The Six Construction Industries

"The construction industry is like a great big gray glob. Just when you think you have your arms around it, it squeezes out somewhere else."
My mentor, Harold Simpson, PE, was fond of saying this. His point was that every building product marketing strategy has to begin by segmenting the industry so you know where to aim.

For example, John Eberhard says what we typically call the building "industry" should really be thought of as the building "industries," and describes six different industries or segments:

1. HOUSING INDUSTRY: Converts raw land, usually purchased on a speculative basis, into dwelling units that can be sold or rented.

2. MANUFACTURED BUILDING INDUSTRY: Manufactures off-site units that can be anywhere from whole units to sub-assemblies which can be transported to the site.

3. COMMERCIAL DEVELOPERS: Buys raw land and converts it into buildings other than housing, without having a client in advance.

4. "THE BUILDING INDUSTRY": All the institutions and actors that builds a building for a specific client. The client determines the requirements, usually purchases the land, then selects the designers and builders through bidding or another process.

5. THE REMODELING INDUSTRY: Characterized, in many cases, as work done with short-term financing. While Eberhard does not go into detail on this sector, remodeling can be further subdivided into residential and non-residential, DIY, and maintenance services.

6. HEAVY CONSTRUCTION: Highways, dams, railroads, utilities, etc.

Eberhard was Executive Director of Advisory Board on the Built Environment at the National Academy of Sciences. He describes these industries in Chapter 11 of Technology and the Future of the US Construction Industry, Congress of the United States Office of Technology Assessment, 1986.  I highly recommend this short essay. It is available on Google Books and as a PDF download.