Kansas City Builder Takes Business-Changing Lessons from Tiny Apartment Educational Session

Gloria Ortiz-Fisher says the TecHome Builder Summit gave her a new understanding of how to maximize the space constraints of city living.

As urban builders are further being restricted by size limitations, they are being forced to come up with creative ways to make the most out of the limited living space. That was the focus of the Big Tech Options for the Tiny Apartment Trend session at the 2016 TecHome Builder Summit.

During that session, Hasier Larrea discussed the future of the tiny apartment and how his Ori System can transform even the smallest spaces into multiple rooms on demand, creating the feel of a much larger home. For Gloria Ortiz-Fisher, the executive director of Westside Housing Organization, the presentation is giving her a new outlook on how to design her buildings.

Ortiz-Fisher has been struggling to find the right size for a small apartment in Kansas City, Mo. Unlike New York or San Francisco where 450 square feet can work, apartments of 1,000 square feet are much more common for her market. Working with spaces any less than that can be more challenging, and Ortiz-Fisher says she is already making plans to implement this new technology in an upcoming project.

“When we talk about having that movable wall between your bedroom and your living room, you really get to say, ‘today I want a 10-foot living room and tomorrow I want it five-foot or eight-foot,” she says. “I love that idea and we’re going to be incorporating that in a building we’re talking about right now.”

That will be an $8 million mixed-use building with a commercial space on the bottom and 40 units above, each coming in around 750 square feet. There also will be keyless locks along with other features.

Though she has never incorporated tech into any projects before, Ortiz-Fisher is ready to dive in. This will be among the first projects in which she features tech, and she doesn’t plan to stop there. She says the TecHome Builder Summit opened her eyes.

“I was like a kid in a candy store,” she says.

This year, she will make sure there are more kids in that candy store. She will be bringing more members of her team to the 2017 TecHome Builder Summit Dec. 4-6 in Phoenix, Ariz, so the company can take more ideas back to the office.

“Just because I’m doing affordable housing, doesn’t mean I’m sub-class,” she says. “I still want solar panels and energy efficiency. I still want all the kinds of amenities that luxury apartments have. Maybe not to the level because I’m not able to put them in.”

One limit she faces is that her company builds affordable housing, so resources for incorporating tech are limited. As a NeighborWorks America organization, Westside Housing is a not-for-profit operation, so Ortiz-Fisher must be more strategic in the tech choices she makes.

Regardless of how much tech she is able to use in the end, she believes the TecHome Builder Summit can help her find the best options for her projects.

“I came back from this conference and I told probably 30 people different things about it,” she adds. “Everything from check-in to scanning in and out of sessions, which I know may not seem like a big deal, but I go to a lot of conferences and they’re not as organized. Everything about everything was very well organized. From the time that we spent with the vendors to the time that we spent networking and the information that you passed into the sessions, it was all just so valuable.”