During a question and answer session at a recent industry conference, a home builder asked Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi for his thoughts about the labor
Jan. 2009: Industry Tips for the Professional Builder
Industry Tips for the Professional Builder
Unlimited Imagination Goes Into Murals
Here's an option to offer your clients: murals. Envirooments: Atmospheric Interiors offers a special kind of mural for clients who dream of living in Paris or having an ocean view. The artist, Sean McConnell, creates an illusion of another world by using a process known as Trompe L'oeil, French for “trick the eye.” In the images above, the details in the mural (right) make it appear as if you're looking out a window. A close-up (left) shows the intricate detailing McConnell puts in the mural. The entire process takes five to eight months, and he does the whole thing in his studio. Once it's done, it takes about two hours to install. — Jennifer Powell
Break Language Barriers The term 2 by 4 triggers the same picture — a piece of wood — to most people. Say “2 by 4” to someone who wasn’t raised in the U.S., however, and he or she might think of the number 8 or stare blankly — a communication struggle a non-native speaker of English may face with their superintendents. But there’s help. All World Languages & Cultures, a language school in Less’s Summit, Mo., offers classes and nationwide consulting specifically tailored to industries, including building. Students meet for two hours about twice a week for translations specific to construction. For more information, visit www.universalhighways.com. — Sara Zailskas
Custom ComfortContractor Tito Gabilondo, owner of A.G. Service & Repair, Tucson, Ariz. developed a comprehensive custom HVAC comfort system for a 3,300 square-foot custom home in southern Arizona. Gabilondo ultimately installed two 4- and 5- ton, 16-SEER Rheem air conditioners and matched them with two 80-percent, two-stage gas furnaces that feature GE’s ECM motors. To improve the indoor air quality in this dusty climate, he installed a Honeywell media cabinet that captures airborne particles to add even greater indoor air quality. The house also sports a PROTECH-branded humidifier into the system. All system components are managed by a two-stage thermostat. — Nick Bajzek
Air Conditioners: 4-and 5-ton Rheem 16-SEER AC units
Furnaces: Two 80%, two-stage Rheem gas furnaces with GE ECM motors
IAQ Products: Honeywell Charged Media Air Cleaner, PROTECH Humidifier
Feet of ductwork: 180
Spec Writers: Remember the K.I.S.S. Rule
Carl Seville of Seville Consulting, Decatur, Ga., is a green builder, educator and consultant on sustainability. He’s also an NAHB Certified Trainer and HERS rater, so he knows a thing or two about writing specs for trade contractors that leave no room for creative interpretation.
Here are Seville’s tips:
• Use your best trades for input. Get their help in developing specs, then introduce them to all of your trades at the same time in a group meeting. Repeat the process once or twice a year with new and existing subs present.
• Be realistic. Specs should be stringent, but not impossible to meet. Perfection is a fantasy.
• Keep it simple. Make forms self-documenting and be sure to include instructions.
“Green building guidelines, such as NAHB’s, have some very good details you can use as a reference whether you build green or not,” Seville says. His Web site, www.sevilleconsulting.com, also includes checklists that project managers can use to help trades reach the no-punchlist goal. — Sue Bady
Hot StuffWhat’s the best place to put a second fireplace? According to 51 percent of buyers, it’s the master bedroom. That the finding in NAHB’s Economic Group’s “Consumer Preferences Survey: 2007-2008,” which also noted 23 percent of respondents ranked the living room the next best place to add another fire. — SZ
|A Google Guide to Boost Your Web Presence
Well-known fact: people are increasingly turning to the Internet when searching for a new home.
Little-known fact: Google has made available, free-of-charge, a great guide on how you can make your Web site more search engine friendly. The importance of capturing the people who search for “custom builder” in Google should not be ignored.
Custom home builders would be doing themselves a huge favor by retooling their Web sites for search engine optimization (SEO). Go to http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com, and scroll to the November 12, 2008 blog posting to retrieve your own copy of “Google's SEO Starter Guide.” Then get started right away on boosting your company’s presence for Google searches. — Mark Jarasek
The American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey results show special function rooms are waning in popularity. Although the home office is still the most popular at 39 percent, it’s down from 61 percent in 2007. The mud room is a close second at 32 percent, while the game room comes in last at 8 percent.
Photo: Peter Koelman
Glulam Beams Warm Up Minnesota Cabana
When summer’s over and the weather grows cool, the owners of a custom home near Minneapolis can keep the party going in their 600-square-foot cabana. A glass wall, clerestory windows and exposed wood beams add light and warmth to the structure, which is sandwiched between a swimming pool and tennis court. Architect Cal Lundquist and builder Dale Hoika specified glulam timbers for the roof decking and beams, partly because they were appropriate for a home on a wooded site. More important, glulam timbers are readily available, competitively priced and green (no large, old-growth trees are used in the prefabrication process). The three ridge beams in the cathedral ceiling are 20 feet long and 20 inches deep with a 5-foot overhang. Lundquist notes that exposed laminated timber avoids the industrial look of other materials and provides natural aesthetics and strength for long spans. — SB
American Institute of Timber Construction web site (for more info on glulam timbers)
Special Environments Group web site
Demand for windows and doors in the U.S. is estimated to rise 2.8 percent annually to $40 billion in 2012. Demand for windows is projected to rise 3.7 percent per year through 2012, and demand for doors will grow 2.4 percent annually through 2012. These forecasts are presented in a study from The Freedonia Group, an industry research firm based in Cleveland, Ohio.
Portland Concrete Association recently surveyed custom builders on their awareness and use of concrete above-wall grade systems. Insulating concrete forms grew the most in usage, according to the survey. Two percent of builders surveyed said they used ICFs in 2003, tripling to six percent in 2007. The use of removable concrete forms for homebuilding doubled from 1.2 percent in 2003 to 2.4 percent in 2007. — Felicia Oliver