If you think about it, this whole "sharing economy" business is nuzzling up to housing in some mighty curious, and potentially unnerving ways.
Airbnb is bigger than Marriott?
But if we preoccupy ourselves only with the business valuation implications of that mind-boggling sound bite, we'd miss entirely the meaning of that sentence, and its upstream, downstream, and all-around stream ramifications for housing's new-home builders and developers.
Airbnb has not disrupted the hospitality industry and its business model alone, although it's done a pretty handy job at that. It goes deeper, for its phenomenal, fully-formed birth, reveals a willingness, or perhaps even a need among Airbnb hosts to become stakeholders, participants, partners, and local managers in the business model.
In a fell swoop, disruption comes not just to the structural assumptions, dynamics, and value propositions of hospitality's entrenched power-base, but the seismic implications spread to the very notion of who and where value gets produced, when the need is a place to stay for the night. That implies that what gets upended in successful sharing-economy business models, ranging from Ebay to Amazon to Uber to Twitter, is our understanding of value-exchange ... and that includes homes.
We're excited and fascinated these days with how it's new combinations--in discipline, proficiency, resources, and talent--that seem to be emerging as powerful market change agents. Under it all, forces that cause these combinations include, of course, invested capital, which is a big driver of combinations we know of as mergers and acquisitions, but also clear recognition that finite resources having to do with talent are in a profound state of flux, and, at least a sense that time-tested models must combine with newly conceived ideas to regain purchase on future viability.
Like falling dominos, industry after industry awakens in a harsh light. Their respective market-maker players face a challenge that business framing never prepared them for ... the question of "what business are we in anyway?"
Home builders have been faced with having to ask that question for some time. Are we manufacturers--general contractor companies who produce vertical structures that lend value to lots? Or are we real estate investment companies who plunk down capital on land and nurture myriad variables--time, regulation, capital, labor, marketing, land planning, and such--into upside returns for stakeholders?
Like it or not, that's not where the most basic questions stop for home builders. For people, people as homeowners, and taxpayers, and lawmakers, and worker-bees, and community advocates, and bill-payers, and web searchers, and likers, Pinners, Tweeters, etc., people want to participate in our businesses as they never have before.
Lying beneath the tired orthodoxy of questions like "rent or own?" "city or suburb?" "large home or small home?" "Millennials vs. Boomers?" are matters speeding toward a reckoning, even as those superficial skirmishes play out in national media headlines. These new material issues have to do with elegant and profound combinations--spacetime and value, if you will--that give residents a part not only in making their homes what they are, but making themselves a partner in a home's economic place in a value-chain.
All of us, whether we're an employer, a home builder selling homes, a company hiring workers, a team-mate, a vendor partner, an investor, or a board member, are learning--either gracefully or the hard way--to do two things differently these days. One, is to wake up and recognize that our ability to thrive in the sharing economy means taking stock of our limitations, our need for other partners to complete a value equation and profit from it. Two, is to phrase the words, truthfully and convincingly, "how can I be of value to you today?"
This, at its base, is a big motivator of the team involved in the Responsive Home project. Each of the principle partners, Bobby Berk as design director, TRI Pointe Group/Pardee Homes as builder, AndersonBaron planning and landscape architects, BUILDER and its sponsor partners, Bassenian Lagoni as project architects, and Ketchum has a vision, a business interest, a resource base, and a proficiency that, when it's all working best, gets to shine and, at the same time, subsume itself in a collective power.
Together, we're creating the Responsive Home.
What is a Responsive Home, you ask?
We're asking ourselves, and our partners, and our potential home buying audiences the same question. We know it's a learning process. What if a home could be designed and engineered to learn from its homeowners as it goes? What if homeowners' needs to personalize, to co-create, to participate in the "user experience" that is a home could take form and function in its architecture, in its surroundings, in its financial proposition, in the way it creates value over time?
We don't believe we'll get past the tired questions and begin to answer the more material ones about new homes and what they need to respond to unless we admit, in the first place, that we don't have all the answers. We need other brilliant, committed people to go on this quest with us, and we need to say to them, "What does the Responsive Home mean to you? ... and Will you help us build it?"
Here are some cool responses to the question. We're on our way.