Strength, usefulness, and beauty are Vitruvius's essentials for building architecture.

Vitruvius insists three things of architects, which translate imperfectly from Latin as durability, utility, and beauty.

In so doing, in the first century BCE in Rome, he generously gave each of us terms that help us discriminate and express to others what we want and don't want in a home today.

Call them principles, essentials, or virtues, they're basically the language that blend measures and immeasurables into, roughly, this question for our home builder, "is this too much to ask for my money?"

When a sale is not a given--as is mostly the case for new home sales these days, whatever the price--baselines around durability and function are practically table stakes.

It's beauty--and in the sensual, deeply visceral mode that Vitruvius may have intended for his term--that fires the glandular release that causes us to write checks for the biggest purchase of our lives. We must be moved to move.

BUILDER Responsive Home, Inspirada, Pardee Homes, a TRI Pointe Group project.

So, as we plan for our Responsive Home(s) frame walk in the next week or so at Henderson, Nev.'s Inspirada, we're doing a lot of thinking of which design and what engineering will "move" our targeted buyer--that youngish adult who's got a career off to a good, solid start--and fire that glandular release.

When we apply Vitruvius' term--Venustas--today, we surmise that beauty may well have universal, classic forces, lines, dimension, and energies, but we know, too, in the real world, this only matters insofar as it moves our buyer. So, the part of beauty we're homing in on with TRI Pointe Pardee Homes' Responsive project is its capacity to be personalized.

Now, customization, or mass customization versus personalization is a long-debated notion, and I think many marketers think of it backwards. They propose that customization allows a consumer to make real-time choices to get what he wants, while personalization engineers the item to learn and know what the consumer wants, no choices necessary.

BUILDER Responsive Home, Inspirada, Henderson, Nev., by TRI Pointe Group's Pardee Homes
Getting ready for the frame walk at Inspirada's new Responsive Homes

I think it's different. Especially as regards a new home. Customization is built; is engineered. It's variation in production and execution. It's non-iterative. It's unscalable.

And yet, our friend George Casey says that many home builders are faced these days with having to be "as nimble as a Romanian gymnast" in adapting--at all stages of design and construction--to the whims and wishes of buyers and their moving-target floor-plan changes.

Customization, even mass customization, is part and parcel of many consumer durables manufacturers' core challenge. But personalization is different.

Personalization engineers parameters, stimulants, and an environment for a storyline to begin and take shape, but it allows me--the reader, the user, the buyer--to finish the story, to complete the process, to make "Venustas," beauty.

In designing and construction of the Responsive Home, our research tells us that young buyers want something that seems like a paradox. They want the home interface to be simple and elegant, and not requiring much work to make it work. At the same time, they want to "finish" the story, to personalize it, to make their home's beauty their own.

From our research partners at Ketchum to our design director Bobby Berk to our architecture firm Bassenian Lagoni to the creative building team at Pardee Homes, our obsessive focus is on how to "move" a prospective buyer by appealing to his or her desire to have a personalized home, not a customized one.

Is this too much to ask? Vitruvius would say no, this is the minimum any architect or builder should deliver. It's what makes waking up and working in residential construction never a dull moment.