The countdown is on. California residential building code, fondly known as Title 24, requiring that new homes meet net zero energy standards by no later than 2020 has put designers, engineers, architects, developers, and builders into fast-forward planning mode, aiming to get out ahead of the new code.

Imagine, making zero net energy pencil now, even as the challenges on land cost base and labor capacity give many home builders plenty of headaches already, not to mention underlying economic riddles and uncertainties. For higher volume home builders with 24- to 36-month horizons on communities they're bringing online now and in the next 12 months, the 2020 Title 24 challenge is a scramble.

Too, the countdown to the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Los Angeles is just over five weeks, and we're stoked to be part of a program that will hopefully give the residential development and building community some flashes of new insight into how to get out from under the pressure of impending new building code requirements, and kindle a lot of excitement among potential home buyers to boot.

Future of housing
KB Home ProjeKt, as designed and rendered by KTGY Architects

Our initiative--with KB Home, KTGY Architects--is called the KB Home ProjeKt, a sneak-preview of attainable sustainability, with not one, but two future time horizons within its cross-hairs. Here's a quick look at a rendering of a project you'll have to see to believe on the show floor at Greenbuild. This groundbreaking modular home offers a look into the future of practical high-performance design, and for those who are fretting about how to get to net zero energy by 2020, there are several hard-core teachable moments, both in the envelope and the systems of the home.

Here are some of the goals we partners outlined for ourselves as we put together the plan for the project:

  • Focus on energy, water, durability and health advances in design, engineering, livability, and scale
  • Focus on the cost- and barriers to entry …. Traveling the learning curve to implementation on a volume basis
  • Focus on unusual levels of collaboration between product manufacturers, materials suppliers, utilities and builder in the project development stream
  • Focus on new longer-lasting, cheaper battery storage
  • Focus on how builders can jumpstart sustainability operational transformation by thinking differently about thinking differently
  • Focus on the role of cartridges and componentization as a way to push system upgrades, adaptive ability, and consciousness in the home.
  • Make the project a learning, consumer focus-group center, interactive training area for builders to explore adapting their own processes to go sustainable

We got to spend some time this week at a low-slung two-acre sized massive indoor fabrication center south of Los Angeles in Cypress, Calif., Premier Displays, which is bringing the ProjeKt to life as we speak, and allowing KB to dip its toe into a future world that might well involve factory-centric, off-site construction for at least some major components of home and community development.

Here's a shot of a landmark in the construction cycle that we hit just yesterday, showing three heroes in the endeavor (left to right), Dan Bridleman, senior vp of sustainability, technology and strategic sourcing, Allan First, Premier Displays' project engineer, and Jacob Atalla, vp of sustainability at KB.

To hit yesterday's photo deadlines, the team had to pull an all-nighter shift on Monday and scramble right through noon for the project's "close-up moment" for our print deadlines.

"This is what we do," Dan Bridleman says. "We've got great partners in this project."

The countdown is on, and we're excited to share it all with you in our big reveal on October 5, in Los Angeles at Greenbuild. Be there.