As we count down to the release of BUILDER’s lists of the top 200 builders in the country, the BUILDER 100 and the Next 100, we’re examining all facets of the home building industry—how they’ve changed over the past year and how building professionals can expect their business to develop in the future.

This year, we asked builders to pinpoint what they believed were the most important “areas of innovation in home building”. Big data and analytics, or the process of leveraging consumer data to determine patterns, trends, and preferences to make more informed business decisions, was the number one response from builders, with 39.5% touting it as the most innovative area.

“Today’s technologies provide homebuyers with more opportunities than ever to connect with us,” said a representative from David Weekley Homes. “Using big data to analyze and understand their journeys will allow us to make informed decisions on how to create and deliver the best homebuying experience.”

Builders cited robotics and automation next (19.76%), followed by super materials (17.96%), and artificial intelligence and virtual reality applications (10.78%). Approximately 12% of respondents in the survey wrote in their own answers, highlighting other aspects such as smart home technology, value engineering, and energy efficiency as key points.

Hiring talented and crucial team members also proved to be something that builders were focusing heavily on. When we asked participants about their most important hires in 2017, an overwhelming 47% pointed to their sales team, and 26% felt land acquisition specialists added significant value to their operations.

"Our land entitlement planner is involved from the onset when we are determining lot sizes and site configurations as it relates to sewer, water and storm drain—which are each significant costs. The cities, counties and state department are getting more difficult to process plans through which is requiring a more dynamic individual in order to navigate the system", said Rich Munkvold, CFO at Frontier Enterprises.

"The ability of the individual to be able to understand the cost/benefit relationship of each of these items and navigate through all of the departments as quickly as possible is paramount to the success of the company. Speed is a very critical component as the cost of land is a burden until it is able to be monetized," he continued.

Data engineers (4%), and building technology specialists (11%) were also popular fields that builders invested in, 9% of respondents wrote-in that they focused on growing other departments of their staff such as company culture and customer service.

This story appears as it was originally printed on our sister site BUILDERonline.com.