Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is known for his philosophy that sustainability can't be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or even a philanthropic cause; it had to be a design challenge, he felt. Ingels said, “It's not about what we give up to be sustainable, it's about what we get.” To this day, architects, designers, builders—and the home building industry as a whole—wrestle with this challenge.

The KB Home ProjeKt, which will be unveiled at the Greenbuild Expo in Los Angeles this October, will demonstrate how some of the industry’s most talented design professionals feel that challenge can be met. While most sustainable demonstration homes utilize today’s technology and practices, this home goes beyond that, looking to what the next decade of sustainable design might look like. From rethinking the way exterior walls are constructed to the introduction of building "cartridges" to rethinking residential package delivery to the future of home automation and cradle to cradle design, every aspect of the design has sustainability at its heart.

Jim Van Meer Greenbuild KB Home ProjeKt Collaboration meeting

The marriage of design and sustainability is a linear process. Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Architects can use all the recycled materials and photovoltaics they want, but if the floor plan isn’t functional then the design doesn’t work. With ProjeKt, the design team began with a compact, efficient floor plan and then provided an overlay of flexible elements and moving parts. So unlike conventionally designed homes, ProjeKt can adapt to a resident’s many needs, be it a second bedroom, an in-home office, or a larger living room for entertaining, and does so dynamically.

With the floor plan in place, the next step is designing the envelope of the home. This is where the marriage really begins. With the unseen elements such as the insulation and housewrap, it’s all about sustainability and cost. But when it comes to the visible skin, this is a true union of design and sustainability. The architect’s selection must be performance based while also creating the desired aesthetic and curb appeal that defines good design.

The next phase finds the architect guiding the interior designer and landscape architect through their designs and selection of materials and products. As with any successful marriage, the parties involved don’t need to just get along, they need to make each other better and, in turn, make the design better. Similar to the selection of the exterior skin, the flooring, decking, appliances, and paint palette all need to balance appearance and purpose. It’s all part of what it takes to marry design and sustainability.

True to Jobs’ description of design, the KB Home ProjeKt will not only show what sustainable design looks and feels like, but it also will demonstrate how the architect can make the marriage of design and sustainability work.