This spring, the Xpera team was pleased to join many of our clients, colleagues and friends at the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) at Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Coined the “Re-Think Conference,” PCBC brought together many insightful panels focused on the future of housing, with a strong emphasis on smart homes and emerging trends.
Below are a few notable highlights from the conference:
KB Home “ProjeKt” Lessons
One panel covered challenges encountered and lessons learned while creating KB Home ProjeKt, a smart home concept unveiled at CES 2019. Some of these insights included:
- Industry collaboration is critically important to create common smart home tech standards. Homeowners do not want to deal with buying appliances that will only work with an “Apple switch vs. Google switch.” They want devices and apps that just work.
- Smart homes have a major design challenge: providing enough data bandwidth to serve technology that will be invented decades after the home is built.
- While garages won’t necessarily go away, the utility of a garage-like room will still be desired even if car ownership diminishes in the future.
The Future of (Smart) Homes
KB Home’s panel wasn’t the only one to focus on smart homes. Here are a few takeaways from some of the others:
- In the aeronautics industry, every plane has a “digital twin” that tracks its parts, system maintenance and service life information. It is expected that Building Information Modeling (BIM) will reach that point and become standard in all new buildings.
- A number of panelists expect consumers will need less storage for bric-a-brac items, as more things will live digitally instead.
- Smart home security was lightly touched upon. Some panelists mentioned that while nearly all enterprise software today lists security as a primary need, a home connected to the internet still brings inherent risks. (See our article on West Coast Casualty 2019 for more on this subject.)
- The issue of privacy in smart homes was also discussed. While no one presented concrete ways to achieve this, some panelists speculated that laws would be developed to provide consumer ownership of data as well as smart home software compliance requirements.
Lessons from NASA
In one session, Alexander Menzies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shared his experience using Augmented Reality in the space industry. Unlike Earth-bound construction, they can’t go back and fix things — they are often millions of kilometers away. Thus, systems and components are in a constant cycle of build-test-revise until enough people deem it ready to launch.
NASA has found that using Augmented Reality helps to reduce the number of design iterations and saves both time and effort. Being able to see the 3D parts at scale with existing objects allows technicians to more quickly figure out the constructibility of components and systems. Menzies says this is what made Augmented Reality more useful than Virtual Reality.
You can see other cool technologies JPL is working on in the Mars mission on their OPSLAB site.
Factory Housing Insights
One of the most popular sessions at PCBC was presented by Factory OS, a company focused on constructing the vast majority of a building off-site. When their stackable modules are delivered and placed on site, there is a nearly completed structure with a roof but without exterior skin.
The company boasts that they reached an impressive 30% reduction of cost over conventional means. Factory OS CEO Rick Holliday outlined some of the means and methods to achieve this:
- Strategically locating their facility to keep shipping costs low.
- Focusing on specific housing types that have a stable pipeline. (He cited the lack of pipeline as the biggest killer of factory housing production.)
- Robust technology in the stack-in-design process to reduce RFIs and optimize material costs. A carefully coordinated and integrated process to effectively stack trades without impacting workers’ efficiency.
As is often the case with large conferences, there were far more sessions than one person could possibly cover, including those dedicated to market trends, consumer insights and ideas on how to make housing more affordable (both technically and politically). Nevertheless, we were pleased to walk away with some highly valuable new information and industry contacts.
Congrats to CBIA and Leading Builders of America for putting together another successful conference.