Attendees at the upcoming PCBC conference will get a peek into the future of home building courtesy of keynote speaker John Ellis. A former executive with Ford Motor Co. and Motorola, Ellis is the managing director of Ellis & Associates, a management consulting firm that serves clients in the automotive, consumer, connectivity and software fields.

At PCBC—held this year in San Francisco June 22 and 23--Ellis will address new technologies that are poised to influence the building industry including IoT, 3D printing and scanning, nanotechnology, and more. Here, BUILDER talks with Ellis about his vision for the future.

John Ellis
John Ellis

Technology is exploding these days, faster than builders can keep up. What top five technologies should they pay attention to?
The top five technologies for builders below might seem a strange list since some of these technologies are not specifically related to home building. That said, they are important for builders to follow and understand. Here’s why:
--3D Printing. This technology has made significant leaps and bounds in the last few years. The first 3D commercially viable 3D printed car was debuted in November, 2015 at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and is now available for purchase. In the first quarter 2016 the Oak Ridge National Laboratories showcased the first viable, fully 3D printed home suitable for every-day living. 3D printing will continue to improve and soon it will be possible for anyone to print just about anything. In the some not too distant future, I fully expect to see every house have a 3D printing room which will be used to print everyday objects like plates, cups, towels etc.
--Wireless Power. Imagine a world without cords or outlets. Where devices of all shapes and sizes are able to operate continuously, and as needed, have their batteries charged. This is the future of wireless power. And the future is much closer than people realize. One company promises commercial viable product before 2020. If that happens, this will have a profound impact on how homes of the future are built.
--Nano-particle Paint. This new technology is poised to revolutionize the world. Exceptionally hardened surfaces, self-cleaning surfaces, and dynamic-color changing surfaces are just a few examples of what is possible with nano-particle paint. We can imagine future homes that are never dirty, resistance to mold, mildew and other such destructive forces and can change colors at the whim of the owner.
--Autonomous cars. While not directly related to the materials for home builders, autonomous cars are set to change the home building experience for ever. The narrative goes as follows: As autonomous cars permeate the market, people will become more accustomed to the vehicle as a utility rather than a thing to own. Over time, the idea of personal ownership will be replaced with on-demand services. When that happens, there will be no need for garages, driveways and maybe even streets. A future home in a world that is fully autonomous will be dramatically different than today’s homes.
--Drones. Yet another technology that is not directly related to home building but will have profound impact on the home of the future. We are moving quickly to a place where individual ownership of drones will be commonplace. Imagine sending your drone to the local Target or Costco to be loaded with goods that you purchased from an online website and the drone returning to your home. The future home likely will have a drone-pad similar to a helipad today.

How will IoT affect the way people live in homes over the next few years?
One of the biggest issues with IoT and homes of the future will be the concept of privacy. As we barrel ahead to connect anything and everything, we are quickly arriving at a point where all our devices in the house are connected, and even monitoring what we say to help provide additional conveniences. In the future, it may in fact be likely that homeowners will be required to post signage indicating to all that pass through the door that any and all of their conversations may be recorded and used in the future. That by entering the home, the person agrees to there not being privacy.

How far off are 3D printed houses in the U.S.?
As I indicated in my previous answer, 3D printed housing structures are possible today. So it would not surprise me that we could have 3D printed housing within the next 10-15 years. The natural place for this to first start is the pre-fabricated home industry. They already have adopted the idea of building the pieces in one location ensuring quality and price controls and then assembling elsewhere. This is a perfect place to use 3D printing of housing materials.

Our readers often look to the design and technological innovations of the automotive industry. What can builders learn from the way cars are built and designed?
One of the biggest changes in the auto industry is the introduction of 3D printing. Once fully commercialized, it has the potential to fundamentally change the entire supply chain and logistics. No longer do we need to expend significant energy and cost to bring together thousands of parts from hundreds of companies. So too in the home building industry. When 3D printing is fully commercialized, home building will be changed forever.

What will a home building construction site look like in 2025?
Home building in 2025 will likely include a lot more “technicians” focused on tuning the wireless power, or calibrating the nano-particle paint. In terms of tools, there will definitely be 3D printers used to create parts in real-time. I would also suspect there will be a lot of computer equipment likely in a trailer that is used to manage the building, configure the different instruments, sensors and products and to functionally test and verify the house is doing what it supposed to do.