SmithGroupJJR is a show home veteran. The architecture, engineering, and planning firm has been involved in multiple Greenbuild show homes because of its expertise in sustainable practices, including this year's Greenbuild KB Home ProjeKt. SmithGroupJJR assigned associate Brandon Guzman to serve as the project adviser.
“We are learning a lot from each other,” Guzman says of the various parties involved in the project—namely the builder, KB Home, and the sponsoring manufacturers. “SmithGroupJJR doesn’t typically do residential work or single-family. We are known national experts in sustainability involved with USGBC. That is one of our core values in our business, and we brought that expertise to the project, balanced with KB Home’s talented designers who obviously have the single-family experience.”
Guzman was challenged by a completely different set of vendors and learning their product lines, especially since they don’t carry the same certification labels. One of his key learning moments was that KB Home wasn’t leveraging buying power like other partners in his typical industrial work.
Guzman advises builders to use the influence that they have with vendors to shift them to a more green product, or toward the codes that need to be met, or even to a better manufacturing process. He sees that the focus in single-family has been in energy use and consumption, which is good, but it could be complemented with these greener products and practices.
“Home buyers spend a lot of time in their homes, so not only can and should a builder leverage their buying power with the manufacturers, but they should leverage their treatment of it to the consumers,” Guzman says. “Consumers want greener, better homes. There should be a bigger focus on that.”
SmithGroupJJR works closely with Cradle to Cradle product certification, so the firm was able to extend its knowledge of those products into this project. There is a focus on flexibility in the home that offers advantages for aging in place and general wellness. Thanks to a movable wall and some thoughtful modular furniture, the main living space in the home can change from a large entertainment area to an office space or a guest bedroom. The project also features cartridge-based designs. In the living area, there is a large window opening where a second bedroom cartridge can be added if it's ever needed. The bathroom and kitchen also are cartridges and can be tailored to buyers' needs.
Other notable amenities in the home include two locations to grow herbs and vegetables, a grow wall in the kitchen and another space outside the home by the deck; a color changing LED ceiling in the master bedroom to promote wellness that can be customized to different settings depending on the user and the time of day; and natural stone flooring in the shower that offers a passive reflexology foot massage.
“As with the greener products, KB Home also is moving the industry forward to think about adopting these technologies,” Guzman states. “Through this project and their day-to-day practices, they have the capability to push the industry in a very positive direction.”
Guzman also points out that many parts of the home may be considered a luxury or an amenity that is only affordable to a few. But he forecasts that technology will make them more affordable and available to almost everyone.
“Working with KB Home, you can see that they are trying very hard to make a substantial change in the housing industry,” Guzman said. “The willingness and openness of everyone to learn from each other and value each other’s expertise has been a very rewarding experience. I live in a house, but that certainly doesn’t make me a housing expert. I have learned a lot about the construction of single-family homes during this project.”