PATH Joins NSF in a Voyage to the Future of Housing

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ORLANDO, Fla.- An express route to the future of housing was the focus for a group of PATH assembled researchers at the Housing Research Agenda Workshop held Feb. 12-14 at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Funded jointly by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), the workshop helped advance PATH’s ongoing mission to improve the affordability and value of America’s homes through technology.

“The NSF-PATH partnership has broken new ground in housing research,” said Dana Bres of the Office of Policy Development and Research of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Prominent universities across the nation are examining diverse housing issues ranging from process improvements and product innovations to systems integration and beyond.”

Particularly exciting to PATH and gaining worldwide attention is the extraordinary “instant house,” also referred to as the “cake-mix” house. Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California presented the home building technique that will make it possible to build a house from foundation to roof in less than 24 hours. “Automated Construction by Contour Crafting” consists of robots that deliver concrete through a jet.

“NSF’s partnership with PATH to stimulate housing research was, in fact, a groundbreaking direction for the National Science Foundation — its first major research initiative focused on housing,” said Dr. Perumalsamy N. Balaguru, program director of NSF’s Division of Civil & Mechanical Systems. “Before NSF became involved, housing research did not command a high priority within academic institutions and many committed university researchers and professors struggled to gain a foothold in the area.”

PATH’s partnership with NSF has raised housing research to a new level and has attracted attention and resources to this much-needed work. One of the largest hurdles for the housing industry is determining the most effective way to cut development time to market. Theodore Koebel, director of the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech and lead author of PATH’s “The Diffusion of Innovation in the Residential Building Industry,” discussed the substantial social, economic, and environmental benefits associated with the diffusion of innovation in the residential home building industry.

“Together, we have successfully awarded 33 grants to 21 principle universities since this program began in 2000 — a noteworthy accomplishment,” said Bres.

The three-day workshop was a gathering of NSF-PATH Award program recipients. The grants have not only enabled the academic researchers to make advances on a variety of technological fronts; they also have brought increased attention to housing within the broader university research community. Workshop results will help shape PATH’s direction for future research.

“The University of Central Florida is pleased to host this innovative group of housing researchers,” said Dr. Michael Mullens, associate professor for the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of Central Florida and leader of one of the five workshop discussion groups. “Together, we have the opportunity to advance the research agenda in bold new directions.”

Participants in the workshop included prominent university researchers from across the nation including: Arizona State University, Ball State University, Cornell University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Northwestern University, Oklahoma State University, Penn State University, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University, Texas A&M; University, University of Central Florida, University of Delaware, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Maine, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri-Rolla, University of Southern California, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Villanova University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Washington State University. Researchers from State Farm Insurance Companies and the National Association of Home Builders Research Center also participated in the workshop.

“With each discovery and recommendation, the potential uses in further research and industry development should be considered,” said Bres. “The question that the housing industry must ask is ‘What’s next for this research?’ Let’s keep these exciting results from gathering dust on a shelf — or on an isolated hard drive.”

About NSF:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.58 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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