimalism. It’s possible that more manufacturing portends fewer skilled workers.

But the era of the day laborer is far from over. Workforce shortages are among the most frequently referenced roadblocks in our conversations with builders throughout America. And just consider that, when prefabricated units are installed, it tends to be all at once. That takes a lot of people, as does the actual manufacturing.

Don’t take our word for it? Consider what history shows.

Since the first roof was raised, people have been trying to erect more of them in less time and with fewer steps. That’s how traditional masonry and timber framing gave way to stick framing and concrete. And then as now, the result was more buildings, not fewer builders.

So read this edition, with all its references to efficiency, in relative comfort. And know that all these advancements are a form of security, no matter the weather or economy.

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Spring II 2017

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