When discussing the proposed virtues of the panel technology for construction efforts, the same question always surfaces: If this technology has been around for 35 years and is so beneficial, why is it not more widely deployed? There are two answers to this.
First, the technology is and has been fairly widely deployed. It is just not often the method of choice for major developers or construction companies and some countries such as the United States are reluctant to change their timber-centric construction methods. Yet thousands of buildings have been built with this technology in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, and its virtues are well known in these parts of the world. But the panel technology pioneers failed in one important way – they never succeeded in marketing this technology on a scale that would gain wider awareness and acceptance. For the most part, the early proponents of the technology were seeking to control a niche of the construction market and were unwilling to share their technology, partner with others or seek relationships beyond their limited contracts. The result is that while a few thousand buildings have been erected with PPG's type of panels, hundreds of thousands of other buildings were built with traditional construction methods.
Second, the world has changed in the last 35 years. The response to natural disasters is very different now than it was even a decade ago. Perhaps due to improved communications, the Internet, or just a change in our world view, governments and NGOs now rush off to affected areas of the world, bringing support, relief and in many cases plans for new housing. Travel to a country like Sri Lanka a year after the 2004 tsunami and you would have witnessed dozens of organizations testing and touting what they felt was the latest in new housing technology – prefab buildings, trailer homes, concrete molded homes, straw and mud. As entire towns and cities had to be rebuilt, the opportunity opened up to showcase new construction methods, introduce new building materials and challenge local traditions. But most significantly, what one often sees in the aftermath of a disaster is a new commitment combined with new resources to rebuild not just the affected areas, but the entire country – the roads, the hotels, the resort, town, cities, factories.
Money is now available on an unprecedented scale to modernize and rejuvenate these developing countries. The result is that these developing countries are beginning to build under new jurisdictions – banks which are loaning the money want to see buildings constructed faster, with stronger materials and greater abilities to withstand the next disaster. Expatriates want homes to equal or exceed what they have come to know in more developed countries. Resorts and tourist facilities need to compete with other quality attractions around the world. Developers are not willing to work with traditional construction methods if it means longer construction times and inferior buildings.