skip to Main Content
Where Is Elon  Musk? – Cars Vs Buildings

Where is Elon Musk? – Cars Vs Buildings

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 144).

I got some interesting love & hate feed back on my “Site House Keeping is a KPI” piece ( ). 

So to double down on the theme, my question this week is, “where is Elon Musk?”

There are no commissioning or validation engineers for cars and lap tops, why is that? Because they work! Because they are designed and built as integrated items with responsibility from the manufacturer for outcome and performance. 

Yes, cars are mass produced in controlled environments with lots of standardization and repetition. However IMHO, building design and construction can also implement controlled environments on site and use off site pre-fab, standardized details and manage logistics way better than the usual chaos, the low bid contractor brings. To summarize:

  • Since the Second World War, cars have fallen in cost relative to inflation and quality has increased exponentially. 
  • Since the Second World War building costs have risen at least with inflation and to be kind, I would say quality has flat lined. 
  • Car manufacturers respond to user feed back and there is a very competitive international market.
  • Buildings respond to first costs only and the market is not really competitive as all markets are local and there are very low consequences for poor outcomes. There are no building “Lemmon laws” or consumers call backs.
  • The car industry spends money on R&D the construction industry hardly at all. Ask Skanska, Turner Cons’t, PCL or Ellis Don how much they spend on R&D. 
  • The defence the building industry uses is that each building is unique, true. However each building contains materials and process that are the same in every building. How many toilets and light installations are unique? This is a story and excuse. 

The difference between buildings Vs cars are:

  • Cars are consumables and buildings are generational items. I would argue that residential buildings are not an investment but a consumable. However, that is a subject for another day. 
  • Buildings are more influenced by governments, politics and special interests whereas cars are more directly influenced by competition, consumer demand and feedback. Ask the US car industry why they find it hard to compete with German and Japanese cars. 

In contrast to the car industry, the construction industry optimizes and rewards the lowest levels of:

  • Quality
  • Competence 
  • Cost

Who pays the price? 

  • Public
  • Government
  • Environment

So that would be all of us!

Fresh thinking and perspectives are required. However, the property industry is not perceived as exciting and sucks for any young enthusiastic graduate wanting to make a difference. 

My justification for this sweeping statement? All my daughters engineering friends at university, men and women, want to work for Elon Musk and have zero interest in the property industry. They see it as a stodgy, unexciting place, lacking innovation.

This has to change, the building design and construction industry needs an Elon Musk!

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related Posts:

#105 – Bad Projects? No, Only Bad Leadership ( )

#129 – Design & Build? Nope ( )

Edifice Complex Podcast


Podcast on YouTube:

Podcast on Facebook:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top