Introducing The Faces of houm: Get to Know Breck & Scott
A few years ago an idea emerged to break the routine of building by offering an alternative that changed the way houses were fabricated.
That's how houm was born.
Now in 2023 a partnership has been built between Three Squared, Inc. and houm, to bring even more innovative and alternative solutions to the table.
But who is houm?
houm was created in 2015 by Breck Crandell (a familiar Three Squared face) and Scott Shall.
Breck Crandell is currently Director of Design here at Three Squared and also
one of the founding members of houm.
He is an AIA licensed Architect (Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, Arizona) and a graduate of Lawrence Technological University's College of Architecture and Design.
Scott Shall (RA) is the other founding member of houm PLLC and is an Associate Professor of Architecture at Lawrence Technological University.
He is also the founding director of the International Design Clinic, and has spoken internationally about innovative techniques of home design and construction.
With their combined years of experience and passion for alternative construction, they have created houm.
With excitement surrounding this partnership, we want to let Breck and Scott have a chance to share their thoughts in this Q&A style post.
Q: What planted the metaphorical seed for houm?
Much of the housing in the US is poorly made, unattainable and unsustainable.
This is largely due to a lack of innovation within the industry – a perplexing refusal to incorporate emerging tools into the housing delivery process.
houm aims to use cutting-edge technology to streamline housing production and build smarter, more attainable and more sustainable homes.
To build better. To create homes that are clean, solid, and more focused on the things that mean the most to the homeowner.
Allowing the design of each home to respond to the unique situation of each homeowner. Without inflating cost or convoluting the process.
To return to the roots of what it means to be at home.
In fact, this is the root for the name houm – a phonetic of home that has an almost primal, spiritual intonation.
The nation-wide need for housing - not necessarily “attainable” housing, but housing stock in general.
Houses have been built the same way for 450+ years. We’re still smacking sticks together with rocks piece by piece to build homes when we have the machines and industries to scale production at mass without needing to sacrifice efficiency or beauty.
It started with digital fabrication classes alluding to the power of industrial-scale tools to produce “chunks” of a house.
And then after lots of trial and error, some successful projects, and some very un-successful prototypes, we found a balance of what should be re-imagined, and where we should avoid re-inventing the wheel.
We’re not re-inventing the wheel, we’re just adding tires. Smart tires
Q: What is your vision for houm?
To revolutionize the housing industry one home at a time, by challenging the way we design, construct and maintain homes.
houm incorporates a variety of techniques and technologies in our housing delivery process, including generative design, digital fabrication and sophisticated simulations.
As we advance, houm will remain vigilant for new opportunities to revolutionize housing and housing production and to create more beautiful, sustainable and durable homes for the American public.
We want individuals to be able to open an app and plug in some generic data (address of location, highlight boundaries of property) and then algorithms will develop a house right before their eyes.
They will be able to select size (within buildable restrictions) style, color, amount of fenestrations, etc. and actually see a rendered model before their eyes along with a budget, and an ecological impact score (I.e. how efficient, how much material is being saved, carbon savings beyond traditional construction, etc.)
Then, they just need to click the button to engage with a team of architects and builders to make their dream a reality.
Meanwhile, we will use these powerful tools and generative design technologies to power large developments and infill projects.
By plugging in 30-50 lots throughout a city, we will instantaneously generate 30-50 unique designs that are particularly tailored to their location based on context, solar orientation, amount of cut and fill on site, existing trees and other shading, safety and security, views, and experience.
Q: What does AI do for houm’s process that traditional building does not?
Currently, houm is only beginning our investigation of AI in housing production.
Our use of generative design tools to streamline the design process is a big step in this direction.
We believe that AI will allow us to further refine this process. And to make smarter homes that are tailored to the unique situation of each homeowner and site.
Well, it’s a balance.
Although, we don’t incorporate AI into our process currently, we are preparing to do so.
We’re going to be programming algorithms (different than artificial intelligence) because while the tool is smarter, or at least faster than we are at coming to a conclusion, it is still generating outcomes based on the information we feed it, and the way we (people) built it to operate.
In the future, I think AI is going to be a fascinating tool for architects, in a collaborative manner.
I think we are lucky to be one of the few professions that are AI-proof. AI doesn’t understand WHY something is beautiful, it just knows that it is because of the millions of images that have told it what beauty is.
Right now, AI can produce gorgeous images in the blink of an eye, but it’s not balancing function with aesthetic, it’s only one or the other.
Q: Why is this partnership between Three Squared and houm so important for today’s housing and construction industry?
TSI and houm are ideal partners for two reasons:
First, and perhaps most importantly, we both share a belief that the housing marketplace is ripe for innovation.
The way we design and construct housing needs to be radically changed if we want to produce homes that are sustainable, attainable and durable.
Second, the methods used by TSI and houm occupy different sectors of the housing marketplace.
TSI has dedicated a great deal of energy to understand how shipping containers might change the way we design and construct buildings.
TSI’s approach is effective when developing projects with many housing units: apartment blocks, etc. TSI’s work has set a standard of excellence in this regard.
However, this efficacy drops off as these developments shrink in size.
houm’s approach works best when using it to design and construct single-family homes. Or smaller multi-family units (duplexes, triplexes, quads) and developments.
TSI and houm serve two mutually-beneficial markets on multiple levels.
For starters, we know that scale-of-economy is the name of the game with shipping containers. The more containers we modify in a similar or identical way, the more savings we’ll have on timeline and budget.
Custom homes can be challenging for Cargo Architecture, especially with tight timelines and budgets.
Whereas houm can handle one-off small-scale projects without the same challenges. And developments, too.
Shipping containers are meant to be used on a larger scale.
In our experience, we have found them to be ideal for multi-unit housing applications where we have similar unit layouts, and repeat them over and over again in interesting configurations to provide multi-family and mixed-use developments.
Once we reach a scale of over four units in a single building, houm’s approach to housing is stressed. So when we see the need for small-scale single unit housing, houm has a more effective approach.
houm and TSI also serve very different audiences in terms of design intuition and aesthetic preference:
houm has a high level of detailed design decisions that are thoughtfully crafted and meticulously reviewed for the way it looks and feels.
TSI wants to get real projects built for real people - and won’t get caught up in details in order to make that happen.
Some would consider houm high-level design while they would consider TSI somewhat whimsical (containers definitely make a difference there). While it may be obvious, I’ll say it anyways: TSI uses containers for many/most projects, and houm does not.
Here’s the most succinct way I can put it: houm is for Dezeen, TSI is for HGTV.
Q: How do you see digital fabrication changing the landscape of architecture & construction?
Digital fabrication is already changing the way we produce buildings. In fact, these tools have been deployed for decades by those who fabricate products used in housing, from doorknobs to cabinetry.
One reason why the innovations found within housing are so much more advanced and sustainable than the house itself.
We believe tools can have a similar impact on housing by speeding up production, improving precision and quality, and significantly cutting waste.
Similar to how AI is changing the conversation - it’s a tool, but it’s going to take us years to resolve how to best utilize said tools for our profession.
For instance, we know that routing machines (like a CNC - AKA computer numeric control, and any robot with 3 axis, 3D printer, laser cutter, water jet… you get it) are extremely accurate.
You put in data, and it does it.
However, we’re discovering that it’s often times much more efficient to utilize the machine tools to make a template, and then let the people do the actual work because we’re faster and have an attention to craft that the machine lacks.
Rather than have the machine cut out 120 door hinge insets, I can have it cut one perfect template and then cut 119 of them myself in less time, and make alterations as needed
But the term “digital fabrication” implies the use of computers to make any of this happen, and computers are here to stay.
AutoCAD changed our industry forever - for better and worse. For better because we’re more efficient, faster, more accurate. For worse because now everything is expected to happen at light speed and we lost a lot of the human touch to slowing things down.
The same can be said about digital construction tools - for better or worse, it’s here to stay, but we cannot lose touch with the human element as we continue to increase the pace of our outputs
Q: Who is houm best suited for, and how can they get in touch with you for next steps?
houm is designed to provide homes that are more attainable, more sustainable and more tailored to the unique lifestyle of each homeowner.
Our process works well when working with individual homeowners. However, it works even better when designing multiple homes or units at one time, when the efficiencies of scale might be leveraged fully.
houm is simultaneously suited for single family residential clients trying to design and build their own home with an efficient price and timeline as well as developers who are aiming for solutions to a housing crisis across the nation.
“Developers” can mean anyone who is in the process of building - for rent, for sale, for veterans, for students, for relief housing, for city officials who need a bigger picture solution for their own municipality.
houm is here to support the beautiful and efficient future of real estate development.
Want to learn more about houm? Check it out here or get started on your own project by contacting our team.
Finally, if you’re eager to learn directly from our team, check out the Innovative Real Estate Podcast! We release new trainings and Q&A segments every other week, and we invite you to get started with these episodes below: