One of our favorite consumer products is the bicycle. The feeling of riding on a Saturday morning in the spring air is both freeing and intoxicating. But this is only one of many experiences you can have on a bike. You can go shopping at the farmer's market, ride off cliffs on a mountain bike, or ride along the beach while on vacation.
The buying experience for a bike is as varied as it's uses. But consider the buying process for a bike when compared to a building or building system.
When evaluating bikes to buy, a consumer can quickly achieve an understanding of a bike's expected performance, appearance, cost, and purchase process. On a particular brand of bike, the consumer also has the ability to upgrade (or downgrade) components to match their particular intended use or purchase price.
A user may decide to buy a bike in a given configuration to meet their budget, then upgrade it over time with new components. While this isn't as efficient as purchasing a bike exactly as desired, this is an option and the expected performance of the components and the whole bike can be evaluated by a potential buyer.
The net result is an experience where a consumer discovers the attributes of a bike, evaluates how they'll use the product, and matches the expected performance and experience with their ability to buy it.
Bicycles are a product and this process is called product discovery.
Buying a building or building systems is a very different experience. The defining characteristic of building design and construction is the reliance on the experience of people who are involved in each project phase. Architects are selected based on their experience, contractors are picked by evaluating their proposed team, and subcontractors add value using their specialized understanding of what they install. The current practice of building design and construction values people above all else and the resulting project acquisition process is very different than a product discovery process.
We think technology can change this. Over the last few decades, building design and construction has added building information modeling (BIM), offsite prefabrication, modular assemblies, and cloud collaboration to the technology stacks of the best projects. It's time to use technology to combine these concepts so buildings can be treated like a product.