Around the year 500 B.C., the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, "Nothing endures but change." Over the centuries his wisdom has proven correct time and again-except, for the most part, in the field of custom home building. True, new developments have taken place in materials science, mechanical systems, and building products, but generally speaking, the way a custom home comes together hasn't changed much in the past 100 years.
The home building industry has always moved very, very slowly," says timber-frame guru Tedd Benson of Bensonwood Homes in Walpole, N.H., who for years has been calling on his fellow builders to evolve more quickly. "Historically, it moved even more slowly. It was the same for about a thousand years, and then there were many changes at the end of the 19th century and in the first part of the 20th century-mostly concerning the integration of various mechanical systems." Custom builders tend to be skeptical of anything new, and with good reason: Plenty of unproven products and techniques have bombed over the years, leaving unhappy homeowners in their wake. "The skepticism is justifiable," says John Connell, an architect and builder in Warren, Vt. "Builders learn what they know through a slow process of doing it. If they make a mistake, they lose a lot of money."