Sustainability is increasingly about what we can provide homebuyers in terms of increased quality of life in addition to what they can save in money and energy. Homebuyers today want to be able to operate their homes from wherever they are and not just have them respond to their needs, but actually anticipate them, while also saving energy, water and money. We believe the future of sustainability will be largely driven by innovations in technology that create a seamless flow between greater convenience and greater efficiency.
Technology features that integrate personal and resource efficiency are at the core of today’s “connected home.” In a fast-paced world of shifting technology and the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, we see our role as being practical curators, selecting “best-in-breed” products that offer long-term personal value and then featuring them at our KB Home Design Studios.
We collaborate with our homebuyers to determine their individual technology needs as part of our Built to Order™ approach. For some, that may mean a top-of-the-line, full-spectrum technology suite. For others, it may be about simplicity and flexibility for the long term. Our buyers tend to focus on technology capability that is built into the home and would be expensive and inconvenient to do after construction is complete, rather than IoT devices that are easier to add on later and may shift more quickly with changes in technology trends.
We have been early adopters of select smart-home ecosystems that allow homeowners to connect and control their environment whether at home or away. We were the first national homebuilder to make Apple® HomeKit™ smart-home solutions available to homebuyers, featuring it at one of our KB Home communities in Northern California, and one of just three U.S. builders to be chosen by Apple to showcase this new product as they innovated and grew this new segment. The simple and secure Apple interface allows homeowners to manage HomeKit-integrated home automation products in one place and set custom preferences like “Leaving Home,” which can turn off lights, lock doors and lower the thermostat. We have also featured other leading ecosystems and are continuing to explore options in this area, gathering insights from homebuyers to shape future product offerings and implementation strategies. We view ourselves as “connected home curators,” as CNET called us in a 2017 article, “An Apple Smart Home, Made to Order.”
As technology continues to evolve, we are continuously piloting new products, including smart appliances, before offering them to our buyers. We were early adopters of the first generation of Whirlpool® smart appliances, showcasing them in our model homes and introducing them to customers. The latest generation of smart appliances brings together energy efficiency with customer convenience and tools that promote health and wellness. In late 2017, we began introducing new smart appliances from Whirlpool, which we are currently rolling out company wide. These appliances offer exceptional efficiency and support a more relaxing quality of life, with Scan-to-Cook technology and the ability to control select smart appliances with simple voice commands through a Google Home or Amazon Alexa smart voice assistant.
Many of our technology features work in the background to passively enhance energy efficiency and water performance. Since 2010, we have been conducting limited pilots of energy storage systems, including showcasing a Tesla Powerwall energy storage system in our 2016 KB ProjeKt® concept home of the future. Designed to store electricity generated in excess of the home’s needs for later use, the Powerwall is a state-of-the-art product from one of the nation’s leading energy innovators. In 2017, we continued to work with Tesla to learn more about Powerwall with the goal of offering the Powerwall II as an option at select Southern California locations this year to give homebuyers an opportunity to store energy for use when there is a disruption to the grid or when rates are high.