There are experts in the building materials industry who are certain that we're about to see a huge growth trend in offsite and modular construction — the kind of growth that can truly disrupt the industry and how we build its future.
More About This Episode
Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
This week, Zach talks to Tim Seims, from John Burns Real Estate Consulting, about modular and offsite construction and the impact that we expect it to have on the building materials market.
Modular Construction: Setting New Standards
We were thrilled to bring back Tim Seims on this week’s episode to talk about how much has changed in the industry since we last spoke.
His position at John Burns Real Estate Consulting has required him to keep a close watch on what’s in store for building materials. “I have this weird title of Director of Building Products Intelligence. What that really means is diving into what's going on in the market and then sharing that information,” he explains.
Whether that’s surveys or connecting with professionals in the industry, Tim gave us an idea of what’s been brewing and what’s in store for construction when it comes to building more modular projects.
There have been a few significant changes in the past several years:
“In general, the capital stack for the industry's changed in terms of investment,” Tim says. “The other thing that's happened is we have a lot of institutional money, and private investment, and R and D investment by some building product manufacturers and builders into this space,” says Tim.
“There is now a new standard, a code standard for modular offsite construction. It was a collaboration between the Code Institute and the Modular Building Institute. It actually addresses multiple building technologies, but really focused on volumetric modular,” he explains.
So who are the players in today’s modular market? Everyone from investors to lenders to tech firms. “There's companies like Generate Technologies that are looking at how can they automate the design. Hierarch is another one that is putting together these plug and play plans where they have all the plans and the permit documents and all these things in one place,” says Tim.
Companies like Hierarch and Generate Technologies are influencing the direction of modular construction, opening doors for other brands and manufacturers who might want to sell their products with modular in mind. “But they're not providing a product — they're providing that customer experience … people get hung up on the modality when the real deliverable is the experience,” explains Tim.
To deliver the right kind of modular experience, manufacturers should focus on investing resources into one thing: product education.
“More and more building product manufacturers are giving people in their organization's resources to understand these things and some of these standardizations like the recent code standard for modular,” he explains.
“That will help, but it's going to take poring over those details, becoming a subject matter expert, giving people in the organization an opportunity to step up or hiring somebody that knows the business,” Tim suggests.
If it sounds like a tall order, don’t worry, because we talked with Tim about how manufacturers can think strategically about winning more modular projects.
How To Invest in the Future of Modular
So for anyone in the industry just considering modular construction, Tim brought us up to speed on how different building materials companies can take part in this new industry. Even for those in the landscaping or exterior cladding markets, there are a few aspects of modular and offsite construction for all product manufacturers to consider.
Think About Scheduling: “Some of those things affect how the site is treated and the scheduling, because it might be much sooner in the process where you have to install those products,” he says.”So it's really not necessarily about ‘Does my product get installed in the factory?’ It's more of a mindset of ‘How does this affect the construction schedule?’”
Manufacturers can start planning for modular construction and sharing how their product works in context with modular projects.
Think About Solutions: Tim brings up his experience with Nichiha, a fiber cement cladding manufacturer, and how they approached the modular market.
“I feel where the most successful projects we were involved in, involved a lot of site and factory visits,” he remembers. “What we found was really interesting,” he says, “when we got the architects and the owner involved in those meetings, they could see that we were really trying to solve for the challenges.”
“And so when you have that as a manufacturer and you're trying to help them — even with things that aren't part of your scope because there are a lot of things that are intertwined [in modular construction] that you don't necessarily manufacture what you should know about — then they really, really valued that,” says Tim.
That kind of support and solutions-focused exchange with customers can result in repeat business, in Tim’s experience. Because what that translates to is a “pull not push,” marketing method. It’s showcasing product knowledge in a thoughtful way, with solutions for customers — not just asking someone to spec your product.
Think About Content: Our frequent podcast listeners know that showcasing product knowledge is much easier with a digital content strategy, which Tim also recommends. “Another thing that helped was putting together content … and that actually drove quite a bit of traffic,” says Tim.
Everything from product installation videos to thought leadership articles can help to bring in an audience. (You might also check out the top five types of content we recommend every product manufacturer invest in for some inspiration.)
Want Even More Insight?
We weren’t going to let Tim leave until he talked about Katerra and what the role of construction technology and other innovations will have on building materials.
“So when you look at that as an opportunity, not only to change it for housing and residents and tenants and buyers and make life better but as an opportunity to make money — is very alluring.” he explains, “But it was a lot of money all at once … It just isn't a situation where money can be thrown at it and have it fix it.”
“But there are some companies doing something similar but just at a slower pace, and they're self-funded as opposed to outside money at a fast pace. And so it's a different level of focus, a different level of attention to detail at a different level of training and integration,” he says.
We’re looking forward to seeing what the future brings for these companies: Hear even more insights on modular and offsite construction from Tim by listening to the full episode here.
You can connect with Tim on LinkedIn to talk about modular construction or anything building materials!
If you have any questions about developing the right digital content strategy, send us an email at [email protected]
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