Many suggestions have been made for reducing the cost of houses - some of these have been actually tried out. The most important of the suggested methods are mentioned on pages 51-52 of this chapter. Undoubtarchitects depend upon this method. C. Stanley Taylor states in his article "Developing Sketch Plans for Small Houses To Meet Budget Requirements," Architectural Forum, july, 1928: "In the New York district, which is probably the highest priced area in the country for home building many offices have found that they never exceed sixty cents per cubic foot for quality development of small houses embodying sound construction systems and high grade materials in all details. Other offices frequently build within a fifty cent limit, and occasionally some of the very best designers succeed in designing houses that actually cost from forty to forty-five cents. The difference of a few cents per cubic foot even in a small house rapidly amounts into dollars; . . . ." edly, the most effective work that has been accomplished in reduction of cost is the campaign conducted by the United States Department of Commerce on the elimination of waste. Standardization and simplification of building materials - that is, the production and distribution of fewer varieties and sizes of materials - have eliminated waste and reduced cost.1 Many scientific investigations have been made, and extensive research has been conducted on both the manufacture and the use of materials. Series of tests of brick and other types of masonry, tests of cement and concrete, on the weathering of building stone, and other investigations have been made that will not only result in better built but more economically-built homes.
One of the aims of the Division of Building and Housing of the Department of Commerce is to encourage better and more economic construction. This Division also has carried on studies in home financing, particularly those financing problems involving extra charges for money - bonuses and commissions - which frequently make home owning out of the question. It also has assisted in preparing recommendations for minimum requirements for building codes. In certain cities unnecessary requirements are often made for building which result in a waste of both material and labor. The Building Code Committee of the United States Department of Commerce has made every effort to determine types and quality of building material and construction that are safe and sound and also economical. By the use of the requirements drawn up by this Committee much waste may be prevented, for each year a number of communities adopt new building codes and in others old codes are revised. A similar Committee on.Plumbing has also drawn up minimum requirements. Experiments conducted continuing over several years were necessary to determine the best principles of design for plumbing systems.
Another method of eliminating waste and thus reducing cost is by distributing more evenly building activity throughout the entire year. In past years a large part of the building has been done during a period of four or five months. This seasonal work results in unemployment among workers during a part of the year, and it also affects the manufacturing plants where building materials are produced. Mr. Hoover states in his Foreword to Seasonal Operations in the Construction Industries:
1 The number of sizes of building materials has been greatly reduced. The percentages of reduction in 1928 were as follows: Vitrified brick, 66 to 5; metal lath, 125 to 24; rough and smooth face brick, 75 to 2; common brick, 44 to 1; hollow building tile, 36 to 20; concrete building units, 115 to 14 (see Ray M. Hudson, "Simplified Practice Achievements in the Building and Construction Field," Architectural Forum, October, 1928).
Activity in construction bears a close relation to general industrial conditions. The construction and equipment of new buildings result not only in the employment of building trades labor but in production of lumber, cement, iron and steel products, brick, sand and gravel, lime, hardware, paint, electrical equipment, furniture, textiles, and a variety of other materials. If building falls off, there is bound to be slackening in many other lines of industry, resulting in unemployment, decreased purchasing power of employees, and further depression. The ebb and flow in the demand for construction, seasonally and between different years, thus to a large degree affect our economic stability.
The need to eliminate the wastes of seasonal idleness has been brought forcibly to the attention of the construction industries and the public by reason of high labor costs and the failure of the building trades to attract young men into their ranks. Lengthening the building season will mean greater production from the men now engaged in the building trades and will also go far to attract capable apprentices.
The use of short-length lumber whenever possible in the building of homes is also an important factor in building economy. The National Committee on Wood Utilization has outlined this economy in the following paragraphs:
Hundreds of thousands of small homes and farm structures are being built in the United States every year, and wherever in their construction long lengths of lumber are used when short lengths would serve the purpose just as well the result is waste. The custom of demanding long lengths originated in the days when the need for husbanding our forest products was less apparent than it is to-day. But those times have passed, and with them must go the extravagant habits unlimited supply created, for this wasteful practice is putting a drain on our forests that, unless stopped, will eventually tend to raise the price of long-length lumber and, so, to increase construction costs to all builders.
"Short-length lumber" is that which is less than 8 feet long. Pieces of 6 and 7 feet form part of the standard output of practically every saw and planing mill; lengths of 4 and 5 feet are less frequently regarded as a salable portion of the mill output; lengths of 2 and 3 feet are discarded except by those lumber manufacturers who handle the more valuable species of wood or who have worked up specialized markets for these pieces; yet all of this material is of high intrinsic value as respects quality and accuracy of manufacture, is admirably suited to many uses, and under present market conditions is economical. Notwithstanding which, lengths less than 8 feet seldom are specified in standard commercial practice.
The production of short lengths in saw and planing mills is as inevitable as the production of sawdust, shavings, or bark. In the expansion of the demand for this short lumber - often the finest clear wood in the log - lies economy for the logger, the millman, and the consumer.
To the consumer the use of short lengths would mean an appreciable saving, since it is the general practice of mills throughout the United States to quote short lengths 15 to 35 per cent below the prices asked for standard lengths of equal grade.
The industries of the United States manufacturing wood articles now absorb about one-tenth of the present short-length lumber output of the mills. They could without difficulty absorb five times as much; that is, 50 per cent of the present short-length output. This would, however, still leave 50 per cent of the present unavoidable production and all of the potential mill production of short lengths for consumption in other avenues; and outlets for it lie chiefly in the building and construction industries, inasmuch as they consume over two-thirds of all softwood lumber sawn in the United States. In expansion of the demand for short-length lumber for construction work, then, lies the solution of the short-length marketing problem.
Every year $2,000,000,000 is invested in small houses and farm buildings in the United States. Employment of short-length lumber in these structures would mean a saving to the small-home owners and farmers of tens of millions of dollars annually. This is not guesswork; the survey on which this report is based demonstrated its truth in actual computations, and the tables in which these computations are summarized put the actual dollars-and-cents savings squarely before the prospective home-owner through pointing out definite instances where the use of short-length lumber is feasible.1