We sat down and spoke with David Hull and Will Root, the principal industrial designers behind KOVA SELECT, to understand the genesis of the project and the principles they used to guide themselves in the creation of the KOVA SELECT product line.
Q: If you had to sum up KOVA SELECT’s design ethos what would it be?
A: KOVA SELECT is really predicated on a constraint-driven design approach. That means we try as much as possible to allow the functionality of whatever we are designing to really be the driving force behind the design, and work to minimize anything superfluous or additional to that core functionality.
Q: What was unique about the process of designing KOVA SELECT?
A: One of the most unique parts of the design exercise for this project was driven by Katerra’s unique model. Because of our vertically integrated nature as a design build firm supplying all materials, as designers we had access to a whole lot more information than we might for a typical project. Specifically, we could consider what’s going on BEHIND the walls, not just what we can see.
Take our plumbing fixtures, for example. In designing our plumbing products, we spent a lot of time learning from our plumbing engineers and installers to understand what plumbing systems we use, how we install them, and then designing specifically to accommodate those things.
As a result, we built in a lot of connectors that are normally separate parts and integrated them into the actual valves we’re using in the walls. This reduces the number of connections, making them hyper-optimized for our plumbing engineering and installers.
Q: What do you think makes KOVA SELECT special as compared to other products already in the market?
A: One of the most unique things that we’ve been able to do with KOVA SELECT is be expansive in which product categories we take on. Because of Katerra’s vertically integrated supply chain, we’re not limited to focusing on product lines within one category. Rather, we can design all sorts of categories to fit seamlessly together. Plumbing fixtures, door hardware, lighting, appliances – we can work to develop products that share common design details all throughout a space.
That’s categorically different than most product brands in the world—and it’s only possible because we’re all under one roof, which gives us a much better ability to apply cross-category design synergy.
Q: You talk a lot about the increased value and higher quality for price achieved with KOVA SELECT. How is that achieved?
A: One of the things we’ve done with KOVA SELECT is to take a more expansive view to how we think about cost. Our vertically integrated model allows us to look at the holistic cost savings of our designs, so thinking about savings in terms of the total cost of a project or building–not just the cost of the particular part or piece.
Our pocket door is a great example of this. Normally, when you’re designing a product you’re focused on driving down the cost of the individual product, which means skimping on material quality to focus on lowest cost. This is often the case with pocket doors, which is why consumers often don’t like them because they feel low quality, are hard to use and maintain, and are a pain to install.
However, the benefits of pocket doors are vast when it comes to saving space in your unit design – enabling smaller clearances and tighter configurations than are normally allowed.
Given the holistic benefits of pocket doors, we looked at the total cost savings of including pocket doors in our designs and realized we needed to invest in designing a really great pocket door, so that’s what we did. We’ve developed a pocket door assembly and handle to alleviate the common pain points of installers, maintenance guys, and consumers. We’ve turned it into a desirable product for developers, which will enable us to use it more frequently.
The handle itself is costlier than a typical pocket door handle, but the overall gains far outweigh the individual expense.
Q: Where do you see KOVA SELECT going in the future?
A: We’re just getting started. That’s the most exciting thing.
One of the things that’s most interesting to us is to see how the design of KOVA SELECT is going to let us evolve the products into the future more easily than is the norm. Specifically, we’ve designed the entire system as a series of components that are shared between multiple product configurations, which buys us several benefits as we think about the future.
First, this allows us to start integrating new technologies into the products iteratively, and rapidly. We don’t have to re-engineer entire products or lines, rather, we can just update a single shared component. This will make updated technologies much easier to integrate as we move forward.
Additionally, if some other external factors change this should make the update and maintenance related to our products significantly more streamlined than what’s currently on the market.