Most model home tours offer a quick and somewhat rambling look at the garage. That’s not the case at Babcock Ranch’s Innovation Way: A look inside seven of the nine garages along Hammock Lane, aka “Innovation Way”, reveals cutting-edge technology not available in homes today for sale.
There are batteries that can power the whole house for up to 24 hours in the event of a power outage. There are tankless water heaters. There are electronic gadgets from which homeowners can monitor their own electricity consumption, turn off inactive appliances or areas of the house that do not require electricity.
One of the garages even has an electrical hook-up that can charge the new Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck. Or, in the event of a power outage, the fully loaded truck can return the favor by powering the whole house for 12 to 24 hours.
Southwest Florida’s three largest homebuilders have agreed to collaborate for the first time to develop more energy-efficient homes. DR Horton, Lennar and Pulte accepted an invitation from Babcock Ranch and agreed to partner with Florida Power & Light, who will spend the next two years monitoring the energy consumptions of the seven homes and comparing them to the two control homes . “It will be done with apps and computers,” says Stevany Cole, project manager for FPL. “We are going to do a lot of testing; see how they can better support the house comfortably.
Lennar built five houses, including the two control houses, while DR Horton and Pulte built two each. Each home is between 2,000 and 2,400 square feet and has different brands of fixtures, lighting systems, sound systems, and appliances. Even insulation and some construction techniques vary from model to model.
Lennar built a “deconstructed house,” where some of the drywall remains open, so visitors can see the internal piping, air ducts, and other innovations behind them.
“The idea was born in 2019,” says Tom Hoban, CIO and chairman of Kitson & Partners, owner of Babcock Ranch. “Before COVID hit, it was taking shape. It slowed us down a bit. »
Lennar and Pulte joined the collaboration first. DR Horton boarded in September 2021 and built its two models in 64 days, says Kyle Knight, DR Horton’s chief operating officer.
“We’re going to come in here and smash them,” Knight jokes of Pulte and Lennar, the first two national home builders at Babcock Ranch. DR Horton led the country with 82,000 homes built in 2021. Inside the DR Horton model called “Condale” there is Deako-branded lighting, a wired Sonos sound system, “air purifier” climate control Carrier-branded infinity and a Moen-branded “smart shower”. The shower is turned on by pressing a button with a temperature gauge instead of the traditional hot/cold buttons. The house is insulated with Core Foam injected into the spaces between the concrete blocks.
The houses also have different construction styles to study. “It’s a wood panel on the second floor,” Dave Meyers, Lennar’s chief operating officer, says of one of those five homes. “There is a cable system that holds and ties the wall more effectively. We all needed to find our own niche and we all want to help move the construction industry forward. It’s part of the living lab.
Another of the Lennar homes has a Greyter branded water efficiency setup. Inside the garage there is a 30 gallon water tank that collects runoff water from the shower and baths and turns it into toilet water. This is supposed to save consumers around 20-30% in water consumption.
“What we’re able to do is drive incentives for developers,” said John Bell, vice president of business development at Greyter. Incentives, working with local and state governments, could mean speeding up building permits. “Our solutions give them a bit of leverage.”
Pulte has a Pentair-branded water conditioning system with a three-part filtration device; a “Flo by Moen” smart water shut-off valve that detects leaks; and a Rinnai brand recirculating tankless water heater that is not yet available to consumers. Leviton’s Wi-Fi-enabled load center shows homeowners where they’re spending their electricity dollars.
“What’s happening here is a lesson for the rest of the country,” says Syd Kitson, CEO of Kitson & Partners, which bought and created Babcock Ranch.
“Innovation Way is what this street is,” says Hoban. “It’s a lot of learning.”
It all started when the different stakeholders got together. Hoban called it the “Innovation Summit”. “We had a forward-thinking group of people in the room,” says Hoban. “To their credit, everyone signed on. What can we do to show this in a pragmatic way? The intention wasn’t to do something cool; the intention was to do something practical.