Buddhist Temple Jinko-In, Nara, Japan
Buddhist Temple Jinko-In, Nara, Japan

When you drive by the BUILDER Chōwa Concept Home project outside Las Vegas, you can’t help but be struck by how the modern Japanese design aesthetic sets it apart from other beautiful homes in the neighborhood. But it’s the project leaders’ embrace of the ancient Japanese philosophy of chōwa - “the spirit of partnership and life balance” - that will make this house the first of its kind anywhere in the country.

Japan's largest home building company, Sekisui House, its U.S. subsidiary Woodside Homes, and BUILDER, are collaborating on the project located in the Howard Hughes Corp.’s master planned community of Summerlin. They have set three goals to address the wants and needs of today’s American home buyers, and each one is more lofty than the last:

  1. Complete construction in time for the scheduled unveiling in early January 2020. Considering that they broke ground in May 2019, that’s an aggressive timeline--about half as long as a house of this size typically requires.
  2. Kick-start a new era of research and development (R&D) across the entire U.S. home building industry. Innovation has been stalled for far too long. As a result, builders must rely on many of the same designs, materials, and methods that have been around for 50+ years.
  3. Improve society: Convince U.S. builders to embrace the chōwa philosophy in order to create more health and wellness-focused environments, strengthen communities and protect the environment.

All three goals point to the desire Sekisui House, Woodside Homes and BUILDER share to help U.S. builders overcome the growing challenge of meeting the wants and needs of home buyers, particularly those who belong to Generation X, who have supplanted their parents as the nation’s largest home buying segment.

Gen X'ers are in their 40’s and early 50’s--their prime money-earning years, raising children, and are looking for their dream homes. They may be all grown up, but they’ve retained the characteristics that have long defined their generation (and had their parents frustrated during their teenage years). They place a premium on achieving a sense of independence, are eager to embrace new technologies, and want flexible work and home environments.

They also care about societal issues that simply were not on the collective radar screens of Boomers and the Greatest Generation. And the wide range of technologies they want integrated into their homes did not even exist when their parents went house hunting.

Hey Alexa… Siri… Google… are you there?
When Baby Boomers were looking for new homes 30+ years ago, they certainly weren’t thinking about how to incorporate A.I.-powered technologies to help them lead healthier lifestyles, safeguard their privacy, make their homes resilient to the consequences of climate change, protect the environment, and automate the operation of everything from the HVAC system to the kitchen appliances, lighting systems, window treatments, home entertainment components and garage doors.

Today, research shows these are table stakes for Gen X home buyers.

In August 2019, the Farnsworth Group surveyed Americans ages 40 to 55 who had recently purchased a home or were shopping for one. Their top purchase drivers include:

  • Promoting health and wellness: Respondents strongly agreed with statements that home-based health monitoring technologies will enable them to live in their houses as they age, and save money by reducing the number of doctor’s office visits.
  • Environmental sustainability: Builders should adhere to good sustainability practices during all phases of construction, and the home should achieve net zero energy consumption, meaning it produces as much renewable energy as it draws off the power grid.
  • Security: Nearly two-thirds of respondents cited home and away-from-home security systems as the most important piece of smart home technology for protecting their families and guarding their privacy.
  • Flexibility: Gen X'ers are raising their children and inviting their parents or other elderly relatives to move in with them. And unlike their grandparents, they plan to spend their Golden Years at home, not move to retirement communities. Their houses must adapt to their significant life milestones.

Uncharted territory for builders and buyers
It’s impossible to overstate how different this collection of demands and expectations that Gen X'ers have for their new homes is from those of previous generations. For builders, the key takeaway manages to be both simple and daunting: the majority of Farnsworth survey respondents insist that their new houses are “nimble, adaptable for life changes in the future, so it could be my forever home.”

Fortunately, the BUILDER Chōwa Concept Home will provide a template for U.S. builders to refer to during the design, materials selection and construction phases of their new home projects.

I don’t usually dive too deeply into the building phases of a new home. But in this case, I want to show you how the materials and construction methods that cater to modern home buyers' wish lists are unlike anything U.S. builders have ever used before.

First I’ll give you the technical details, and then translate into “home buyer-ease” to explain why they are likely relevant to you.

  • Builder-speak: Introducing the SHAWOOD system: Construction is on schedule to meet the January deadline, and that’s thanks in large part to Sekisui House’s proprietary SHAWOOD metal joint framework that allows for a simpler, faster building process. It’s a unique system that enables builders to create a home that is much stronger and more resilient to punishing forces of Mother Nature compared to the traditional American stick frame structure.
  • Why that matters to you: Considering the fact they broke ground in May 2019, a January deadline is aggressive and that’s about half as long as a house of this size typically requires. And yet, the build quality far exceeds what is possible to achieve using traditional methods and materials.
  • Builder-speak: Square to within 5 millimeter accuracy: Looking at the most important part of any home - the foundation - the precision Sekisui House and Woodside Homes have achieved is remarkable. It’s “square to within 5 millimeter’s accuracy from the northwest corner of the foundation to the southeast corner, the entire 128-foot breadth and 66-foot depth of the home.”
  • Why that matters to you: I know, I know -- language like “square to within 5 millimeter accuracy” might not feel like it matters. But this level of precision ensures consistent quality in build after build that is durable, comfortable and sustainable over the long-term. Additionally, it ensures an air-tight structure that is just as important a factor as the insulation materials to achieving net-zero energy consumption.
  • Builder-speak: Materials selection emphasizes resiliency and sustainability: The foundation, framing and insulation feature various materials, including a proprietary siding made of fire-resistant porcelain, developed and manufactured by Sekisui House at its massive R&D center in Japan and customized to prevent construction waste.
  • Why that matters to you: the home is not only significantly more resistant to earthquakes, floods, severe storms and fires than traditional stick frame homes, it’s more durable and requires much less maintenance over the long-term.

An early open house
In the weeks leading up to the January unveiling, I will give you insider information on the exterior and interior of the 5,400-square foot house. You’ll see how the enormous picture windows on all sides welcome in natural light, and provide striking views of the Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon.

Inside, the balance between beauty and high tech is incredible. The many highlights include the seamless integration of GE Monogram appliances into the cabinetry that provides sleek, uninterrupted lines throughout the entire kitchen. The bathrooms and kitchen feature Kohler’s voice-activated sink faucets and shower heads. Delos’ DARWIN Home Wellness Intelligence platform is the brains for a network of sensor technologies that create spaces to help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, increase performance and enhance overall well-being.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and you can follow this link to register to take a virtual or in-person tour to see the interior up close for yourself.