Housing Innovation Alliance's Podcast

Staying Innovative @ DAHLIN with Nancy Keenan

December 24, 2022 Housing Innovation Alliance Season 4 Episode 3
Housing Innovation Alliance's Podcast
Staying Innovative @ DAHLIN with Nancy Keenan
Show Notes Transcript

Nancy Keenan, President of DAHLIN Architecture, Planning and Interiors, discusses #HerStoriesInHousing, collaboration and staying on top of innovation in design with our own, Betsy Scott. Find out what attracted her to the industry and the advice she'd share with #NextGen talent.

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Betsy Scott (00:00):

Hi, I'm Betsy Scott. I'm here today with Nancy Keenan. She's the president of DAHLIN Architecture Design Interiors. She believes that good design is born of the collaboration of great minds, something we have in common, which is one of the reasons really why we're proud to have Dalan as a member of the Alliance Network. Nancy oversees firm-wide strategy growth and is mentoring the next generation of leaders for Dalan as they transition to an employee-owned enterprise. That's pretty exciting. So welcome Nancy. Thanks for joining us.

Nancy Keenan (00:29):

Thanks for having me today. It's great to be here with you.

Betsy Scott (00:32):

Great. I'd love to talk to you about a few things. Your origin story is a thought leader in the housing space. We do something called her stories in the housing. Since we hear a lot of what's going on with the men in the industry, we go on to really focus on what great things women are doing in the industry, how your expectations for home and community design are changing, and then how you keep Dalin innovative. So love to touch on each of those things with you. So why don't we start with your story. Tell us a little bit about your journey. You're in Arizona State University grad and you've been with Dolan for nearly 22 years, which is impressive. What were you doing beforehand?

Nancy Keenan (01:08):

So, ASU was over 40 years ago. I thought about this the other day, <laugh>. So it's been a long time since I've been there and a lot of years in between. I actually worked for a small firm in La Jolla, California. Some people may know from years ago, Naval Associates, who also was a leader in the housing, housing design industry at the time. And then when I had children a few years later, I went out on my own. Okay. So I was hire an architect on my own, designing custom homes, remodels, that kind of thing for over a decade. During that time, Dalan Group became one of my clients. I did this f work for them. I got to know some of the original founding owners and designed some really great projects back then. And then eventually as my kids grew and, and Dalan group grew, I joined the firm and started out by managing the San Diego office later the Irvine office

Betsy Scott (02:05):

Too. Sometimes that's the best way to start as kind of an exterior partner and really get a feel for the culture and see if it's a good fit for you and have really kind of some proven track records before you jump in. Really like dating, if you will.

Nancy Keenan (02:22):

Like Yeah. Decades of dating <laugh>. Yeah. Actually I actually worked in Southern California then, oh, you know, most of our leadership is in the Northern California office in Pleasanton. And when was at that time anyway. And so I was the only one not working in that Northern California office for then another decade or so. It gave me a, both a lot of autonomy, but with the benefits of being part of a bigger company. So it was a great way to really get my feet wet in leadership and growing offices and, and that kind of thing.

Betsy Scott (02:52):

And plus you had the background of like remote work, so when things with the pandemic happened, that probably was, oh, that's not a problem. That can definitely

Nancy Keenan (03:01):

Be done. Oh yeah. I was definitely, I always, when yeah, when that happened, I felt like I must have been one of the pioneers of hybrid working in remote

Betsy Scott (03:07):

Work. So that's kind of how you got to where you are currently within Daum, but what attracted you to architecture and housing in particular in the first place?

Nancy Keenan (03:14):

Architecture design in particular. I mean, we, that we are privileged to be able to design environments that people use live in are a part of every day. Any kind of architecture or design has that has that about it. And so housing in particular that gives us the opportunity to design the, the piece of architecture or the piece of design that's most important to, to most people, it's their home where they live. And that became particularly important as we know during the pandemic when people spent a lot of time in their homes and started to question everything about it. But before that, of course, too. And so that puts us out in the forefront of thinking about what people most want to have in their homes. How do they wanna live? How do different demographics live? How do you live in the whole community? That's part of our planning practice is understanding that. And then more recently with interior design, how do we design in the interior of a home so that it works for any kind of family formation that may live there. So, so for all of us, we're very proud of the fact that that's what we mm-hmm. <Affirmative> do much of is residential design, have the opportunity to design people's

Betsy Scott (04:21):

Homes well. And even with the interior design, just with the way that, you know, you live in California, I live in Pittsburgh, we don't have the luxury of having exterior spaces <laugh> be part of our daily life all year long. Yes. But I think, you know, just in the last couple of years, the, the lines are blurred between living spaces everywhere now, really with interior and exterior, kind of from a necessity. But I think it's ki enriched really the design. So it makes sense that you guys were moving in the interior design end and kind of how all of that folds into the architecture and community development landscape, cuz it's really all kind of interconnected and what that experience is.

Nancy Keenan (05:02):

Yeah. For us as architects, we've always thought of it as integrated. Absolutely. Because if we don't understand how people are gonna use that space, how the furniture works in it, what it might feel like we've always felt that there was a really strong synergy. And we do take for granted the mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, the indoor outdoor experiences. We were again, fortunate designed for here, but I'm, we're also seeing it in places that you may not think of it. How do, how do we blur those lines in a way where you can have, you can expand your outdoor experience for the parts of the year, the times of the year that you're able to take advantage of it. One of the things we were very aware of is how much people want connection to nature in their homes. Absolutely. And can do that with bigger windows. Can we do it with more glass even if you can't open it up? The ability, I mean we're, we're designing in snow week clients climates where all the glass at least gives you that connection to the outside. It feels like more of an indoor outdoor experience.

Betsy Scott (05:56):

So you can see, see the snow, but hopefully you don't feel the snow.

Nancy Keenan (05:59):

Correct. <laugh> a fire between you and the snow. Yes.

Betsy Scott (06:03):

So what is the biggest challenge that you've faced in your role and as a woman in the industry? I think those are two maybe different answers, but just wanna pose those to you at the same time. Yeah,

Nancy Keenan (06:14):

I don't know. I, I actually see challenges, you know, regardless of gender mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. I think we all, just how we approach challenges is, you know, is probably the most important thing to think about. I think one of the challenges that we are always trying to overcome, I am personally mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and we company are, is how we collaborate. We talked a little bit earlier about hybrid work or remote work or how you connect with each other virtually or otherwise. Learning how to collaborate with each other with mm-hmm. <Affirmative> any of the other consultants or team members or clients on the team is something we have to always be aware of and challenging ourselves to be better at it. We build a lot of our businesses built on relationships mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and how long those relationships are with each other. How do we do that when we're virtual? How do we do that when we're talking through the screen? How do we, right. Do we occasionally get on a plane and fly to Pittsburgh and spend <laugh> some time with folks we may be working with on a project? But I think just in general, if I wanted to go back and try to pinpoint anything, it would be how do we make the collaboration and relationship strong in every, no matter what the situation.

Betsy Scott (07:23):

What would you say to NextGen leaders in housing or young people who are considering getting into the housing space? Whether it's, whether it's on the architecture side or just housing in general, what are your thoughts on that? Front home

Nancy Keenan (07:36):

Building's a pretty honorable career. No matter what part of the industry you're in. I mean, we obviously have something to offer for people who like to be at the front end who like to be a part of the design. But there's so much to offer all the way through the process. You know, everybody that builds the home, that builds the community, provides the products that go into that community. The bankers who fund <laugh>, you know, fund the home builders and the home builders who manage all of us. There's just so many ways that people can be a part of our industry, talk a lot at our building industry levels about how do we communicate that in a way that attracts more and more people to the industry. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, whether you like to sit at a desk and design and draw, or whether you wanna be out in the field swinging a hammer. There's like, there's a really broad range of opportunities and careers in home building mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And at the end of the day, everything we're doing is providing homes for people to live in. So every part of that process, everybody who contributes is important.

Betsy Scott (08:35):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So let's shift gears and talk about what dalan does and how you stay at the top of your game. You talked a little bit earlier about relationships. So you're the president of dalan where you've spent the majority of your career. Can you first, before we get into the relationship side, give us a quick snapshot for those who, who don't know you about the kind of work that you're doing in the

Nancy Keenan (08:58):

Space as far as innovation. We've actually, as a company, always thought in terms of how do we, how do we build a better home? How do we design something that's a better place for people to experience or live in? One of the things that we've been really talking about, obviously more recently, the last several years, has it been about how do we continue to innovate in the future? Something that's a little bit of a challenge there as designers, as architects, we love to come up with new ideas, right? We're always, what if we did it this way? Or how about that solution? But, but the temptation and the discipline we have to learn around that is, that needs to be an idea that someone cares about, right? Like, who cares about that idea? Is there a client that's out there asking us for it? Is it something that solves a problem for them?

Nancy Keenan (09:44):

That they have a, they have a challenge that they need a solution to? Are we able to give them something that solves their challenge? Is there a jurisdiction that doesn't know how to bring together all of the players mm-hmm. <Affirmative> in order to make a cohesive community? Is there a challenge we can help them solve with innovation? And it makes much more sense and it's much more meaningful when we can actually identify somebody's real life challenge that we can help them. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> solve innovation. Couple of examples with that. One of 'em was actually for a project in Pennsylvania, they had, it was called a zero Threshold Design competition. It actually arose within our company as a grassroots effort from our employee. Okay. They saw this zero threshold design competition and submitted for it. They got a group of 'em together. They came together on nights and weekends and brought in some of our senior designers and approached a new way of designing for a community when it is an infill community that solved a number of issues around sustainability and accessibility and entered that competition and won the People's Choice Award.

Nancy Keenan (10:49):

And then we went on to win a grand award at Pcbc for this design. So we're proud of it in the way that it was innovative forward thinking, but it also solved a problem that was asking to be solved. We took that success and did something similar with a competition that was led by mayor of Salt Lake City. They had a competition called our solution to, it was what was called Mod Hive. And it was a similar kind of situation where it was infill and they had some criteria around this providing mm-hmm. <Affirmative> a tool housing that's missing, you know, missing in some of these infill neighborhoods. Same idea, grassroots, some of our employees and our lead designers got together and we actually won that competition as well. So the idea that we're, we're innovating and we're designing a better home, a better mouse trap, a better way to achieve attainable housing solutions and doing it in ways that people are asking, actually asking for, and that they can actually build this. It's really important to us, one of our core values is that our designs are real and achievable mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so it's important to us that we, we approach innovation and design from that point of view as

Betsy Scott (11:56):

Well. Yeah. And it makes me think of a, a statement that people sometimes say, you know, if you're a consultant, you can become your own worst enemy by having a solution in search of a client instead of Yes. Directly solving somebody else's problems. So that's good. And I'm curious, so that project in the design competition, you won in Salt Lake, when did that happen?

Nancy Keenan (12:19):

In 2021? That was just last year

Betsy Scott (12:21):

Because we're going to Salt Lake City, we're gonna do a road trip visit there around EBA this year. So I'm wondering if that's something that we should go see.

Nancy Keenan (12:30):

It's not while we're there book yet, but the competition you can see. But it might be, it was through the local AIA chapter and with the mayor Salt Lake, there was so solutions came in from all over the world. It was a, both of these competitions were global. It might be worth visiting the AIA and talking to them about what was needed there and why they, why they did that why they launched the competition. So it's not built yet. We actually designed it so it could fit a number of different infill lots within the city. So.

Betsy Scott (13:03):

Interesting. Definitely. We'll do that. Always like when somebody says Salt Lake now, and I know we're going there. It pops into my head to make sure I ask that. Yeah. We just

Nancy Keenan (13:11):

Opened an office in Salt Lake City just a few months before this came about. So it was really serendipitous that we were able to tie the things together, two things

Betsy Scott (13:20):

Together. Yeah. That's awesome. So you mentioned that as a project that was interesting from an innovation end in general, if you had to pick one or two of the projects or concepts that you've delivered for clients over the years, what are you most proud of? What would you say, Hey, this is really the DNA of who we are and I want you to look at this to get to know us better?

Nancy Keenan (13:40):

It's funny, there's one that keeps popping up just recently that's probably 20 years old. It's River Mark. And it was collaboration of three home builder clients at the time in Bay Area where we came in and redesigned an entire portion of a city and river mark. Pulled together a lot of what at the time were very cutting edge planning concepts with alley loaded product and a lot of eos and connections with green belts and different project types. And so we had three builders come together. We had the city, the jurisdictions came together and it was really a collaboration of everybody involved. It was like the original public-private partnership idea. And so River Mark really, we'd had a couple of major master plans before that and Evergreen and a couple of other large master plans. But River Mark really solidified that and still is very, we're still taking people out today to see this project.

Nancy Keenan (14:38):

Another similar to that, but in Washington was with the city of Kenmore where we've helped the city of Kenmore redesign their entire downtown. That was just in the last few years. And that was very much, much a public-private partnership between developer Main Street communities and the city of Kenmore and us and coming together and designing a number of housing projects, restaurants, public civic buildings, plazas. And so those kinds of projects make us really proud because they pull together, as I talked about earlier, the collaboration of different entities, different people, and then provide a context for design that's not necessarily just a singular

Betsy Scott (15:17):

Building. Right. How has the nature of your design changed? You've been doing this for a while and the way we live has changed. So how has the nature of how you think about design and what you're designing changed?

Nancy Keenan (15:28):

It's kind of a couple of ways we've been thinking about that. When you think our mission is to be a legacy firm to last generations into the future mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. And so that means we need to be able to survive economic cycles as a business. It's changed in that we're, we have more diverse business types, more diverse project types, different kinds of clients. In the last several years we've been working quite a lot with affordable housing clients and helping them solve the, the problems of affordable housing and learning all the challenges they have with funding and operation and those kinds of things. So, but it's more about being able to serve a really broad range. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> client types in addition to the interiors, bringing in interiors. We had also brought in healthcare and healthcare teams and teams that's designed schools K through 12 schools. And then we've had a commercial team for quite some time that designs everything from civic recreation facilities to golf club clubs, <laugh>.

Nancy Keenan (16:22):

So there's an entire range of work that we do that we continue to expand mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and that will continue to expand in terms of all of those project and client types and regions. So we've started moving beyond California. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, we have a couple of offices in both northern and Southern California, but we're in Washington state and now I mentioned Salt Lake City. We're also in Austin, Texas. We're able to now tap into regional diversity as well mm-hmm. <Affirmative> so that we can, it's, you know, it's an economic reason to do it, but it also helps us to learn people live differently in different areas of the country. And so, right. We can approach our design differently, but we have to listen to the people who are in that region and have those needs. That's, that's constant that we listen to what the end user wants, what our client needs.

Betsy Scott (17:08):

Real quick, it was interesting that you said you're doing affordable housing stuff now and, and I'm on so many calls where we're affordability at Obtainability, you know, on the production side we think we need to focus on at Obtainability. Since you work with both types of clients, the affordable housing types and more of the production mindset, do you think there's anything you're learning in the development of affordable housing that might be transitional to more of a production environment? So more of a market rate kind of objectives or the two things? Totally.

Nancy Keenan (17:42):

No, that's an interesting

Betsy Scott (17:43):

Separate, interesting

Nancy Keenan (17:44):

Question. But the client's goals can be very, it's, they sound similar but they can be very different mm-hmm. <Affirmative> in that a lot of our afford affordable housing developers and builders actually are also the operators of these buildings and communities. And so they have a very long term outlook on what that project means to them because they're gonna be providing services, they will be owning that building for many, many years and they have a very long-term outlook about how they may approach construction. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative> or sustainability or other things that may have longer. Whereas our market rate often, even if they're designing for rent, they may be selling it to another Right. Operator, or if they're designing for sale, they're turning it over to an end user. So there's a little bit different goals in that way, but at the end of the day, there's a true need for providing homes that people can actually afford to live in because Right.

Nancy Keenan (18:38):

Yeah. The, the idea that housing just gets more and more expensive every day for all kinds of reasons. You know, right now it's interest rates, but for a long time it's been the development fees. Development fees can be just horrific and especially in California and they can really impact pretty heavily the ability to provide attainable housing mm-hmm. In our area. So that pushes us toward more density. So that might start to where we see the things we learn is attainable housing, especially in our high cost of living areas will have to be more dense. Right. And so the things we learned with affordable housing developers start to help us learn how to provide that kind of a density for attainable housing in order to provide it at a single family level. We're finding we're, that's where we're in different regions, we're designing Texas and Utah and other places or the housing can be more attainable at a single family level.

Betsy Scott (19:28):

Right. But even in, you know, even in the denser areas, it might be more of the missing middle type housing. I'll just borrow a yes <laugh> a Dan LAC term, but it might be more of that kind of stuff that you're designing. But I think it's really interesting when you try and look at that equation that it's how can you get the land usage down so the burden for each person is less. And then how do you incorporate the features of the community and the exterior space and everything to provide the full benefit without as much of that lo what I would call a loaded cost. How do you get rid of 250 grand or whatever it is in your market? And, you know, that's a big chunk to bite off. I hear lots of people saying, Hey, you can get 40 houses, nice houses abroad for $40,000 a year. I'm like, we'd have to completely change, we'd have to completely change the model. And I don't think we're anywhere near doing that. So we gotta gotta think smarter front. Definitely.

Nancy Keenan (20:29):

Do we find that some of the construction efficiencies that we use in multi-family, like modular or other ways of building things and we carry that into single family and think about how we can get some construction, but, but ultimately it all adds up all those little parts of the process add ups.

Betsy Scott (20:45):

Absolutely. You mentioned interiors before and you recently acquired design line interiors. You talked a little bit about what that means to you on in our earlier conversation, but can you talk about that in terms of what that means for how you innovate and how you look at your total offering really moving forward? It's

Nancy Keenan (21:05):

Interesting that one of the things, like I was mentioning earlier, for architects, we've seen ourselves as wanting to be able to touch every part of the design of a community. When we talk about holistic communities from the how the land planning works and how the landscape relates to the building. And now it just seems like a natural progression to move into understanding how interior design influences beyond the architecture. So we're already relying on our interior designers to help us with, for instance, unit plan design. What do you know about interiors that could impact what we're doing? They've brought to us immediately the sense of, especially in the multi-family work, the sense of hospitality and multi-family design. They're, they're able to speak the language immediately and understand what, how those amenities can feel much more similar to what you might find in a hotel. And so, in fact, we had a, they did a quick design presentation. We have a couple of different ways of presenting designs across the company and they did a quick design presentation of some of the work they're doing. And one of our lead designers said, wow, we should have been doing this a long time ago. This really feels like it fits with us and who we are. And it's an extension of how we want to think holistically about the whole experience of a place you

Betsy Scott (22:20):

Live. Yeah. It's like buying a house and not thinking enough about how you're going to use it until you get in there and you say, ah, I really wish I had that other, that sliding door. I really wish I had that. So just the, the whole living aspect of it versus the space aspect of it, I think makes sense to kind of gel those two ideas together. Yeah.

Nancy Keenan (22:43):

They start thinking real, they're immediately thinking realistically about what is, how's this couch gonna feel in this space where we may have drawn a couch in and maybe not thought at all that they'll be thinking immediately, where will we find the furniture that makes the flow work the way it was intended? What happens when you invite all your friends to dinner here? What kind of table and chairs feel right for them? And it's just that little extra level of detail that we may have taken for granted before mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and now it's created into to what we do.

Betsy Scott (23:11):

Very cool. So 90% of the work that you guys do is for repeat clients and referrals. I think that's always a good mark of a, of a company that people keep coming back to you cuz you're easy to work with or they like the quality of what you're doing. But what do you think keeps people coming back for more? Why do you think that you're that high of a repeat performer, if you will, <laugh>,

Nancy Keenan (23:32):

I appreciate you noticing and yeah, that's really, that's very important to us. I mentioned a few times relationships, it starts there collaborating with each other, but those relationships are where it begins. We also have to, to understand that we need to add value to mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, what our clients need from us. We need to understand how to help their business. What's their business model? What is it that they need from us as designers? So if you combine the fact that we have a strong relationship with most of our clients that are repeat mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and come back to us, but we also, they also are getting from us. They know that when they come to us, they're gonna get more value, for instance mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, we're gonna understand their goals and we're gonna design to their goals. We're gonna design to the goals of their end users for the people who will live in their projects. And so if you combine those things together and we continue to talk about the value mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, then that's how they'll, they can feel trust in us and say, yes, we're gonna go back to Dolan. We know that they know us and they get us and they're gonna give us what we need for this. And we can, they can know they're hiring us as experts.

Betsy Scott (24:33):

Cool. So you have a team of 200 plus people as the president of that big groups. That's pretty impressive. We're always looking at talent and how people find the best talent. What makes you attractive to them as an organization? What do you do to make yourself, you know, you, you're making yourself attractive to your clients. What do you do to make yourself attractive to talent and what do you do to make sure that they remain and your work remains forward thinking after they join your team?

Nancy Keenan (25:01):

Well, probably in one of the tightest talent markets we've ever seen <laugh> the last year or so. So it's, it's tough out there. <Laugh> we mentioned, I mentioned we're an employee owned firm. We're an esop. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>, 30% of our company is owned by our employees. So that's something we offer to people that we're you, you actually are an owner in this firm. It makes us very transparent about the business with our people. So we're very transparent about that. I think one of the things that helps us attract talent is that we highly value all of our teams who support us. A lot of times in our industry, the technical designers, you know, there's a difference between them and what everybody may refer to as overhead. But we re we see everybody as being incredibly important to the business. That includes our people and human resources that are out there looking for talent.

Nancy Keenan (25:48):

Our people in our marketing teams are making sure that our website and other ways that we're presented to potential employees represents who we are, represents our brand, our employee owned approach, our design innovation, our finance team is very connected to all of our project team. So we think that's pretty important too, that everybody is celebrated for their value in the company. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And then we highly value design and designers. We, we know project management is, you know, an important part of our project's getting completed well. But it's also important to us that our designers are challenged and have opportunity as well.

Betsy Scott (26:25):

Great. Great. I think in anything, when everybody understands the, how they're a part of the bigger picture, the performance and the investment is probably higher. If they see that they're seen as being an integral part of what you do, you're gonna get better results with, with that.

Nancy Keenan (26:41):

We hear that all the time, time from people who come to us from other places and they find how transparent we are. They, they'll actually tell us this is different. This isn't the same as wherever else I may have worked. We're very open about the business. Mm-Hmm.

Betsy Scott (26:57):

<Affirmative>. Absolutely.

Nancy Keenan (26:58):

One of the things that the transparency has afforded us is the confidence that we feel okay about maintaining hybrid flexible work schedules forever. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And we haven't felt the need to have to, we have offices in multiple locations where people can choose amongst their teams how they want to work together. Whether it's all together in the office every day or a couple of days or hybrid. That's been very attractive as a hiring philosophy for us. And then o one of the things that's very top of mind for us right now is tomorrow is our annual company meeting. And in our annual company meeting we talk a lot about core values and how our core values were actually written by our founding partners years ago. And they really define who we are and we relate them to how we work with each other, how we work with our clients, what's important to us in design. And so talking a lot about those are, you know, placemaking, legacy of design, commitment, those values that we can resonate with everybody on different levels are an important part of making you feel like you're part of something.

Betsy Scott (28:06):

Well you're, you're mentioning work from home dovetails really nicely into the last thing I wanted to talk to you about the America at Home study. I know many people have heard about it now. We saw the Barnaby demonstration, you know, you did the demonstration home with Garmin Homes and Raleigh and it was featured I think in an online walkthrough tour through Professional builders part of the builders show earlier this year. You've done a couple phases of work in there and I'm interested to see how that's informed what you're doing and, and where that's gonna move going forward. So just wanted to remind people if they haven't seen it, you did two waves of research I think in spring and fall of 2020. You guys were kind of, you and Terry Slavi Aki for people who know her as T S T since we have a little problem saying our name sometimes and Belinda Swart of Strategic Solutions Alliance. So you guys were inspired by the fact that hey, we're all stuck at home and the way that we're using our houses has changed and people are still working remotely. And I think it's changed forever cuz it was always important. But man, when you're stuck somewhere for two years, <laugh> and you have limited ability to go anywhere, you say, I really don't like the size of this room, or I really don't like this, or I really wanna use my garage for something else.

Nancy Keenan (29:26):

We need that room. <Laugh>, Gloria

Betsy Scott (29:28):

<Laugh>. We, we don't need the dining room anymore. We need something functional. Right. Can you give a quick snapshot of the intent of the study and the top three things that you've learned for people who haven't seen it yet? And then, then we're gonna direct people to your website for more, for more good stuff too.

Nancy Keenan (29:44):

There's a great website on the study and, and the two waves. And as you said, we, we were looking around our, you know, during the pa the beginning of the pandemic and saying, wait a minute. They're asking everybody how they feel about flying and airports and restaurants and going to stores. Is anybody asking about what's going on in the home? Let's, let's do a study. And that was my first experience with that kind of thing. Terry and Belinda very experienced with it. It was a very professional <laugh> and broadly broad study that went across demographic lines. 3000 people in wa. One about almost 4,000 people in wave two and gathered so much data and information. And what was interesting is it asked people a lot of questions about how they feel about home and what makes it important to them. And then we start asking more questions that weren't really, how do you feel about your dining room?

Nancy Keenan (30:38):

Kind of questions so much as what's important to you mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and what would you like to see in your home? And then we followed it up again, what was at the time, what we thought was near the end of the pandemic <laugh>. But it was later that same year, we followed it up again to see how much things had changed. And what was interesting is people, there were, there were a couple of top items that came up, number number one and two for folks their home most important is safety and family. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And that was consistent from one wave to the next. And, and then after that becomes freedom and financial stability, which is really interesting when you think about the timing of when we were asking these questions, I would venture to say those are probably still very important to people in their homes. And then that started to translate into some design solutions mm-hmm. <Affirmative>.

Nancy Keenan (31:26):

And one, one of the things we do to stay innovative is r and d research and development. But so often we only get to do the R and we don't see the D <laugh>. And so by, by having Garmin step up and design with us and designing Barnaby and then building it, we actually got to test case a lot of our design solutions right there and see how people responded to some of the ways we were responding to what was asked for in the study. So it was pretty groundbreaking for us in thinking mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, gosh, you know, we've, you know, as designers and as clients, we often sit in the room designing homes, making decisions about what we did on the last project or what we thought we might remember about demographics. And here we just went straight to the users and asked them, what do you want? And on the second wave, Cantar also got involved and overlaid their mind based segments on the folks that were answering. And we just have a treasure trove of data that that helps inform us.

Betsy Scott (32:22):

And again, that's like what you said earlier about solving the problems for the client. When those problems were on the design side for you initially the builder or the community developer, when this is more tangibly directly, directly straight to the consumer, not saying, do you want a room that has this, you're saying, how do you wanna feel in your home? What do you wanna do in your home? And then really it's kind of Apple. Like if you think about it, nobody years ago would've thought that they wanted all sorts of crazyness on their phone and now they can't live without it. Right.

Nancy Keenan (33:02):

And nobody could have, just can describe to you what they've never seen. Right. So I'm telling you, I need a quiet space to go take a zoom call or to have my kids be able to log in to, you know, whatever they need to do. And it doesn't need to be very big, you know, they're just saying this, but they've never seen it before. So now you can go in and start design those sort of spaces and make 'em flexible enough to be a number of different things. They're like, oh, yep, that's what I meant, that's what I needed. And so,

Betsy Scott (33:30):

Exactly. Exactly. I think people are not being good at writers or creators, but they're really good at being editors. So if you, they give you enough information, right. And you ask 'em the right questions, then you can come back and say, these are some things that you could have meant and this is how you could use it. And they'd say, oh, that's exactly what I was saying to you. Yes. So that's, that's brilliant that, that's the process. And, and you mentioned building the home with Garmin in the Raleigh market and being able to deliver directly there. Are there things that you learned specifically from people who toured through the home or feedback that you got from Garmin? There's a lot of times people can say they want something or they wanna feel a certain way when you do a survey. Right. But then that's kind of like a focus group, so it gives you a direction to go in, but it doesn't necessarily give you what the full end in mind is. Were there other things that you learned that were kind of aha moments from the actual demonstration project?

Nancy Keenan (34:28):

That was really, it was the most fun I had was actually being in the house when there was an open house and people are coming through and talking about the, the features and what they see and what's important to them and what they liked or maybe, you know, didn't matter to them personally. Everybody has a different perspective of what's important to them. But there were a couple of pieces, a couple of things that really resonated with folks that seemed to be consistent. And one of 'em was this idea of a family entry. So if you go back to safety and family being the number one things people wanted, when you come in from your garage and you've got all the kids in the lacrosse gear and the dirty dogs and the whatever, <laugh>, there's a place to drop all that. Or you, you know, a nurse coming in with, you know, wanted to de gear before they walk into the house. There was, people would honestly, you'd find groups of people standing in the family entry just talking about all the ways they could use it. Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>. And it was just, it was really affirming <laugh> and heartwarming <laugh>, you know, gosh, this solution does really resonate with people. So I think there's things like that that will continue if we just keep asking, like, you, you had mentioned the open-ended questions. What is it you want? And then think about different solutions. I, I think that was the main, the main takeaway.

Betsy Scott (35:41):

Very cool. Well, I really appreciate you taking time to chat with me today. I will definitely go back and look at that project that you mentioned that's in Salt Lake. And I do wanna reach out to the a, a a there and look at that to connect with them for our road trip in October. That's of next year, almost a full year away. Now

Nancy Keenan (35:58):

<Laugh>, let us know our, our guy who's there, our designer who's there, can join you. That would be.