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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