In the wake of the midterms, focus on Americans' dynamic of pain points and solutions resumes. Healthcare, and who will pay for it looms large as a pain point. Housing, and who's working on innovative design, engineering, and construction that plays a role in people's health outcomes, will be at least a big part of the solution.
Let's look at this in perspective, and then support bold but informed speculation that homes that actively and passively serve their inhabitants' health and well-being will be a norm by 2030.
Green building started as a fringe movement in residential design and construction more than 30 years ago. Now, sustainability--with standards of net zero energy use and low, low HERS scores--is what most new home buyers consider to be an included feature.
Houses whose security, lighting, room air comfort, doorbells, shades, garage doors, and other normal routines and systems tie to a smart phone app were once a luxury only the wealthy or the technically-gifted could enjoy, a fringe "nice-to-have." Now, more and more builders don't dare bring new homes to the market that don't include a smart home package of these offerings as standard issue.
Within the past five years or so, expectations among consumers who buy a new home have risen, a lot. Between code and the spiral of consumer activism, the bar of expectations keeps going up. Architects, builders, and building materials and products makers have each and together risen to meet those elevated expectations. Sustainable, smart homes are no longer a rarity. They're becoming a norm, and the cost to have one and to design one and to build one is no longer in the realm of luxury--it's mainstream.
Next up and coming fast, we believe, consumers are going to start expecting home builders to be part of their efforts and initiatives to live healthier and drive down their costs of medical care. Why? Well, health care is one of every households top three expenditure items, and, increasingly, people regard their home as either part of the problem with their health and well-being, or part of the solution.
- Fact: Americans incur $1.5 trillion in health care service expenses a year, a per capita cost of $5,531 annually for those with medical issues; they fork over an average $686 out of pocket on these costs, and even as the expenses go up, pressure on this out-of-pocket amount rises as coverages and co-pays and deductibles all shift.
- Fact: The share of household expenditures going to healthcare spending has been going up disproportionately with increases in consumer spending as a whole for the past decade, and now hovers at just below 8% of annual household spending.
- Fact: Our research, featured in our new white paper, "Defining Health and Well-Being At Home," indicates that more than one of five new home buyers spends between $500 and $5,000 on discretionary health and well-being products and services.
- Fact: Our research, which Farnsworth fielded this past Summer, also shows that overwhelmingly--two out of three--new home buyers associate healthy home features and functionality with the ability to drive their health and medical costs down.
- Fact: As we speak, Google parent company Alphabet is convening its best and brightest in-house experts and a pantheon of outside specialists in health to strategize on how to bring health tech home in a big way. Amazon and Apple are equally fanatically focused on investments in health hardware, software, data, and self-care.
Again, download the new white paper "Defining Health and Well-Being At Home," here, for evidence on the convergence of health tech investments, consumer trends, and home construction, design, engineering and technology. The analysis addresses "the why" behind the need for builders to get ahead of the curve on healthy home design and development.
Our KB Home ProjeKt -- addressing "the how" to build a healthy home at scale -- offers a glimpse into the future. Here, above, you are getting your first glimpse of the proud accomplishment of the KB Home team and its partners. Thing is, the horizon of that future is not far off, and it's not being driven by government, or agencies, or code, or tech companies. The force is people, people who face fear, and pain, and anxiety over this issue of their own, and their family's, and their extended circle of friends', and the next generation's health and well-being.
One of the earliest forms of building regulation and code came almost 4,000 years ago, from a Babylonian king, Hammurabi, who wrote that a builder of a home that failed, collapsed, and killed an inhabitant should pay with his or her life. That's pretty strict. And in a sense, that sentiment carries forward in the consumer marketplace. People hold builders accountable for their homes' ability to durably provide well-being and a place to prosper. If they don't, they fail.
People today are conscious of what a "healthy home" means and why it matters to them. They tell us, in our research, it means "having more energy," "feeling better rested," "reaching a better weight," "being in a happier state of mind." Etc.
Increasingly, people recognize, want to know more about, and insist on homes whose building materials, submaterials, and sub-sub-materials are healthy; that they've been built with both the safety of workers, and their own safety by design; that they're free of dangerous off-gases and particulates and water contaminants that can get them sick; that they're able to participate actively by chose and by metric in their own health and medical care programs; that they're living in a home environment where they feel they're prospering, having fun, resting, and feeling secure as part of the promise of shelter.
It makes sense that our homes tie directly to these desires, and benefits, and now, growing expectations, and the question for home builders of all stripes is how quickly they can move to address this burgeoning need as a new market opportunity. We imagine, in a very near future, a five star ratings system for home buyers, who'll score and rank builders according to how well they deliver on the promise of providing healthier home features and functionality.
What's extraordinary about the KB ProjeKt initiative is that it reaches out into the future of this trend, and, by working masterfully with manufacturer suppliers, building technology experts, materials scientists, and the most advanced sensor-based interactive systems, it has developed an attainably-priced home that harmonizes sustainability, smart home technology, and active and passive health systems within its four walls.
The investment by KB and its team of partners was in the belief that they can and must raise consumers' expectations as to how homes work with their health and medical care goals and values, and be right there to meet them at attainable price levels.