Vernon Law said, “experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, and the lesson afterward.”
The BUILDER Concept Home project acts as a learning laboratory to address building challenges and issues in new and different ways, testing the partners involved. The le from the project also are shared across the industry so that everyone gets to benefit from the platform. So, when they get the test, it’s easier.
The BUILDER KB Home ProjeKt, Where Tomorrow Lives, debuts next week in Las Vegas, cracking the code on smart, healthy living at a more affordable price. Arriving at a product that accomplished these different goals was no easy task, yet, through intensive collaboration and focus, ProjeKt came to life, with a variety of lessons learned.
Here, Paul Tourbaf, president of the residential group at Hanley Wood, addresses the idea lab concept in this short video.
I also spoke with the builder, the architect and the landscape architect about what they learned and the lessons that they could pass on to you.
Jacob Atalla, vice president of sustainability at KB Home, shared his observation that “collaboration is the new innovation.” He emphasized that the success of ProjeKt was a result of deep collaboration; and that the key to envisioning the future is to involve a wide spectrum of parties and perspectives. The more input, the more solid the foundation for innovation and prediction.
“It takes a village to look into trends and invent the future, along with collaboration across multiple disciplines, within and outside our industry,” Atalla said.
Atalla’s second lesson learned was the importance of a strategic integration plan for the smart home technology. Integration is a huge part of making an intelligent home work, he explained. It’s the last step in the process, but one of the most important, given the complexity of systems involved. Integration is essential in providing the customer with a friendly smart home and seamless experience.
Manny Gonzalez, principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning, and the architect on the ProjeKt, says that you just can’t be everything to everyone, which boils down to creating a consistent narrative to share with potential buyers. Again, this starts with the design thinking after a target consumer is identified, goes into product sourcing, then into marketing and sales. For example, if a home is targeted to a 55-plus buyer, there should be grab bars installed around the walk in shower, and the bath should have a deck for a seated transfer.
Gonzalez’s next lesson learned was the need for education.
“We really need to educated the governing jurisdictions about what tomorrow's home can be,” Gonzalez said. “Governing bodies are always talking about the need for more affordable housing and simply having a code that allows for a second kitchen could easily provide that for this home.”
The ProjeKt proposed an upstairs suite that could be rented out to make the home more affordable. However, building code didn’t allow for a second kitchen range upstairs, limiting the ability of the space to work as a fully functional home.
I also heard from Andy Baron, partner at AndersonBaron, the landscape architecture firm selected for the ProjeKt. He discovered some clarifying moments working on creating the virtual community, an extension of the ProjeKt home. In that process, he discovered how much building a virtual version can help envision the design and avoid issues in the future. The team was looking for higher density with the community design, which worked in a different way on paper than in its virtual counterpart. After seeing the virtual design, the team had to rethink it to offer a bit more space in between homes because what was on paper was too tight, a revelation that when done up front could save plenty of time and money during construction.
Baron also pointed out that the ProjeKt envisions a future community without garages, however, it is now reconsidering. A majority of Americans use the garage as the main entry to the home and have a secondary purpose for the garage beyond parking a car – from storage to offices or man caves. The author of the book Garage, Olivia Erlanger, coined a new term called “garageification,” that explains the garage as being unrelated to the central purpose of the home and having a life of its own. So, the lesson is, how homes can keep the function of the garage without the garage.
Baron’s next lesson was process oriented. In looking for strong innovation or 'ideation' on a project, he has found it tremendously effective to have designers involved.
“Sometimes we don’t use designers to their fullest potential,” Baron said. “The client has to be willing to open their minds and have the various disciplines in the room together and being willing to listen to a new perspective.”
In past projects, Baron has seen the most innovative ideas come from having the architect and interior designer in a room for a day, making sure that they aren’t silo’ed and have full access to all parts of the process. And, he says, this goes beyond just architects and interior designers, those aha moments usually come from someone who isn’t normally involved in the conversation.