Posts From September, 2020

Zero Fulfills Human Needs at All Levels

By Joe Emerson and Bruce Sullivan – inspired by CR Herro of Meritage Homes

Selling anything, including zero homes, is about linking a customer’s needs with a product’s benefits. There is an art to finding new and rewarding methods for making these links. An old concept from psychology can still be useful today. The psychologist, Abraham Maslow, outlined a hierarchy of human needs, starting with basics such as physiological and safety needs. When those needs have been fulfilled people strive to fulfill higher needs, such as their needs for belonging and self-esteem. And when those needs are met they have the capacity to fulfill their moral and problem-solving needs including caring for others and community. 

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Housing Supply Remains Far Short of Demand Despite a Strong July

Builders are more optimistic despite insufficient housing supply, due in part to restrictive zoning and labor challenges.

This monthly review of the sentiment of builders conducted by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo jumped to a record high in its 35-year existence. From July to August the index rose six points to 78. This is a remarkable feat given that in March 2020 home builders faced a perilous future full of uncertainties. A precipitous drop was quickly followed by a sharp “V”-shaped recovery. This was a script that no industry expert could have written as the COVID-pandemic gripped the nation in March. Builders that were making disaster plans in April are now boasting that they expect to exceed business plans for 2020 if they can complete construction on all their sales. Most are raising prices in their communities. Mortgage interest rates are at historic low levels pumping up demand...

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Indoor Air Tips During Wildfires

NASA Smoke ImageIf you are in or near California, Oregon, or Washington right now you are likely experiencing terrible air quality due to the devastating wildfires happening around the West. And if winds continue to build the smoke from those wildfires may spread across the country. Inhaling wildfire smoke can not only irritate your eyes and respiratory system, it can also worsen asthma and chronic heart and lung diseases. With air quality indexes currently reaching the unhealthy and hazardous levels, it’s important for those who are able to safely stay inside, to do so. But, unfortunately, just staying indoors doesn’t mean your air quality is going to be great.

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Is it Time for a Backyard Office?

While many folks are now working and learning from home through (at least) the end of 2020, it may be time to look at creating a separate office space or classroom.

Home OfficeAccessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) have been around for many years. Also referred to as “granny flats,” or “mother-in-law suites,” they are simply a secondary unit to a main house. Attached ADU’s are just that - attached to the principal dwelling. Examples include an apartment above a garage or in a daylight basement - with its own entrance. Detached ADU’s are secondary structures that usually sit next to a main structure or in a backyard (also with their own entrance). Photo courtesy ASMBL Proponents of ADU’s have been working hard to make the adoption of these types of structures more acceptable in many cities around the United States. California, Portland, and Seattle are a few areas that have seen laws passed recently that should help with the approval process. Many ADU’s are put in place for secondary income or to provide solutions for low-income housing options. They are also used as studio or office spaces. And now, with many schools operating with online-only options... 

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Without foreclosure protections, could strong housing demand be short-lived?

Recent foreclosure protections and mortgage forbearance data support down-stream effects on housing supply.

In his recent blog, “Where Are the For Sale Signs,” Housing Tides’ Jeff Whiton proposed that the present shortage of housing inventory will end if government foreclosure protections are not extended. Housing finance firm Black Knight estimates that as of July 21, 4.1 million homeowners continue to receive mortgage forbearance benefits from their lenders, making up 7.8% of U.S. mortgages. 1.87 million of these homeowners are “seriously delinquent,” or 90+ days late on their payments.

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Outdated HVAC Systems May Hinder Return to School

While some schools are already back in session, others will be “headed back” after Labor Day.
Outdated HVAC Systems May Hinder Return to School
School administrators have been working hard to determine whether or not it’s safe enough to allow their students to return to classrooms for in-person education. Every state is a bit different, each city or county, even more so. A friend and private school administrator in Washington State recently shared with me their plan to return in-person and mentioned one of the major tasks they completed was having their entire HVAC system tested and updated. And this got me wondering...how many schools are unable to go back to in-person teaching simply because of failing HVAC systems and lack of funds (and/or time) to fix them? In a United States Government Accountability Office Report titled: “School Districts Frequently Identified Multiple Building Systems Needing Updates or Replacement,” they found that more than half (54%) of the school districts need to “update or replace at least two building systems in many of their schools.” The report estimates that 41% of school districts need ... read more
 

The Next Normal in Residential Construction

Thinking of building a Pandemic-Proof home? These five design principals can help.
The Next Normal in Residential Construction
As millions of people stay isolated many begin to scrutinize every cubic inch of their home, they start asking important questions. How healthy is my home? How airtight is it? If I can get a “Bio-Weapon Defense Mode” in my Tesla, why can’t I get something similar in the place where I now work *and* sleep? The business as usual (BAU) paradigm around homebuilding has been to provide little more than basic shelter and a degree of comfort since the demise of most craft homebuilding shortly after WW2 (fodder for a future post). Today, people expect, and are learning more about, what makes a home healthy, efficient, resilient, sustainable and long lasting. These types of homes are now often referred to as “High Performance Homes” (HPH). Dr. Joe Lstiburek — The Dean of building science said it best: “A high-performance home is a home where people don’t get sick, where they feel comfortable, a HPH lasts a very long time, has very low utility bills, and has a light touch on the... read more
 

Visiting the Ultimate Z.E.N. Home

The Ultimate Zero Energy Now (Z.E.N.) Home in Denver, Colorado was built by Thrive Home Builders in collaboration with ProBuilder Media and the Energy & Environmental Building Alliance. Due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, the model home, which was intended to be a feature attraction at the EEBA 2020 High Performance Summit has been altered to a virtual format, but as EEBA’s Digital Media Intern, I was fortunate to have the chance to visit the Ultimate Z.E.N. home in person during a private tour with Thrive Home Builders CEO Gene Myers! Not only is the home top of the line in high performance home building, it also manages to maintain the hominess that buyers are looking for. The entire house is open floorplan living, starting with the largest kitchen counter I have ever seen connected to the living room as soon as you walk in. The finishes and fixtures are straight out of a magazine, and the kitchen is from my dreams. Continuing the open feel of the house, the traditional dining room ...

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