House Hacking

Hacking has always had a bad rap, but some of your favorite products and companies are the result of a hack.

“Hacking” in the computer world used to have a negative connotation. Hackers were characterized as hi-tech thieves trying to steal information. Although the unscrupulous world of underground hackers wreaking havoc in cyberspace will likely never end, “hacking” has evolved to represent work-arounds, short-cuts or just figuring out how to do something in an easier manner.

It’s not uncommon to see articles titled, “Life Hacks,” or to read about how somebody figured out how to do something thought nearly impossible. An extreme example of this is Taylor Wilson of Reno, Nevada. At the ripe old age of 14, he created a nuclear reactor…in his garage! I know this sounds ridiculous but  watch this video.

Simple “life” hacks that are awesome …

Some notable industry “hackers” include Elon Musk hacking his way into the auto industry with Tesla (the current waiting list for the Tesla 3 is est. 400,000 as of 7/1/16), or his SpaceX program lowering the cost of space travel by hundreds of millions of dollars with the reusable rocket.

Airbnb is now the largest hotel company in the world AND they don’t own a single room. I can only imagine what Marriott and Hilton are feeling as the traditional hotel model is turned upside down by a company that started in 2010. I have used Airbnb 25 times since mid-2015…mostly as a business traveler.

And then there’s our old friend the Taxi cab industry, who has had a lock on ridiculously expensive airport cab service in dirty cars and always broken meters/credit card machines for way too damn long. Their fight to stay relevant with the entrance of Uber is surely causing lots of pain, but those who are willing to rethink their business change will have a decent chance of survival. I started Uber’ing in mid-2015 and have taken about 150 Uber rides since. Uber has its faults, but it is a tremendous improvement over traditional Taxi's.

One industry that has seen very little “hacking” is the residential housing space. Although there is hacking activity occurring at the fringes, the impact has been limited to date. The industry has not changed like the auto, space, hotel, restaurant (food truck revolution) and even the finance industry (think Bitcoin, or Apple Wallet). Two bright spots worth noting are the tiny house revolution and modular construction … both areas that will have profound impact over time on the tired residential model.

There are thousands of people and groups who are eyeing the housing industry as a ripe “impact-hacking” playground. Let me give you a quick whirlwind tour of some known and unknown house hackers.

You all know this first example. In 2009, a former Apple Exec leaves (was pushed out of) his cushy Apple digs and decides he can make a thermostat better than the likes of Honeywell and Carrier…who I might add, have been making t-stats for about 75 years. Nest launches its beautifully simple, hi-tech thermostat in 2010, sells $100M worth of them annually for a few years, then Google buys them for $2.3 Billion. As a point of reference, Pulte bought Centex for $3.1 Billion in '09. Take note of the upside potential, HOLY SHIT is right!

Next up, a prominent New England custom home builder named Tedd Benson, of Bensonwood, decides he wants to build homes for everyday folks instead of the wealthy. His 40 years of experience constructing high-end timber framed homes required a substantial amount of “shop-built” assembly (pre-cutting huge timber in factory for easy fitting on-site) and has enabled him to launch Unity Homes. Unity Homes leverages BIM (Building Information Modeling), dimensional construction techniques (everything on 2 foot dimensions) and unrivaled quality control to produce beautifully designed and quickly constructed homes for middle America (and affordable homes are disappearing). Check out some other off-site builders: Blu Homes, BrightBuilt Homes, weeHouse, and Method Homes…the “new age” builder is selling online and delivering to a lot near you!

The last example is one many of you may not know about, but should - Blueprint Robotics. This is a new firm that has European roots and understands the meaning of “manufacturing” homes. NO, I am not talking about HUD code (trailer homes), I am talking about highly automated factories that can produce 40ft of wall in minutes. Capacity to ‘perfectly’ manufacture  2,000 linear feet of wall a day. An average home has about 400 linear ft of wall (interior and exterior)…that’s 6.8 houses during an 8 hour shift. Run three shifts and you are cranking out 20 houses a day or almost 5,000 houses a year. Cool thing is, there is plenty of room for speed improvements so it is easily conceivable that one Blueprint Robotics factory could produce 10,000 homes a year. Keep your eye on them because they are addressing labor, affordability, quality and speed issues all in one product.

I’d love to hear about your favorite industry hack or where you see the building industry heading. Email me at 

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