Assessment of U.S. manufactured system-built wooden homes as an affordable housing alternative for low-income households in developing countries


  • Gaurav Kakkar Virginia Tech
  • Henry Quesada Virginia Tech
  • Robert Smith Virginia Tech


Exports, System Built wood construction, Panelized housing, Social Housing, Internationalization


A considerable portion of the developing world is living in substandard houses. Developed countries like United States have substantially improved the residential construction sector by engineering new materials and developing efficient systems. Composite materials, factory built prefabricated houses, advanced production methods, better designs and access to abundant resources makes the U.S. a world leader in wood construction industry.

This research is focused on characterizing housing market for bottom-of-the pyramid buyers in developing parts of Latin America to give them an affordable yet sustainable alternative to traditional systems. This study attempts to link capacity of the system-built wood construction sector in the U.S. to urban low income housing markets in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Case studies and surveys were used to assess key aspects of housing deficits. Findings indicate developing products for social housing programs can provide access to potential untapped markets. There is an opportunity to develop economic, sustainable hybrid housing solutions for low income households. Existing policies and trade relations would support this development. Current awareness and perception about wood construction is very limited in the region. Lack of existing wood construction in markets indicates a possibility of resistance to acceptance but also assures no local competition. This research contributes to opening of new markets for exports of prefabricated wooden buildings in other housing sectors. The same approach can be extended to improve U.S. exports of value-added wood products to Latin America.


Author Biographies

Gaurav Kakkar, Virginia Tech

MS student

Henry Quesada, Virginia Tech

Associate Professor

Robert Smith, Virginia Tech

Professor and Department Head


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