A Sekisui House model in Japan.
A Sekisui House model in Japan.
  • Technology’s exponential rate of change is dizzying.
  • People’s stress and anxiety levels are high, and rising fast.
  • ‘Slow and Smart’ introduces new balances to the home living experience, enabled by design and building technologies that deliver on the promise that homes provide sanctuary and a safe place to prosper.

Stress and anxiety. Call them “soft” factors in business if you will. Still, their toll on productivity and cost-of-doing business racks up a hefty macroeconomic price tag of $300 billion annually by some measures, in the form of absenteeism, medical insurance and legal claims, turnover, and low employee engagement.

That’s in the U.S. alone.

Globally, wellness, due in large part to just how stressed out we all are, has exploded to a $4.2 trillion industry. Stress can and does harm us, physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Anxiety, specifically stemming from new vulnerabilities and threats set into play by new technologies, data breaches, cybercrime, and social risk, stalks us through our work lives, in our day to day travels in the outside world, and can follow us right through the doorway into our homes.

This Harvard Business Review analysis speaks to some of challenges around stress and anxiety in our homes and neighborhoods:

“American adults now spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media—sometimes longer. That’s more time than we spend eating and sleeping. From YouTube videos to viral tweets, we are ingesting a huge volume of media, and it has consequences.

“Out of this cloud of mood-altering material emerges a new set of health challenges. One in five Americans has a mental health condition. Tens of millions suffer from mild to moderate anxiety and other mood disorders. But current research doesn’t yet support a clear and causal link. More work is required to understand the complex relationship between media diets and depression–mood disorders are not a new phenomenon, even if suicide rates appear to be increasing. The technologies fueling our media consumption are outpacing the rate of scientific inquiry, making real or verifiable effects hard to understand and perhaps harder study appropriately.”

Fact is, technology has been changing people’s access to solutions for pain points and friction in their lives exponentially; in turn, people have been changing their demands, use, and expectations of technology to the same exponential degree. Solutions are part of technology and data’s story right now; so are new, unforeseen and unintended problems, some of them consequential.

Digital turbulence is not the only source of harmful stress and worry levels either. Natural and man-made hazards—storms, tornadoes, floods, wildfire, earthquakes, etc.--occur with redoubled frequency and destructive impact, adding to anxiety people feel about the world around them.

Stresses, after all, can be to the heart, the mind, the body—or all three.

Safety, security, privacy, the ability to disconnect from an ever-more-intensely frenzied work-a-day world to fully experience sanctuary, peace-of-mind, well-being, and the opportunity to flourish and prosper and enjoy living—Cocooning 2.0, if you will—are tracking among home buyers as non-negotiable traits that people seek as they pursue the home of their dreams.

People want an “inner sanctum,” protecting inhabitants not just physically, but their hearts and minds as well.

Sekisui House tagline: Slow & Smart, speaks to the feeling the company believes people want to experience in their homes.
Sekisui House tagline: Slow & Smart, speaks to the feeling the company believes people want to experience in their homes.

This is where Sekisui House’s “Slow and Smart,” core philosophical principle, and a promise of the brand comes into full play in its house and community design, engineering, planning, construction, and development initiatives. Innovation, materials science, structural durability, eco-friendliness, and optimal performance, all of Sekisui House’s investments and commitments in these areas focus on giving buyer or renter customers an experience of comfort and flourishing.

At the core of Slow and Smart are two seamlessly inter-operable building technologies—in both the home enclosure and its systems—that allow people who live in a Sekisui House home to exit the frenzied turmoil of the outside world, and arrive each time into a home that is calm, serene, connected with nature, and quiet. Home, in other words, is respite from the rush, the crush of stimuli from everywhere, the immediacy and bombardment of demands, and the blur of time that races, and--through its structure and the pulse of systems that power it—a home gives people time back.

Sekisui House single-family model, Japan
Sekisui House single-family model, Japan

Slow and Smart is about buildings whose basic performance and functionality, and whose ability to generate new sources of value and meaning for people who yearn for time, to refresh, to heal, to be free of noise, to revel and dream in their own private world of home are woven together into the building’s shell and all of the mostly invisible software that runs the house and into designs that intentionally bond inhabitants with their natural setting.

In Chōwa, the house Sekisui House and Woodside Homes have partnered with BUILDER to serve as a learning and discovery lab for American home building improvement, the theme Slow and Smart imbues the architecture and design, the structural technologies, and the operational systems that power and support the home.

Let’s take a look at the Slow and Smart brand pillars, six of which focus on improving basic housing features with advanced technology, and five of which create entirely new value metrics for people who live in the homes, drawing from innovation in engineering, design, IoT, and performance. In each case, we’ll tie the technology back to how the Chōwa home and discovery initiative bring each of these 11 premises to life, in a balance most American home builders have up to now never achieved.

Foundationally, Slow and Smart starts with a suite of benefits to home buyers that “improve basic housing features with advanced technology.” Chōwa’s building science and engineering, its customer-centric design process, and its materials, energy, and water management draw on nearly six decades of pioneering exclusive innovations Sekisui House has introduced to home and community development and construction, first in Japan, and then in China, Australia, and other markets.

The promise that undergirds each of these six benefits is that a home buyer and resident can feel assurance that the durability, functionality, aesthetics, and sustainable performance of the home—as a product—are crafted to operate and endure at the highest industry standard level. Here they are:

  1. Customer-specific design flexibility and original construction methods. Chōwa's design and finishes reflect intentional focus on both personalization and replicability, envisioning a persona-driven consumer story that aligns with specific customer segment needs.
  2. Earthquake-proof technology to protect families. Chōwa’s proprietary foundation and framing structural engineering elevate the home’s resilience level to unprecedented standards here in North America.
  3. Original exterior walls that are both attractive and strong. Chōwa’s Bellburn cladding balances beauty, self-cleaning durability, fire-resistance, and thermal and vapor value that add to the overall performance of the home.
  4. Eco-Friendly conservation technology: Chōwa’s building envelope, heating and cooling systems management, water conservation solutions, and solar roofing tiles add up to net zero energy and carbon-positive profiles.
  5. Technology to optimize indoor air environments for better health. Chōwa avails of two air monitoring and filtering systems, to address and solve for both room air comfort, alerting to above-par particulate matter levels, exhausting out volatile organic compounds and particulates in exchange for outdoor air, and filtering the indoor air environment on a scheduled basis.
  6. Technology to maintain high quality: Chōwa’s precision-crafted external and internal shear wall and post-and-beam construction, set atop Sekisui House’s seismically-tested exclusive stem-wall and foundation system provide a platform for enduring, worry-free performance.

These six “pillars” speak to the engineering and design innovations Sekisui House builds into its new homes as baseline product attributes intended to instill confidence, comfort, and peace-of-mind in its customers. Still, Sekisui House believes that to truly live up to delivering its customers the best possible experience in its homes, it must do more.

The following five pillars address often unspoken needs of customers—ones that go beyond their minds to their emotions and sense of well-being. Sekisui House’s corporate and brand mission for kaizen, or continuous improvement, involves designs, technologies, solutions, and an experience-level offering that aims at delighting its home buying customers, the ones who’ll live in these homes. Here are the five pillars that elevate the value chain itself by leveraging advanced technology in design, construction, livability, adaptability, and connectivity with nature.

  • Green first: offering an energy-free design. Chōwa’s net zero carbon envelope, solar, and systems add up to a new standard opportunity for production housing.
  • Personal style: respecting personal tastes and preferences. Starting with simplicity, Chowa’s floor-plan, flow, and structural breadth—all under a signature single roof—allow for a range of personalization and customization options for live, work, eat, play, and sleep variety.
  • Family Structure: catering to the needs of diverse family structures. Chōwa’s approach—a central open space with optionality of living areas around it—creates both real-time optionality for visitors and guests, and nimbleness over time for longer-term multigenerational, care-giver, or revenue-unit household members.
  • Smart Universal Design: Promoting the “lifelong housing” concept for comfortable living over the long term. Chōwa’s design showcases living-in-place design in its internal structures, the widths of doorways and hallways and bathroom areas, and in its floorplan that includes a first-floor suite.
  • Slow Living: Ensuring pleasant lifestyles in harmony with nature. Chōwa’s decking, porches, balconies, and outdoor living areas bring the outdoors into the home through temple-like panoramic glass doors that lend both a “clearview” and an intimate connection to the home’s setting, overlooking the Las Vegas Valley on one side of the home, and the Red Rock Mountain ridges on the other.

Sekisui House has internalized its business mission around bringing its customers—owners and renters—an experience of happiness. Stress and anxiety, which are on the rise in our society, take away from people’s ability to enjoy comfort, and serenity, and free themselves of worries about safety, security, privacy. Slow and Smart blends physical, design, and service innovations to give people a sense of respite and reprieve the minute they enter their Sekisui House home.