Many people think of Henry Ford as the inventor of the automobile—which he certainly was not. Most authorities attribute that particular feat to Karl Benz, who did so in 1885/86. What really made Ford famous was his creation of the assembly line, a system of mass producing automobiles in stages, each phase of work performed separately from the other, until a fully assembled automobile emerged at the end of the process. This occurred in 1913 (although the original Model T was first built in 1908), and cut the manufacturing time required to produce a car from twelve hours to two hours, thirty minutes.
But the use of the assembly line method has not been relegated solely to the manufacture of automobiles. It’s now in general use to make virtually every product we consume: TVs, furniture, appliances, windows, doors, etc. And that brings me to my new townhouse. It, too, was manufactured (or assembled) in nearly the same fashion. Unlike a conventional, “stick-built” home that is built individually, one stage at a time, my new Lennar townhouse was “manufactured,” much like a Model T.
In late April, we moved into a townhouse community called Lennar at the Greens in Indian Land, South Carolina, just outside Charlotte, North Carolina (we are just over five miles from the city limits). Our home is just one of 198 planned units that are being manufactured in groupings of five townhouses at a time. Currently, there are approximately 50 units either completed, or in various stages of completion.
Henry Ford would be proud of the way in which his ideas have been put to use. On any given day, dozens of fully laden cement mixers will roll into our community, one after the other, unloading their contents into wooden forms erected five at a time during a previous day’s work. Other times, dozens of trucks will stream in to disburse countless sheets of plywood, or lumber, or sheetrock. And, while all of this is going on, still other crews of engineers, surveyors, and workers are busy laying out another five or more townhouses on newly bulldozed land, its red clay bearing spray painted directions and numbers that only those who are so trained can fully comprehend.
Before the dust has even settled, other crews of men will unload huge flatbed trucks laden with sod, and, right before our eyes, the clay will “become” grass. Then, still another group of trucks will arrive with dozens of crepe myrtle saplings, and, presto-change-o, they are inserted into the ground, where they stand like miniature sentries guarding garages and homes alike.
“It’s amazing!” is what my wife and I continually shout, as we watch the whole process unfold. We stare transfixed, with eyes open wide, through our bedroom window, while workers scurry across the landscape, like worker bees in a hive. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve seen skyscrapers erected before, most notably the ill-fated twin towers in New York City, but I’ve never seen anything quite like what I am watching on a daily basis. All the infrastructure—water pipes, drain pipes, gas lines, electrical lines, even cable TV fiber optical cables—was previously buried in place, with the capped ends sticking out, above ground, like macabre cemetery markers in a barren field.
Each morning, when I go for my two-mile walk, I marvel at the progress of the development of my community. Walking together, Becky and I guess where we think the future location of the pool will be, and speculate as to which version of the townhouses will be built where, and in what order (there are six different versions). Anyway, the whole community should be completed within the next 12 to 18 months, at which point we will once more utter those now tired words: “It’s amazing!”
I can’t wait for the pool to open next summer. That’s when I will truly feel at home.