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Showtime for KB Home ProjeKt


October 5, 2016

Higher performance and greater attainability: a roadmap to 2020 NZE and beyond.

When the lights go up and the doors open at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in Los Angeles today, a hive of sustainability-focused architects, engineers, builders, tradesmen and women, and a host of consultants are in for a surprise at booth 2843.

Call it an open-source 1,790 square foot learning-in-progress venture, it’s exactly not what one might expect to experience at a conference that has been challenged to narrow a gaping focus and attention gap between the few forward-leaning messengers and missionaries who have seen the future and know it’s not pretty and those who reside in a present ruled by stakeholders whose future consists of the next quarterly earnings report.

So, the KB Home ProjeKt came about, bridging that gap, and, we hope, stimulating a new stream of productive dialogue between sustainability’s vanguard and the host of organizations trying to transform not just their product lines’s design and engineering, but the very architecture of their business models–how they bring goods and services to the market, how they build value, and how they create trust and regard among their consumers.

If nothing else, KB Home–and its partners, KTGY Group, Virginia Tech, and BUILDER–set out to create an idea home that aims to tap into the applied brilliance, the fervor, and the vision of sustainability’s ground breakers, even as it marks a line in the sand about where and how one of the nation’s largest home building organizations can stretch its development and construction processes forward into a more energy-efficient, water-conserving, healthier, more nimble, more connected, and more mindful future.

KB Home may be an anomaly on the show floor at Greenbuild, but its strategic investment in and coalescence around leadership in developing sustainable homes at attainable price points for its core target of home buyers, is noteworthy.

So, this moment of unveiling this morning is an investment by its partners in several beliefs that should spark conversation, learning, and experimentation among other home builders, residential architects, and developers.

The physical design and featuring of the home as both a learning and teaching tool focuses on both visible and intangible value propositions, not the least of which is that its architecture aims to excite, to quicken the pulse of people who’re looking for their next home. Inside and out, classic contemporary palette, material mix, massing, and detailing all strike a cognitive balance aiming to both stand apart and to stand in the mind as comfortable, cool space to live.

What may not be self-evident is that KB Home’s exploration of design and construction methodologies, models, and processes reflects a set of relatively new strategic impetuses.

Modularity, for instance.

KB Home ProjeKt is one of a number of ways classic site-builder organizations have begun experimenting with hybrids of the site-built, factory-fabricated model. Are we going to see big home builders adopt new construction platforms that introduce modular and hybrid modular construction components into their site-built comfort zones?

That thinking becomes ever more compelling as established builders begin to understand how to de-couple a home’s envelope from its systems.

For innovations that yield both higher performance and greater attainability relating to energy, water use, health and well-being, connectivity or conscious interfacing with a home, builders like KB discover through the KB Home ProjeKt process two areas of learning that might not have arisen had we never launched into the project.

One is the kind of conversations builders and manufacturers must have, and the timing of those conversations. If the intent in developing the building envelope is durability and higher performance around phase change materials that capture, store, and time-release energies, as well as super materials that self-heal, repel microbial incursion, and create greater room comfort, then, we learned, conversations with companies like Owens Corning need to dramatically shift their timelines from a transaction focus to a collaboration focus.

Understanding what companies like Owens Corning, Dupont, Carrier, Sherwin Williams, Kohler, Whirpool, Sierra Pacific, Emser, Savant, Lutron, Square D by Schneider, Tesla, Uponor, Rinnai, and others have in their research and development pipeline, and possibly even sparking investment in new manufacturing strategies, must hit an entirely new and more transparent level for builders to be able to integrate the materials, the systems, and the performance in the most holistically effective and efficient ways.

The other is that for the many of us for whom total-cost-of-ownership is a fact of our financial lives and a benchmark for how we decide where we will live, the business case for hybridized site-built and offsite-fabricated component-ization, with the kinds of integrated software and mechanicals-centric cartridges that Virginia Tech’s Joe Wheeler has been demonstrating for the industry suggest at least a partial re-mapping of construction cycles of the future.

At BUILDER and Hanley Wood, we’re grateful that KB Home stepped up at this year’s Greenbuild to be the rather odd-duck in the room. The KB Home ProjeKt is truly a projection forward of how large organizations, with absolute regard for shareholders and stakeholders, devote themselves toward investing in, learning, experimenting, and innovating to keep themselves relevant as providers of an exclusive set of values to home buying customers.

We’re looking forward to seeing you there. If you can’t make it, though, here’s a way to get a look at a virtual tour inside the ProjeKt.