The KB Home ProjeKt 2.0, which will be unveiled later this month near Las Vegas, encompasses more than just the usual bells and whistles found in a state-of-the-art show home. Game-changing ideas from the model in the Inspirada development in Henderson, Nev., spill outside into the shared front and back yard spaces, including an infinity spa, elevated yoga deck, green wall, vegetable garden, and fire pit lounge area.
As envisioned by Chandler, Ariz.–based landscape architect Andy Baron, these elements were designed to generate neighborly social interaction, something that’s sorely lacking in many U.S. communities. “Maybe every Saturday evening at 7 p.m., you and the neighbors meet at the fire pit lounge for a glass of wine to decompress from the week,” says Baron, partner of landscape architecture firm AndersonBaron. “These kinds of socially focused designs are what bring people together.”
He cites the need to increase human connections by quoting myriad sources, including an AARP study that found that more than 40% of American adults of all ages suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation. The ProjeKt’s builder and architect, KB Home and KTGY Architecture + Planning, are interested in the concept of connected communities for many reasons. “We wanted to challenge ourselves with ‘where tomorrow lives,’” says Jacob Atalla, KB Home’s vice president of sustainability, referencing the tagline for the show home. “The issue of improving connection was attractive to me even though we’re better connected than ever.”
The Big Picture
Incorporating areas for interaction into the landscape around a single-family dwelling is not a new idea, but Baron worked with KB Home to expand the notion on a community-wide scale. The team’s concept community envisions a twist on the importance of these connections: The gathering space is designed to meet the needs of a neighborhood that utilizes car sharing, the play area is common green space, and the dining area encourages the farm-to-table idea with community gardens.
“First, you start by creating purposeful locations of community spaces that provoke social interactions,” Baron explains. “Second, we’ve designed trail corridors that connect the community spaces together where residents are encouraged to walk, bike, and run. Then we intertwine these elements and features with engaging outdoor activities that provide social and physical interaction.”
The conceptual community blends elements of new urbanism and smart growth, such as a walkable lifestyle and reduced reliance on cars. Visitors to the ProjeKt home will be treated to a virtual reality tour of the team’s vision, which imagines the subdivision with fewer cars, garages, and roads.
The 40-acre concept community, as compared with a typical 40-acre community, includes four times as much open space, 30% more homesites, and 41% fewer roads (see site plans below).
“Since we are planning the community of the future, autonomous vehicles and membership programs for automobiles are in effect. No longer is there a need to store cars in a garage,” Baron says, noting that the plan does include garages for some homes, along with communal garages for shared vehicles. “Reducing roadways allows for some of that space to be used in the community for its benefit and programming.”
This de-emphasis on the garage envisions homes where the front door can be seen from most of the common spaces. This visual connection allows neighbors to see and greet each other as they enter and leave their homes. “We are planning for functional and flexible space that can be adapted for a number of uses,” Baron says. “At the very least, we want to hit the necessary requirements for good green space including shade and seating so the spaces will be used.”
Imagining a cutting-edge community full of shared amenities eventually comes down to whether homeowners will pay extra for things like fire pits and park space. When KB Home kicked off the project, it already had a goal set for costing things out. “We worked with AndersonBaron and KTGY and gave them parameters for what they wanted to design. We wanted more green space, pocket neighborhood style, but at no additional cost,” says Atalla. The goal was achieved by swapping out underused front yards and garages for more community amenities, and fewer cars that would require less expenditures for roads.
“Our message to the industry is that this can be done without adding to the price of homes,” says Atalla. “The reduction in infrastructure pays for some of the community amenities and the additional amount of units will provide more revenue so you don’t have to increase the price of each home.”
Selling the Vision
The virtual reality tour will be the first step in selling builders—and the home-buying public—on new notions of how successful communities are designed and built. Connected communities are a different concept that will take some time for public acceptance, Baron says. “A certain amount of risk will be perceived with this idea since it’s not been proved on a larger scale within the marketplace,” he says. “Those builders and developers that have taken some of these ideas and at least planned on how to adapt to the forthcoming shift in thinking will be ahead of the game.”