Being the guiding light through the process of integrating the right products and making the design fit certification standards may be the most important and most difficult task an architect has when it comes to designing sustainable buildings.
As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and this is no truer than when a structure like the KB Home ProjeKt strives for net zero energy and the highest rating level from various sustainable certification organizations. It’s not just the insulation or the housewrap or the mechanical system, it’s how they all work together to create a home that delivers the results that have the least impact on the environment and the pocketbook.
Charles Eames, who, along with his wife, Ray, created some of our most iconic designs, once said, “The details are not the details. They make the design,” and this absolutely applies to sustainable and certifiable construction. Using 2x6 studs at 24 inches on-center instead of 2x4s at 16 inches on-center actually uses less lumber. It also allows the insulation to be R19 instead of R11.
When you combine that with other energy-saving wall finishes and use glazing that reduces heat gain and heat loss, you are able to reduce the size of the forced air unit, or whatever system is being used. Therefore, it requires less energy to condition the space and reduces lifecycle costs and the demand on the energy grid—a true win-win situation. As Eames was pointing out, these are not just details, they are the design.
There is also great new technology for monitoring and controlling the functions of a home, but as Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk observed, “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.” Just because a computer scientist can invent a device that is a whole-house-systems manager, if the homeowner has to use a manual to be able to program and operate it, it’s useless. The KB Home ProjeKt incorporates user-friendly technology. The Gorilla Glass TV, which is also a computer monitor and a grease board, is an example of amazing technology that's easy for anyone to use.
Keeping the cost under control is also important, especially in production housing. You don’t want the home to be wearing a “belt and suspenders.” When it comes to the walls, the roof, and the floor design, adding more stuff reaches a point of diminishing returns and may not make it any more energy efficient or sustainable. It’s critical for the team to model the design.
To quote Charles Eames once more, “Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.” In the case of the KB Home Projekt, the purpose is to provide a guiding light to move sustainable home building forward.