Building trade unions and the industrialization of housing
Stebbins, Kenneth Ruben
Master of Architecture
The soaring cost of construction of housing that has occurred over the last ten years has made it virtually impossible for many families to buy adequate housing. There are four basic contributing factors to the cost of housing: 1) land prices, 2) labor costs, 3) financing charges, and 4) the cost of materials. The subject of this thesis deals with perhaps the most controversial cost contributor: labor costs. This thesis is an analysis of the effects of organized construction labor on the development of the industry, labor's effect on the final cost of the product, and labor's production performance within each of the technological levels of construction (i.e., conventional, prefabricated, industrialized). The study is broken down into three parts. The first part is a background on building trade unions. A short history of the labor movement, a description of the organizational structure, and labor policies are discussed. The second part deals with labor's role in the building industry. It describes conventional construction, prefabricated construction, and totally industrialized construction both in the United States and Europe. Each method is analyzed in depth with emphasis being placed upon cost breakdowns and levels of production. The third and concluding part discusses labor's position in the future of housing, and how it will have to adapt to changes within the industry as more automated and industrialized methods of construction are introduced in an attempt to effectively lower costs and successfully solve the housing crisis. Finally, the roles of the Federal Government and the architectural profession are discussed as additional ways of reducing labor costs in housing construction.