It is said that balloon framing populated the west of North America; Without it, western boomtowns certainly could not have blossomed overnight. 'Although lumber was plentiful in 19th century America, skilled labor was not. The advent of cheap machine-made nails, along with water-powered sawmills, made balloon framing highly attractive, because it did not require highly-skilled carpenters, as did the dovetail joints, mortises and tenons required by post-and-beam construction. For the first time, any farmer could build his own buildings without a time-consuming learning curve.' (wikipedia) Almost every house in North America is still built using its successor platform framing, relying still on nails, 2x4's and marginally skilled labour. No wonder our houses can't hold in heat and rot before our eyes. In Germany, they do things differently. Kevin Mcloud writes in the Sunday Times about the new Invasion of Britain by German prefab housebuilders. "What these firms offer is something they have been doing in Germany for decades: off site-fabricated (prefab) homes with a high degree of customisation; gobsmacking construction standards; brilliant performance; and clever design solutions." Huf Haus uses post and beam construction: "Super-engineered from Nasa-grade laminated timber, Hufs get constructed in one week on site. The firm has had an office behind enemy lines in the UK for eight years now, and in that time has built 107 highly bespoke (designed to order) homes — and its sales are growing exponentially; what Huf delivers now sets the engineering standard for UK housebuilders for the next decade."
Competitor "WeberHaus is turning its sights on the volume housing market. It has more than 100 housing types in its pattern book, but it has also been working with British architects to introduce semi-bespoke, off-site-built social housing. And not just any old architects. Ken Shuttleworth, former partner of Lord Foster, runs Make, which together with WeberHaus and William Verry designed an extraordinary S-shaped social housing scheme for John Prescott’s £60,000 house competition."
In North America, we do not worship design or engineering; we worship price. That is why, like in Britain, "we can choose between two identical Beano Homes’ Georgian Noddy houses. We may be waking up to the ideas of choice and quality, value for money and affordability, but the Germans were there first, exploring new ground and then building on it. We’re not the adventurers in the housing market. We’re the also-rans." ::Times Online