In the future, homes will contain the most complex activities of any building type. With the aging of the baby boomers, homes must become centers for proactive healthcare, distributed energy production, work, commerce, learning, etc. Homes must become agile environments that accommodate rapidly changing needs, activities, and technologies. They must respond to demands of sophisticated, affluent baby boomer generation who want choice and tailored solutions that closely reflect their values and needs. But places of living are poorly prepared for this future. Most new apartments are generic, low-grade, low-tech, inflexible, disruptive to upgrade, high maintenance, and ill-designed. Architects and engineers play no significant role in the creation of places of living, except at the very high end of the market. Most housing research is focused on cost reduction - not on preparing places of living to meet new requirements in the future. The objective of this research project is to conceptualize and assess the viability of a new approach that that may result in high-value, customized, reconfigurable, adaptable, multifamily housing. The three coordinated thrusts are as follows. 1) The development of design concepts for the use of prefabricated, volumetric module ioshellslc of a dimension that can be efficiently and affordable shipped to the jobsite, combined with the application of a mass customized cabinetry-like integrated interior infill (I 3 ) system for apartment fit-out. Modular construction is the fastest growing segment of the housing market, but its potential is limited by a narrow range of design possibilities, its failure to take advantage of modern manufacturing technologies, and the labor intensive operations required to connect modules at the site. This research will employ modular construction for what it is most suited for - structural shells with building services that can be rapidly assembled. 2) The development of concepts for automated, web-based, consumer design tools based on parametrically defined I 3 components. This effort will take advantage of prior work developed at MIT and in industry for user customization of apartment design and cabinetry. 3) The development and testing of an I 3 production methodology. The following issues will be investigated: Can an I 3 system allow mass-customized components to be manufactured efficiently and with the same quality as identical mass-produced units? Can the controlled and precise fabrication of integrated components allow new materials such as advanced polymers, composites, and special- purpose metals to find their way into the home? Can delicate electronics and devices be more easily integrated into I 3 components than with conventional construction? Can parallel manufacturing of the modular shell and interior components reduce production cycle time? In summary, this research will give the homebuilding supply chain, suppliers, factory producers, and builders a vision of the future - and an approach to the design tools and lean production systems that can make that vision a reality. The research will attempt to leap beyond incremental improvements in the conventional process, to an agile and adaptable system of mass-customization using technologies processes that could be put into effect in the near term. The research will also have important academic impacts. It will provide two Masters thesis topics and multi-disciplinary research experiences for two undergraduate research assistants. The class project in EIN 3314 Work Measurement and Design, involving lean manufacturing in local industry, will provide valuable, team-based, real world learning experiences for about 30 undergraduate engineering students.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)
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Perumalsamy N. Balaguru
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University of Central Florida
United States
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