founder Eric Davenport discusses the benefits of better collaboration between design-build professionals.
By Steve Panosian
2020 WILL BE LOOKED BACK ON as an unprecedented year of sweeping change. What we are experiencing in this pandemic era is perhaps best viewed as the transformation of a passive-home-life into a new highly active-life-at-home paradigm.
This paradigm shift is bringing new opportunities to the surface for the design-build community. Driven by the demands and requirements to address the work-at-home and school-at-home reality, this new norm is challenging everything — business, government, education and our everyday interactions.
I recently sat down with LEAP Architecture’s founder Eric Davenport to discuss how a better collaboration between design-build professionals would culminate in a deeper understanding and wider scope of early project planning.
STEVE: Tell us about LEAP Architecture.
ERIC: My objective is to create healthy spaces that quietly meet energy reduction goals while surpassing the needs of our clients. We think big, but we ground ourselves with measurable results. As founder and chief architect, it’s important that we focus on delivering an outcome for our clients that larger firms cannot. We are different because we define the unique and customized needs of our clients before starting design work.
STEVE: Talk to us about the upfront planning and discovery process.
ERIC: I believe that the planning process drives the results. Remember the age-old military adage ‘Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance’. This could not be more appropriate to describe my approach and focus on meeting and exceeding client-centric expectations. Upfront site planning makes so much sense and it really does not cost anything extra. For example, something simple like facing the front door south to prevent arctic air blowing into your home or window placement for energy efficiency doesn’t cost anything extra but saves you in the long run. Proper architectural planning in this case pays off with a design that captures more sun-heat in the winter and stays cool in the summer. We have countless learnings and plan executions that properly guide our design approach in addressing many other challenges both simple and complex.
STEVE: How has the pandemic impacted your design approach?
ERIC: We are finding that the scope of our projects is becoming the new challenge, but the design approach remains the same. When I look at this new stay at home and work at home norm, which is the essence of the pandemic’s impact on our lives, we all have new opportunities by way of new challenges and in finding new solutions.
Those leaving the city are finding properties with more land and space to build. In contrast those staying in the city are looking to completely renovate and re-design a living space that’s conducive and reinforces a productive mind set for work, or school, and simply enjoying being at home which wasn’t the case in the past. Every square foot of living space must be transformed.
STEVE: You mentioned wellness earlier and concerns about safety. How does this impact the social aspect of your clients both younger and older?
ERIC: I also see firsthand the impact on wellness that the pandemic has made on everyone. How we address the cognitive, physical, and social wellness is especially crucial for the younger generation. It is tougher on them whether they are single or partnered. Healthier living designs are important in that our clients are trying to figure out how to socialize in their homes because connecting with friends and family has been taken away, at least for now.
This is an experiential reality that technology can partly address through virtual connectivity and the reason why basic Wi-Fi network designs need to be revisited and completely re-engineered. We now better understand the need for more thought about the home network as it has arrived to become a foundational necessity of a home and must be designed with scalability in mind.
STEVE: What else is important to your clients when designing a home?
ERIC: New construction is also looking at adding many new amenities like pools, cinema rooms and custom kitchens, but the real design challenge moves to customization that addresses the natural emotional need to get out of the house. So, we work with the client on designing every room and outdoor area that meets the client’s individual desire to make the home more livable.
It is apparent that smart home technology has evolved into a rather sophisticated market and is historically driven by the boomer generation. The younger generation are cord-cutters and need to connect with the world. The boomers are life-long learners who want to know and be part of what is happening in the world. They are still active, they like tech and toys, and data, but also want to have control over privacy. Questions also focus on a scope beyond entertainment and environment. When I think of the technology design for the older demographic it must evolve to include safety and security for the elderly. This is important because supporting health and wellness in living-in-place spaces will define a solution that must trigger personal care while simultaneously connecting to immediate families and medical agencies.
Working with technology designers, we are seeing each demographic segment has a rather definitive view on what they want in planning their smart home needs:
30s: Robust Wi-Fi networking that supports their home office and streaming entertainment needs.
40s: More automation, they get it, professionally installed and expanded control beyond A/V and HVAC.
50s: Environmental control of entire home. A one-button solution.
60s: More money to spend but thinking of last home to outfit. Downsizing, want simplicity, while they have the money not as high on automation. Cameras for security and monitoring are important for health, protection and safety.
STEVE: Are you seeing any new types of design requests?
ERIC: We are getting several requests for planning attached greenhouses. There is a significant number of these designs in the works but too early to call it a trend. These clients have plenty of land and space. They are cogniscent of the issues the pandemic has caused on food supply chains and the availability of healthier food choices year-round.
STEVE: In your opinion, what is the most important part of technology you are concerned about for any given project?
ERIC: Perhaps it is the foundational network design aspect of carefully planning how a new home or renovation will be serviced today and down the road in the world of control and connectivity. The importance of the pre-wire phase and the final whole-house automation programming are best addressed through much earlier collaboration than before. It is the technology designer who has built their client list by developing a team of experts and partnerships with leading brands of products and automated home solutions.
There are too many times in earlier design-build team planning that have overlooked the necessary technology considerations and as a result it impacted the cost of a project and/or the project completion timeline. Today, the demands on home networks are through the roof and the prior installed technology back bone is just not cutting it. As a result, it is more costly to update broadband connectivity and distribute that level of service through the home and meet the demand expectations of this highly active life-at-home paradigm.
Not all clients are looking for a full blown automated smart home solution. But what is common with all clients is the realization they need something scalable, so we must properly address connectivity based on their needs today and their anticipated needs down the road.