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Week of November 17, 2003

Front Page

Housing and Economics

* Spotlight on: Jacksonville

Business Management

* Put Processes in Place to Reduce Your Punch Lists

Legal Issues

* Ask the Lawyer — About Vested Development Rights


* Court Ruling Casts Habitat Conservation Plans in Doubt

Smart Growth

* Awards Recognize Smart Growth Development in Northeast Ohio

Seniors Housing

* Conference Explores Facets of 50+ Market
* Builders Increasingly Responding to ‘Aging in Place’ Housing Issues
* Market-Rate Rental Communities for 'Not-So-Poor' Seniors a Potential Growth Area

Small Builders and Remodelers

* Is It Time to Remodel Your Reputation?

Housing Finance

* Industry Forum Set for Florida Air Force Housing Privatization Project

Building Systems

* Achievements in Systems-Built Housing Recognized


* Cutting-Edge Green Building Products Named the Top-10 for 2003

Building Products

* Exterior Doors Open to Zen Masterpiece

Building News Coast To Coast

Association News & Events

* Bob the Builder Activity Books Are Back in Stock
* February Is National Designation Month
* NAHB President Conine Reappointed to Texas Housing Board
* Fire Relief Fund Announced by Southern California Builders
* Calendar of Events

NBN Back Issues


Building News Coast to Coast

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Need to Buy General Liability Insurance?
Confused about Subcontractor Agreements?
Structural Defects, Can They Happen to You?
Building A Better Business Through Education?

Not-So-Rustic Retreats

Modern log homes cost significantly more than conventional dwellings of the same size and can have many upscale features, ranging from cathedral ceilings and skylights to hot tubs, waterfalls and gourmet kitchens. "Log design can be anything from contemporary and slick and modern to rustic and conventional. It comes in different forms — mountain cowboy chic, Adirondack, Southwest, traditional, upscale," observes Robbin Obomsawin, author of "The Not So Log Cabin: Log-Element Building & Design." Log-home buyers should choose an attractive location, as well as a quality builder. Custom Log Structures owner Steve Fox says these dwellings are more expensive than traditional homes because of the labor-intense carpentry involved. Home owners can achieve the rustic log-cabin look in their existing residence without shelling out tons of money. This can be accomplished with wood railings, staircases, columns, mantels, twig art and porch rafters, notes Obomsawin. (
Chicago Tribune (11/14/03) P. 1; Bozzo, Donna
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Builders Using Forensic Inspections to Boost Quality, Preclude Suits

More and more builders are using independent home inspectors to perform forensic inspections of new construction. This trend is spreading across the country after starting on the West Coast, where Californian builders fought hard for a right to repair defects before they can be sued. Now, 15 states have such laws: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia. The trend is motivated both by a desire for higher quality and a desire to avoid costly payouts in class-action suits alleging defective construction. "It helps me sleep at night; it's sleep insurance," said one major national builder's risk management officer. The forensic inspection programs differ in the details, but there are several elements often found. These are review of the plans, training of subcontractors and staff on spotting potential problems, on-site inspections and project documentation. (
Chicago Tribune (11/09/03) P. 1C; Sichelman, Lew
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Aiming to Be the Next Big Amenity

Despite the benefits of formaldehyde-free cabinets, energy-efficient appliances, air filtration systems, recycled building materials, double-pane windows and other green building components, most home buyers want tangible amenities. In fact, renters at the nation's first green high-rise — the Solaire in New York's Battery Park City — say they were drawn to the parquet floors, granite countertops, concierge service, gym and views of the Hudson River more than its environmentally friendly components. According to Newmark Homes Vice President Chuck Lemmond, green features make the firm's homes more marketable only if they are in a quality location and have the same amenities and prices as nearby developments. Although the Environmental Protection Agency believes builders can sell green homes by touting the 15%-30% in energy savings, Energy Star National Director Sam Rashkin says such sales techniques are difficult for builders accustomed to showcasing master suites and upscale materials. However, some builders expect green construction to catch on once buyers are made more aware of the concept. (
New York Times (11/13/03) P. D1; Rich, Motoko
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Cool Climates, Hot Suburbs, Mixed Blessings

The population has exploded in what Virginia Tech demographer Robert Lang has dubbed "the low-SPF Sun Belt," which encompasses counties outside Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and other aging metropolitan areas. The low-cost land and housing in these locales have contributed to rampant growth — which in turn has led to traffic congestion, the development of so-called "McMansions," higher home prices and the need for better schools and other infrastructure. However, many experts do not consider the expansion of these areas to be growth because new residents are moving in not from elsewhere in the nation but rather from nearby communities. University of Missouri-St. Louis Public Policy Research Center Director Mark Tranel dubs this phenomenon "intra-urban migration." Though the population gains in outlying counties add to the number of jobs in the nearby metropolitan areas, there are concerns over the distribution of limited public funds and the shift in development from downtown to the suburbs. (
USA Today (11/11/03) P. 18A; Moore, Martha T.
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Homeownership Is Key to Closing Wealth Gap for African Americans

According to the latest Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, the net wealth of the average African-American household skyrocketed 221% from $5,919 in 1989 to $19,010 in 2001; while that of the average U.S. household in general rose just 32.9% from $64,788 to $86,100. However, Consumer Federation of America Executive Director Stephen Brobeck believes that blacks cannot narrow the wealth gap unless more become home owners. A report by Providian Financial and the Consumer Federation attributes the 23% surge in personal wealth among low- to middle-income households between 1995 and 2001 to a jump in home equity. Although the homeownership rate among African Americans climbed from 42% in 1990 to 48% this year, it still lags behind the overall homeownership rate of 68% and the white homeownership rate of 76%. (
Washington Post (11/13/03) P. E3; Singletary, Michelle
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In Metropolitan Areas, Home Prices Balloon in Third Quarter

Double-digit home-price gains were seen in more than 40 U.S. metropolitan areas during the third quarter, with the median appreciation rate at 10.1%. According to National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist David Lereah, the trend can be attributed to a lean supply of residential properties for sale as well as to low mortgage rates. Home prices surged 26.5% in Riverside, CA; 24.5% in Los Angeles; and 11.8% in Corpus Christi, TX, to name a few. However, NAR expects appreciation to cool to 4.3% or so in the coming year. (
Dallas Morning News Online (11/14/03) Brown, Steve
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Rain Gardens Are a Naturally Pretty Way to Control Runoff

In a number of communities across the country, rain gardens are being used to prevent stormwater from passing over polluted pavement and into lakes and rivers. The gardens are cut into the landscape, lined with a mixture of compost and sand and topped with native wildflowers and shrubs. They typically absorb and filter rainwater in just 48 hours, serving to prevent mosquitoes from breeding and spreading the West Nile virus and to improve the quality of local waterways. Rain gardens already exist in Lathrup Village, MI.; Madison, WI.; Prince Georges County, MD.; and Minneapolis-St. Paul; and as the concept catches on, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource's Roger Bannerman believes they will alter the appearance of the nation's cities. (
Chicago Tribune (11/14/03) P. 1; Hair, Marty
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Study: Schooling Barrier to Housing

According to a Commonwealth Housing Task Force study, Massachusetts could see the construction of as many as 33,000 new residential units in the next decade if lawmakers would set aside $62 million to pay for each new student to attend public school. Overcrowded schools and the soaring costs of education have kept many cities and towns from allowing new development, the paper concluded. According to the task force, however, the cost of the proposed plan is equivalent to just 2% of the state's yearly Chapter 70 budget, which provides funding to local school districts. Though some lawmakers believe the state's budget crisis makes the plan impossible, the task force believes it could be accomplished if the state frees up money by selling $400 million in surplus land. Northeastern University Center for Urban and Regional Policy Director and study co-author Barry Bluestone adds that the state would be forced to spend just $4.7 million during the first few years of the program. (
Daily News Tribune (Boston) Online (11/12/03) Kunzelman, Michael
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NY Aims to Make Roofs 'Green'

In New York, both government officials and environmentalists are banding together to add more so-called green roofs. The latest move finds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teaming up with New York City's Department of Environmental Protection and various environmental groups to convince Pace University to install a green roof on top of a portion of its downtown New York campus. Officials and environmentalists hope to use Pace's green roof as a demonstration project for building developers and owners citywide. Jane Kenny, administrator of the EPA's regional office, states, "This is a great place to showcase green roofs because it's visible to so many high rises. We wanted to find a building to set an example for other building owners to follow." Green roofs are being touted due to their environmental and health benefits, ranging from lower energy costs to reduced air pollution to better storm-water runoff. Earth Pledge reports that such roofs can cost anywhere from $15-$35 per square foot to install. (
Wall Street Journal (11/12/03) P. B8; Muto, Sheila
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Sacred Spaces Help to Make Homes Spiritual Sanctuaries

According to "In a Spiritual Style: The Home as Sanctuary" author Laura Cerwinske, an increasing number of home owners are incorporating meditation rooms, altars, Sabbath tables and other spiritual spaces in their homes to provide an escape from the material culture and the post-Sept. 11 climate. "We found people who considered their homes to be sanctuaries for others, to be places for gathering and celebration, for worship, for memorial, even for burial," remarks Cerwinske. Home owners can create sacred spaces by simply altering lighting and fabrics and building an altar, but some consider their spiritual needs while the home is being constructed. Builders in Lakewood, NJ, for instance, have taken the needs of Orthodox Jews into consideration when erecting homes in the area. These dwellings have large gathering spaces and extra bedrooms and kitchens that allow them to follow Jewish dietary laws. (
Chicago Tribune (11/07/03) P. 1; Schreiber, Lynne Meredith
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First-Time Buyers Tend to Paint, Plant, Refinish

According to research by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, first-time home buyers age 35 and younger spend an average of $2,070 yearly on home improvements. Studies also show that first-time buyers who earn under $40,000 spend about $2,050 annually on remodeling, while those earning more than $120,000 shell out $4,820 per year. Regardless of the age and type of home purchased, first-timers are often forced to put off improvements because they lack the necessary cash. Nevertheless, most will repaint the walls to suit their tastes, plant gardens, work on the floors, replace the water heater, add storage and consider installing another bathroom. However, Philadelphia-based contractor John Fries says it is important for first-time buyers to set priorities. American Express Vice President Ronald Shultz says home owners would add rooms, porches or decks, swimming pools and new roofs if money was not a concern. (
Philadelphia Inquirer (11/08/03) Heavens, Alan J.
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The Continued Lure of the Fairways

There are now about 26 million golfers nationwide, according to, and billions in golf-related products are sold annually. As a result, builders continue to produce golf-course communities that offer home owners plenty of housing types and amenities. The National Golf Foundation says most of these developments are located in California, Florida, Michigan and Texas; and they serve nearly four million golfers. (
Unique Homes (11/03) Vol. 32, No. 6, P. 48; Carlin-Russell, Kathleen
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Upwardly Mobile

Mobile workers will soon have access to wireless e-mail for just $7.99 per month through Xpherix's Remo. The service — which will be offered by Verizon and BellSouth this month — lets users check their e-mail, calendars and contacts via cell phone. New industry-specific mobile applications also promise to boost productivity. Eleven Technology's Smart Selling System, for instance, will make it easy for users to manage their schedules and inventory through their mobile phones, PocketPC or Symbol device. (
Fortune Small Business (11/03) Vol. 13, No. 9, P. 34; Lidsky, David
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Me and My BlackBerry

The BlackBerry 6200 Series is the best all-purpose communicator-PDA available today, writes Corey Greenberg, the technology editor of NBC's Today show. Priced at about $300, the new PDA/phone allows Greenberg to retain a full connection to all information all the time. The BlackBerry unit saves Greenberg from having to wear an embarrassing-looking belt holster because the device, which is smaller than a deck of cards and weighs only 4.8 ounces, is able to fit in a suit jacket pocket without being noticed. The PDA is essentially a handheld organizer that offers always-on two-way e-mail and an integrated GSM-band world phone. The device allows users to use an existing e-mail address for outgoing messages, offers a fast mobile Web browser and a quality phone and provides calendar and contacts that link automatically with Microsoft Outlook and other personal-organizer software on a desktop computer. Owners can use a simple USB cable to connect the BlackBerry phone to their PC and recharge the internal lithium battery at the same time. Also, users no longer have to place a dangling bud in their ear in order to make or answer a call. (
Money (11/03) Vol. 32, No. 12, P. 149; Greenberg, Corey
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