New homes are being built every day with new technologies and new initiatives to cut down on waste and promote environmentalism. Connected Design spoke with Dan Bridleman, senior vice president of sustainability, technology, and strategic sourcing at KB Home, one of the nation’s largest home builders, to find out what’s next for this market.
Are consumers showing more interest in sustainable homes?
Today, homebuyers are much more concerned about sustainability, and their needs and desires go beyond just stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops. The demand for energy-efficient homes that are also healthy and water efficient continues to rise. There are several reasons for this trend, including the fact that these homes help lower utility bills, significantly reduce the cost of ownership and are designed to be healthier, more comfortable and better for the environment.
According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) the number of single-family builders reporting at least 61 percent of their projects as “green” rose from 31 percent in 2015 to an expected 44 percent in 2022. Real estate agents surveyed by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) earlier this year reported that more than half of their clients were interested in sustainability. One-third said they had helped a client buy or sell a property with green features in the past year. Sixty-nine percent said energy efficiency promotion in listings was very or somewhat valuable.
What are homebuilders doing to cut down on waste?
Reducing waste and finding innovative ways to conserve resources help to minimize KB Home’s impact on the environment, lower our homebuilding costs and contribute to our goal to keep our homes affordable for our primary first-time homebuyer base. In 2020, when supply chains were disrupted and stay-at-home orders made traditional ways of doing business more challenging, resource conservation practices such as paperless homebuying and panelization also provided additional benefits by making it easier to serve customers and build homes.
What technology is being implemented in homes to make them more eco-friendly?
Many eco-friendly technologies are included standard in all KB homes. For example, KB Home includes a high-efficiency heating and cooling system designed to provide better comfort in every room throughout every season and smartphone-controllable ecobee3 lite thermostats, which can learn homeowner patterns and help them save money on electric bills.
As far as popular technology upgrades, customers are selecting Moen touchless faucets as well as voice-activated light switches and Whirlpool smart appliances that further help reduce the spread of germs. In select markets, customers can also choose to add the new HALO-LED whole-home air purification system, which is designed to treat every cubic inch of air-conditioned space and reduce airborne and surface contaminants, pollutants and germs. These products have been very popular.
Do you think technology adds value to new homes?
Many of the sustainability technologies we include in our homes have the added benefit of offering our homeowners more comfort and personal efficiency, along with cutting-edge and user friendly smart home interfaces. Energy- and water-efficient homes are more affordable to operate than typical new or resale homes, making sustainability a compelling competitive advantage.
Additionally, we no longer question whether technology will add value to a home’s sale price. Instead, we strive to understand how these technologies can evolve to meet the needs of homebuyers. We see many homebuilders refining the fundamentals of smart home technology to make it more accessible to homebuyers and a standard for all homes.
What types of technology are eco-conscious consumers looking for?
Each of our customers has the opportunity to visit the KB Home Design Studio, a retail-like showroom that offers a one-of-a-kind experience to get both expert advice and the opportunity to select from a wide range of design choices to personalize their new home. At the Design Studio, buyers can explore a variety of design options, from flooring and countertops to cabinetry, lighting and appliances, plus energy- and water-efficient products, healthy home features and smart-home tech.
Many of our consumers are looking for solar power, water-conserving technologies and energy-saving smart technology. Popular technology upgrades include Moen touchless faucets as well as voice-activated light switches and Whirlpool smart appliances that further help reduce the spread of germs. In select markets, customers can also choose to add the new HALO-LED™ whole-home air purification system, which is designed to treat every cubic inch of air-conditioned space and reduce airborne and surface contaminants, pollutants and germs. These products have been very popular.
Where do you think sustainable building — and the applicable technology — are going next?
Even before the current pandemic, we had identified “healthy home” as the next frontier in sustainable homebuilding and an area where we could once again bring our production expertise and economies of scale to bear and make our homes healthier without increasing their cost. We know that improved indoor air quality matters more than ever to our homebuyers, and we are committed to offering the latest advancements in healthier home living.
The pandemic has certainly changed many facets of the homebuying experience as well. In recent years, we have begun a long-term digital transformation designed to reduce our resource consumption and provide our homebuyers with the convenience of virtual homebuying tools and an increasingly paperless homebuying process.
In 2020, these tools helped us to continue to build and deliver homes while protecting our homebuyers and employees. We enhanced our existing tools, allowing customers to shop for a new home from their mobile device or personal computer. We were named Best Virtual Tour by the Greater Orlando Builders Association, which noted that “with the pandemic, this has become a necessity.”