The standardization of all parts which go to make up the completed house, so that the different kinds may be interchangeable among themselves, is a very important element of economy in building.....
The standardization of parts is a very different thing from the standardization of plans. By standardization of plans is here meant the use of the same design for a number of houses. Standardization makes for speed, convenience, and economy; but standardization of plans also produces monotony. Except under certain conditions, referred to later, the duplication of houses, which all look as if they came out of the same mold, is a thing to be avoided. It seems to indicate either woful poverty of invention on the part of the builder or a lack of interest in anything but the commercial side of his undertaking. Houses made in that way have no individuality and are reduced to the status of the manufactured article, turned out by machinery. Many attempts have been made to standardize houses and even to have molds in which they could be cast by the dozen or hundred, as occasion might require; but it is hard to think that taste can sink so low as to make that method popular. No matter how good the design may be, the continued repetition of it is deadly. To build in that way is like attempting to make a poem with but a single couplet. The couplet might be good, but the continued repetition of it would hardly be satisfying.
Standardization of the various parts which enter into the construction of houses, on the other hand, is a different matter; to do that does not lead to monotony, but to simplicity and repose. Just as one can make an indefinite variety of words by using the same twenty-six letters, so one can make an indefinite variety of houses, using standardized parts. Doors, windows, moldings, columns, beams, rafters, stairs, dressers, and all the other things that enter into the composition may be of uniform sizes and patterns, but combined in an indefinite variety of ways, and the same is true of building methods and processes. If a number of houses are to be built at the same time, it is much more economical and convenient to buy the things needed, or make them, in large quantities and use them interchangeably, than to make them up piecemeal after a variety of patterns. And even if there is but a single house to build, a considerable saving may be had by making similar parts uniform.
1 Adapted from Small Houses (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922), p. 92.
When parts are to be standardized, one can well afford to devote more time and care to their design than otherwise; in that case it pays to take great pains to eliminate waste which otherwise would be many times multiplied. When the parts of a house have been properly standardized, every feature will have been so designed and adjusted as to call for the use of stock sizes of materials, without cutting or waste. The sashes, for instance, will be arranged to receive panes of glass of commerical sizes, walls will be spaced to permit of the use of standard lengths of lumber, and so on. To do this will result not only in saving materials but time also, which, in these days of high wages, is quite as important.
The standardizing, if properly done, will be applied to every detail of the building no matter how small, and on every one something should be saved. All these little economies, which though they may seem trifling when considered separately, will amount to a great deal in the aggregate. Moreover, this careful study of the parts saves trouble in erection, and in many ways expedites, simplifies, and improves the work.