Epcon Communities has won numerous awards for its floor plans and kitchen layouts, but it had been years since they overhauled the curb appeal of their home designs. But in 2022, after participating in the Parade of Homes near their headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, their leadership decided it was time for a change with the help of Higharc.
We sat down with President of Franchising & Product Development, Paul Hanson, and Director of Design, Mats Ahlstrom, to discuss how Higharc empowered them to modernize their plan library and improve their buyer experience across their communities.
Identifying, Then Tackling the Problem
Epcon assembled a team and began interviewing homeowners, sales consultants and department heads to identify opportunities for value engineering and aesthetic improvements. The result was a two-phase approach, beginning with the most popular side-courtyard designs Epcon offers.
“Our exterior elevations were getting a bit conservative and starting to feel slightly dated,” said Ahlstrom. “The question was, how do we improve curb appeal and allow for more diversity within a community?”
The answer was to develop seven different elevations for each unit type. The challenge was completing the task in a reasonable amount of time without getting bogged down in a multitude of community, municipal and regional requirements.
The key to this increased capacity for change was a relationship with Higharc. Higharc’s centralized approach to homebuilding keeps all the data, options and selections for a home plan in one place, regardless of the home site, community or municipal concerns, allowing builders to create different versions of homes instantly instead of updating multiple files for different situations.
Better Visuals, Better Homebuying Experience
When it comes to complicated design updates like Epcon was taking on, seeing is believing. And with Higharc, Epcon leadership was able to quickly see the impact new exterior elevations would have on their plan library.
“Drafting the changes in Higharc, where we can actually see them in 3D was very helpful from a review standpoint early on, just to catch things that weren’t lining up correctly and save us time and money before we got too far down the wrong path,” noted Hanson.
Unlike other rendering services, Higharc creates high-quality 3D renderings directly from the model in the system, eliminating errors and drastically increasing the speed at which renderings can be produced.
Higharc’s ability to render a large number of home variations quickly and accurately allowed Epcon to drastically increase the number of renderings they ordered, providing more transparency in the design process and more visual decision-making support tools for their customers.
A Connected Home Building Experience
The power of Higharc exists in the connections it provides between the different aspects of the homebuilding business. Developing plans in Higharc Studio using a central source of data unlocks a myriad of downstream assets that always connect back to the builders’ single source of truth, the home plan itself.
Sales staff utilizing Higharc can customize a home plan in 3D, live, and on the web with the buyer, allowing for a level of confidence during key decision-making moments during the sales process that surpasses anything else in the industry today. Buyers also receive customized brochures with their exact layout and structural options, which they can browse at their leisure and share on social media.
“Before, it was all on paper, forcing customers to use their imagination to envision how all of the various options they selected would come together. You didn't see the whole thing come together before your eyes,” Ahlstrom said. “Whether you're talking about the renderings or the marketing piece, Higharc is really a pretty special thing that we can provide to our customers."
New Market Advantages
After finalizing the new home plans, it was time to put them into action. Epcon recently entered the Atlanta market, which provided a great opportunity to make use of the advantages that Higharc offers to home builders when starting up new communities or divisions. This helped to speed up the time to market and streamline the onboarding process for new team members.
There’s often a lag when the details of a new community are being finalized. Sales teams know where the community will be, but outside of that, they are often hampered by taking deposits on lots without visual cues that can help bolster their sales process and provide buyers with a true visualization of their home.
With Higharc, Epcon was able to get the sales team visual representation of the new plans faster, allowing them to get comfortable with the new product before the start of the reservation process.
“Completing the renderings and other marketing materials faster than in the past means we're launching each of those projects at least two months ahead of when we would have been able to do so with our old process,” Hanson said.
Epcon also streamlined its permitting process using Higharc’s auto-generated lot-specific construction drawing sets. In the past, an employee would pull individual sheets from the master set of drawings, remove pages or vignettes that did not apply to the specific customer selections and deliver a piecemeal set of drawings for permit.
Turnaround times were slow as plan reviewers weren’t looking at the exact house to be built.
Epcon is now able to provide lot-specific drawings that match the house to be built exactly, substantially reducing the possibility of field errors and increasing the confidence that everyone has exactly what they need to get the job done.
“Now we just make all of the selections in Higharc and generate an accurate set of construction documents for permitting and field use,” Ahlstrom said.
Results and Reflections
“We’re finding that people are opting for options like bonus suites and sitting rooms more often because they can experience what it actually does for the home versus looking at it on just a stock marketing brochure in two dimensions.”
Epcon is also seeing a reduction in cycle time. “Accurate construction drawings are allowing us to build houses incrementally faster in terms of construction days and fewer trip charges, and our construction team has brought about a significant reduction in build time this year,” Hanson said.
Visit Higharc.com to learn more about how a connected platform can bring your teams together, streamline the homebuilding process, and deliver a better buyer experience.
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