Embracing the better living design movement

The future of remodeling can be found in a ketchup bottle

November 19, 2012

Everyone knows Heinz ketchup and their iconic glass bottle. For over 80 years Heinz made ketchup and put it in those glass bottles. It’s simply how they did it. They didn’t really seem to focus on how hard it was for anyone to get the ketchup out. Many of you probably remember they even had an advertising campaign featuring the Carly Simon song “Anticipation” that celebrated how long one had to wait for the ketchup to come out.

But about a dozen years ago Heinz decided they could sell more ketchup and generate more volume if they made it easier to use their bottle. They turned it upside down, made it squeezable and now anyone from 4 to 84 can easily get Heinz ketchup out of the new container. And few buy ketchup in the old bottle any more. Consumers clearly prefer the “new way” to the old way.

Such a transformation is coming to the home design and remodeling industry. In the coming years, consumer demand for homes that are more livable across their lifetime will explode. Consumers prefer the “new” way when it comes to home design, too.

This shift is upon us now thanks to three significant changes in the housing and remodeling industry:

1. Changing attitudes about home ownership. The days of homes being first an investment and second a place to live have gone. Now homeowners want their home to work for them across their lifetimes. It isn’t about buying, renovating and then flipping.

This “home for life” attitude means more renovations and remodeling that makes homes more adaptable across one’s lifetime, not just right for the moment.

2. Changing demographics. The second big change is in demographics. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2030 we will have over 70 million people ages 65 and older, almost double what we have today. Standard & Poor’s recently issued a report on this coming change and called it “An Irreversible Truth.” Others call it demographic destiny. And it has already begun: Every day another 10,000 Boomers reach age 65 and it is going to continue at that rate until 2030.

Having twice as many older adults means huge changes in demand for the types of housing and the need for remodeling and renovations. Especially given the third change coming.

3. Increasing desire to grow old in current home. Study after study indicate that today’s older adults, and most certainly, tomorrow’s, want to grow older in their own homes. A recent AARP study put the figure at 86%. Many call this “aging in place.” The idea is simple: older consumers want to stay in their current home and community as long as possible.

But as we all know, existing homes are not designed to adapt. They are old Heinz ketchup bottles.

All of these coming changes should create tremendous opportunity for everyone in the building and remodeling business.

These coming changes are why we have launched the Better Living Design (BLD) movement. We think that in the future every home will be designed and built for everyone regardless of their age and ability.

That means now is the time remodelers should change their ways of doing things and embrace a “new way.” This is what’s coming. This is what’s next.

Thanks to the organizing efforts by AARP and others, we began the BLD effort almost three years ago and have already attracted leaders in building, manufacturing, retailing, academia and products used in the home to join the effort.

The goal is to build and remodel homes to make them more livable across a lifetime, meeting the needs of every age and everyone. AARP is behind it to help launch it, but they know this isn’t only about their members, but about people of all ages.

Richard Duncan, Executive Director of the Mace Universal Design Institute and a long-time advocate of UD and organizing member of the BLD movement, says, “One of the main reasons we’re aggressively pursuing BLD is that the concept of Universal Design, which isn’t known or understood at all by consumers, has come to have a very specific meaning in the homebuilding industry—it means old, frail or disabled.”

Duncan added, “Which is not something many consumers aspire for.”

BLD takes the UD approach and repackages it into a more desirable framework for consumers. We are creating a new way for homes to be designed, built and remodeled that consumers actually want, just like Heinz created a new ketchup bottle that is better, and more desirable than the old one.

Keep in mind, not once did Heinz ever promote or talk about their new bottle as being something old, frail, or disabled people can use. It’s about all people being able to use it.

BLD is about the positive side of better design when it comes to the home and products in the home.

The plan is for the BLD Institute to become a stand-alone, independent nonprofit organization. Its goals are to:

• Educate and certify builders and remodelers with the hope of establishing designations that national associations recognize and endorse.

• Provide marketing materials and resources to help promote BLD projects including specific language remodelers can use with homeowners to close the sale.

• Promote BLD to consumers to build awareness and demand.

• Review and approve home designs and remodeling projects and issue the BLD “seal” to projects that meet the BLD criteria. Over time, projects earning the “BLD Approved” designation will be recognized and valued by homeowners and the marketplace.

In the coming year, the BLD Institute sees as a key job for itself is to start getting the message out. To do that, we are building and launching a public website, betterlivingdesign.org. We are also working with various companies and organizations on ways to promote and support the “BLD” designation. Our goal is to create awareness and interest in the movement, making it easier for builders and remodelers to “close the sale” on using the BLD approach, the new way for how homes are designed, built and remodeled.

So what is in this for professional remodelers?

Those who are the early adaptors of the BLD approach will have a distinct advantage over everyone else in remodeling. If

this is indeed the future, there’s no better time to embrace it than now.

As Wayne Gretzky famously said, he was a successful hockey player because he always tried to skate where the puck is going, not where it is. The home building and remodeling market is heading towards BLD. Don’t wait for it to get there and then act. Act now and get more than your fair share of business.

We think BLD brings good and positive news to an industry that hasn’t had much good news in a while. BLD offers remodelers new ways to sell more projects and meet consumer needs. And building BLD projects will separate firms from others out there building the old Heinz ketchup bottles.

The entire BLD program is just beginning, and you can raise you hand now and join with us. Just visit betterlivingdesign.org/remodelers to learn more.

The future of remodeling can be found in a bottle of ketchup. PR

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