Shipping containers helped reduce shipping costs by 50 to 90% by eliminating most of the work that was required to load and unload cargo from ships, trains, and trucks. But even after this technology was first proven to be effective, it took over a decade before it was clearly on the way to dominating the industry.

A similar concept is at work with modular construction, where walls and even entire structures are produced in a factory and are then placed on the construction site. The messy and time consuming alternative is to build and assemble everything locally, which is labor-intensive and harder to speed up. For now, modular construction hasn’t yet made a dent in building costs or times, but perhaps we are in a similar decade of uncertainty.