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People In The Know Say Smart Homes Are The Future Of Housing

August 16, 2017

By Eric Seiverling

Visitors and passersby at Nova Place on Pittsburgh’s North Side caught a glimpse of the not-too-distant future of real estate when Comcast sponsored the Defining the Future of Housing event on Wednesday, Aug. 9. The event featured a panel discussion involving leaders in the field of housing in the United States, and a model smart home from Pittsburgh-based home designers Module, where visitors could tour and get a first-hand look at the future of housing.

True to its name, the modular home can have additional rooms added onto existing living spaces as the homeowner’s finances and lifestyle dictate. The model home included Xfinity Home service with a security camera, Wi-fi, Comcast’s X1 platform, voice remote controls and apps on mobile devices.

“We want to rethink how a home is structured,” Brian Gaudio, CEO of Module, said while greeting visitors to the model home. “Cities like New York and Philadelphia are more progressive about how they think about housing. We’re looking at how Pittsburgh thinks about housing and how can we bring those ideas to life. Our company does not want to design the most luxurious house. We believe the big mansion is outdated. We want to make houses that are more sustainable. We grow as your family or income grows.”

Guests at the Defining the Future of Housing event tour the Module smart home on display. Credit: Eric Seiverling

Guests at the Defining the Future of Housing event tour the Module smart home on display. Credit: Eric Seiverling

Module is currently designing it’s first residential modular home on Pittsburgh’s North Side, and is awaiting zoning approval before moving forward with the project.

Gaudio also announced that Module’s website is now taking names of those who want to reserve their spot for the next Module smart home in the Pittsburgh metro area.

“We’re a Pittsburgh-based company, so let’s bring the best homes to Pittsburgh first,” he said.

Panelists that discussed the future of housing included Jenny Fielding, managing director of New York-based firm Techstars‘ Fintech and Internet of Things programs; David Wechsler, senior director of channels and partnerships for Comcast Xfinity Home; Michael Dickens, chief marketing officer for Pittsburgh-based home designer IBACOS; and Sandy Albert, director of real estate acquisitions at New York-based shared housing firm Common Living, Inc.

Topics included making homes more energy efficient, Pittsburgh’s housing innovations, smart homes helping senior residents, and the changing lifestyles of the younger generation just entering the housing market.

“We’re seeing people renting for longer times and living with roommates longer,” Albert said of younger people now wanting to settle down by purchasing a home. “People are valuing access over ownership. People want convenience.”

All of the panelists agreed that technology is driving the smart home industry.

“It’s part of a bigger picture,” Wechsler said. “This technology is not just a camera or a thermostat. A lot of the devices are now self-fixing. That really streamlines our lives and makes it more enjoyable. We’re all realizing it goes beyond one device in the house. It’s a lifestyle.”

The platform is the house itself,” Fielding said. “Let’s not think of the devices. Let’s think of transforming the entire construction site.”

But, Dickens was quick to point out that technology can’t replace a stable household.

“You’ll still breathe and you’ll still play with your dog,” he said. “You’ll still have nostalgia and old-fashioned values.”

The audience for the panel discussion was as diverse as the panel members.

Mike Konkle, owner of MAK Sales, attended the event due to an interest in modular homes because “there are so many apartments going up.”

And Paula Grendys, business development manager for software development firm IQ, Inc., found the discussion on smart homes helping the elderly interesting.

“I’d like to know where I’m going to be,” she said.