Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” No saying could be more appropriate when it comes to the KB Home ProjeKt for the 2016 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. Just reading this blog and other articles may be something you remember for a while, but actually being involved in a project like this is a fantastic learning experience.

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Even before the design team met for the first time, the learning experience had already begun. Everyone involved—the builder, product partners, architect, interior designer, and Hanley Wood, BUILDER's parent company—were all creatively envisioning what this project could be. At our initial meeting, we spent the day listening to each person’s vision and the energy was contagious. Later, when the Virginia Tech team made its presentation on the use of cartridges, everyone knew this home was going to be different. Not only was it going to demonstrate today’s green building technology, but it also was going to lead the way to a new type of sustainable home building.

The first big learning experience came from understanding how the size of the home could be reduced by utilizing moving cartridges. As Sarah Susanka has been preaching since she published her first book 18 years ago, The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live, "Build about one-third less square footage than you planned for, but build it at a slightly higher dollar cost per square foot, in order to get the character and quality of the space you want.” A movable cartridge divides the living room from the secondary bedroom in the KB Home ProjeKt, allowing the living space to expand for entertaining or the bedroom to serve as a home office.

By designing a living room that is sized for daily use and not needing to add a separate room to house a home office, the KB Home ProjeKt is able to substantially reduce its footprint. This in turn reduced the amount of conditioned space. When you couple that with a more efficient envelope and mechanical system, the result is a net-zero energy home that meets all the spatial needs of its residents.

Incorporating products from partners like Whirlpool and Kohler into their own cartridges—constructed in a manufacturing method rather than being site-built—the home is able to provide sustainable, closed plumbing systems, which offers better quality control and more efficiency. There are other elements in the home that allude to the way we might live in the future with green herb walls, package delivery systems, and no garages, but the biggest takeaway from the project is that we can build homes in a more sustainable way with better construction quality and control.

To quote Mr. Franklin once more, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” The growth and progress demonstrated in the KB Home ProjeKt successfully shows how we can improve home building and provide a learning experience for the whole industry.