Taking Action With Tim O’Brien Homes
This case study offers an inside look at the value of Housing 2.0 Action Groups.
Housing 2.0 Action Groups are an incredible opportunity to get in-depth, personalized input on one of your projects/designs. With only 4-6 companies participating in any one Action Group, it’s a very collegial and intimate setting.
In past Action Groups, we’ve had two or more people per company. This allows the entire design and project team to hear the same message, receive the same feedback, and engage with the Action Group in a very meaningful way.
Building Excellence Case Study
I recently asked Tim O’Brien Homes’ owner, Tim O’Brien, and Andrew Elder, Lead Home Designer, about their experience in an Action Group. Before I share that interview, it’s important to note that Tim O’Brien Homes is a nationally-recognized leader in sustainable homebuilding. The company is a U.S. Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home partner, which places them in the top 1% of builders in the country.
Special features such as upgraded countertops, insulation, and lighting are included in the base purchase price of Tim O’Brien Homes’ houses, such as this one. After attending Housing 2.0, the builder team tweaked some of its designs and processes.
Tim O’Brien Homes has been named a Housing Innovation Award recipient every year since 2018 and started winning awards in 2009. With a history and reputation like that, it might seem like they have a formula and want to stick to it. However, as you’ll see in this interview, they are constantly evaluating their practices and methods to stay on top of the housing industry.
GBM: When you first signed up for the Action Group, what were your expectations?
Tim O’Brien: I was thinking it would be a good exercise in value engineering and neighborhood design, but we received so much more within the Housing 2.0 program.
Andrew Elder: Agreed. I was expecting some ideas to improve our current design, but what we ended up with was a completely different home plan that was significantly better.
GBM: How did you apply the feedback you gathered in the Action Group to your designs/projects?
TO: We have already developed one new plan from the program, and we have modified our overall design process to bring in the elements we learned from Housing 2.0. The feedback from both the design team and a few initial customers has been very positive!
AE: The Housing 2.0 program has really changed the way that I approach a design. Now, optimizing the design of the plan goes hand-in-hand with meeting design expectations. I feel that applying these principles to our design process has improved our product significantly.
GBM: What was the best piece of advice you received from your fellow group members?
AE: I really enjoyed the personal feedback on our plans. Here are a few things that really stuck with me as a home designer: minimize corners, keep plumbing close together, design for cross ventilation, add furniture always, allow as many views to the back yard as possible, and porches make a community.
TO: There was so much shared by Sam Rashkin, but also the other builders who participated in the program. Not only did Sam provide great feedback, but so did the builders who participated. It was a great combination of a strong facilitator and a builder peer group.
GBM: What surprised you the most about the Action Group experience?
TO: What surprised me was the comprehensiveness of the program. The depth of the assessment tools and benchmarking tools allowed for a deep dive into our market strategy for our product and neighborhoods, along with a logical breakdown of all the important components to optimize the experience for the builder and ultimately, our customers.
AE: It was a surprise how customizable the program is. Housing 2.0 is designed so that you can choose to focus on areas that will make the most impact in your market, and what your organization might be ready for. It also lays out a road map for continual improvement.
Emphasis on Commitment to the Process
When I asked Sam Rashkin about his thoughts on Tim O’Brien Homes’ participation in the Action Group, he shared some helpful advice for future Action Group participants, as well as a group benefit that Tim O’Brien Homes brought to the table.
“I thought they were very committed to the process,” said Rashkin. “They diligently did all the homework and were prepared to work each session. Because of that, they’ve been able to develop a thoughtful, customized design optimization framework that can now be used to brand Tim O'Brien Homes. They came in with a market-ready project, and went away with huge improvements both for cost savings and a superior user experience.”
Tim O’Brien Homes didn’t just sit back, gather helpful insights, and leave. The participants were active team players. Rashkin added, “Their active participation in the collaborative process helped other builder participants, too.”
Getting personal assistance from one of the top builders in the country, in addition to Sam Rashkin, is something I’m sure everyone in the Action Group appreciated.