Greater Use of Innovative Building Materials and Construction Techniques Could Reduce Housing Costs

CED-82-35: Published: Feb 18, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1982.

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Because housing affordability has become an increasingly serious national problem during the last decade, GAO undertook a review to assess the role which innovative technology might play in reducing the cost of new single-family detached houses and to evaluate the federal role in developing and encouraging its use.

Innovative building materials and construction techniques are not being used to the extent that they could be to reduce homebuilding costs. Certain items could each save between $300 and $700 in the cost of a median-priced, single-family detached house. Many problems exist at different levels of government and within the homebuilding industry that impede the use of available technological innovations and the development and introduction of new ones. These include: (1) a low level of effort by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the National Institute of Building Sciences to encourage the development and use of innovative technology, except for that related to reducing energy costs; (2) builders' reluctance to accept risks associated with the use of technology with unproven long-term performance; (3) restrictive and inconsistently administered local building codes; and (4) builder's lack of technical information on the results of using innovative technology. HUD has moved slowly toward identifying, evaluating, and disseminating information on cost-saving innovations; encouraging the acceptance of innovations by model building code groups; and encouraging local compliance with model codes and consistent administration of local building codes.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the President of the National Institute of Building Sciences should reexamine recommendations made in prior reports which call for a more vigorous and effective federal role in encouraging the use of innovative cost-saving technology in homebuilding. They should also: (1) determine whether some revision of internal priorities might be possible and desirable in order to direct more resources to encouraging greater use of innovative technology in homebuilding; and (2) explore other alternatives for reducing housing costs through greater use of innovative technology.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the President of the National Institute of Building Sciences should reexamine recommendations made in prior reports which call for a more vigorous and effective federal role in encouraging the use of innovative cost-saving technology in homebuilding. They should also: (1) determine whether some revision of internal priorities might be possible and desirable in order to direct more resources to encouraging greater use of innovative technology in homebuilding; and (2) explore other alternatives for reducing housing costs through greater use of innovative technology.

    Agency Affected: National Institute of Building Sciences

 

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