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By : Stephen Kendall

This paper outlines some of the background of and constraints facing the emergence of a new industry, focused not on buildings as such but on residential fit-out – the integrated kit-of-parts “behind your front door.” Residential application of the distinction between base building (support) and fit-out (infill), although sharing the same principles as the well-established office building and shopping mall sectors, is particularly important because it affects a very large market whose potential is not yet exploited but is arguably nascent. It is well understood that industrial manufacturing processes – now becoming “product service systems” in the consumer sector – are most effective and dynamic where individual users are directly served, as seen in the automotive and electronics/communications sectors. Construction of base buildings understood as “infrastructures for living” is capable of stimulating the evolution of a fit-out industry that will itself accelerate innovation and distribution of new domestic fit-out services and systems. In general, the creation of a genuine fit-out industry is not a technical or industrial design problem. Material subsystems and components like partitioning, bathroom and kitchen equipment, as well as “plug-and-play” piping and wiring are available or are being invented and approved in regulatory regimes internationally. While some smart products are still needed, the problem now is essentially a business proposition. By shifting to the provision of benefits rather than simply manufacturing products, companies may find a competitive advantage in a sector of the building industry now poised for an innovation leap. In the US and other developed countries, this is particularly compelling given the sustainability agenda, smart growth and increased demand for consumer-oriented production. In this perspective, the trend toward base building architecture allows the building industry to effectively come to terms with new and creative modes of industrial production.
Keywords: Open Building, Fit-out Industry, Product/Service Systems.

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