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Week of December 22, 2003

Front Page

President's Message

* 2003 – A Year to Remember

Housing and Economics

* Single-Family Home Starts Hit a Record High in November
* Following One of the Best Years Ever, Housing Poised for Solid 2004
* Builders Upbeat This Holiday Season
* Eye on the Economy


* FHA Multifamily Mortgage Insurance Programs Back in Business
* Index Finds Weak Rental, Strong Condo Markets


* U.S. Appeals Court Rules Against Regulation of Roadside Ditches
* Decision on Jurisdiction Over Isolated Wetlands Breeds Disappointment
* Court Rejects Endangered Species Permit Revocation Rule

State and Local

* New Jersey Builders Defang Governor’s Anti-Housing Tool with Economic Impact Study
* Legislative Group Endorses Favorable ‘Notice and Opportunity to Repair’ Amendments

Business Management

* Systematize the Selections Process to Avoid Hassles

Codes and Standards

* R-Values Excessive in Revised ASHRAE Energy Standard

Construction Safety

* OSHA Reports Increased Citations in Fiscal 2003
* Workers Should Take Precautions in Cold Weather

Seniors Housing

* Who Are Today’s Over-55 Buyers?

Legal Issues

* Ask the Lawyer – About Mechanic’s Liens

Housing Finance

* Military Housing Privatization Projects Coming Up in Florida, Oklahoma

Small Builders and Remodelers

* Why Have Your Customers Come to You?


* New NAHB Course Addresses Insurance Liability Concerns
* First Annual National Designation Month Debuts in February


* New Publication Provides Overview of Basic Construction Principles

Building Systems

* Building Systems Councils to Include Concrete Home Building

Building Products

* Local Brick Distributors Provide Home Buyers With More Choices

Housing Forum

* Mysterious Cracking

Builders' Show

* Show Activities Focus on Sales and Marketing Professionals

Building News Coast To Coast

Association News & Events

* Notice of Annual Meeting of the Members of the National Association of Home Builders
* Find the Right NAHB Staff Faster Than Ever Online
* Bob the Builder Teaches Children About Safety
* Environmental Coloring Book Goes Online
* Northern Kentucky Remodelers Provide Holiday Cheer
* Builders in Southeast Virginia Launch General Liability Company
* One Home at a Time, Mississippi Builder Putting Working Families on the Road to the American Dream
* Calendar of Events

NBN Back Issues


Building News Coast to Coast

Sponsored by: 2-10 Home Buyer's Warranty

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

Chandeliers Get Enlightened

Chandeliers are making a comeback, and home owners — particularly those with who live in large dwellings with very high ceilings — are no longer relegating them to the formal dining room. The newest chandeliers feature candles or dozens of efficient halogen and xenon bulbs to create natural-looking light, and many manufacturers are making them in animal shapes or other unique designs. Still, they easily boost home owners' electric bills and can be a challenge to clean. Some home owners have installed motorized lifts to raise and lower them for easy cleaning. Home gyms, bedrooms, kitchens, nurseries, bathrooms and garden sheds are just some of the places today's home owners are putting their chandeliers. (
Wall Street Journal (12/19/03) P. W12; Fletcher, June; Fresquez, Diane
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U.S. Population Nears 300 Million

Immigration and a high birth rate among Hispanics — the largest minority group in the country —helped boost the American population by 2.8 million in the 12-month period ended July 1. If that pace of growth keeps up, predicts John Haaga of the Population Reference Bureau, there could be 300 million people living in the United States within the next four years. The nation's southern and western regions welcomed the most new residents for the study period, with Nevada adding more people than anywhere else in the country. In fact, Nevada has been the fastest-growing state for 17 years now, thanks — according to Brookings Institution demographer William Frey — to its climate, recreation and more affordable housing. Also among the fastest-growing states were Arizona, Florida, Texas, Idaho, California, Delaware and Hawaii. (
Topeka Capital Journal Online (12/19/03)
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Today's Owners Are 'Smart' Gadgeteers

An increasing number of home owners are spending more time at home and looking for comfort in the latest technologies and building materials. The focus is primarily on the kitchen as families spend more time there cooking, eating, working and entertaining. They are opting for stoves that both cook and refrigerate food; refrigerators equipped with video recorders, inventory monitors and Internet access; warming drawers; appliances that blend in with the cabinetry; larger or multiple dishwashers; and commercial-grade stoves with more than one oven. Rather than traditional cherry and maple cabinets with brass hardware, today's home owners prefer antique finishes, bead-board patterns and pewter or brushed nickel or bronze. Fingerprint-resistant stainless steel and low-maintenance synthetic-stone countertops are also popular. Home owners are upgrading other areas as well, putting cabinets, utility sinks and high-tech washers and dryers in their laundry rooms; installing steam showers, multi-jet shower systems and Jacuzzis with built-in televisions and DVD players in their master suites; and creating home theaters with surround sound and plasma televisions. Even hardwood floors are being spruced up with tile insets or borders comprised of several different types of wood. (
Washington Times (12/19/03) P. F1; Lerner, Michele
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Glass Block, Style With a Light Touch

Glass blocks combine strong masonry with glass to provide both light and privacy; and they commonly are used for foundation windows, interior room dividers, door sidelights and showers. They come in various sizes and finishes and can be either textured, clear or opaque. Unlike wood, glass blocks are practically maintenance-free. Although professional installation is recommended for glass blocks held together with mortar, mesh and wall straps, some manufacturers offer do-it-yourself kits that replace mortar with linking plastic strips and spacers. Home owners might want to think twice about using glass block kits for foundation windows if they are concerned about security, however, since thin and non-mortar blocks can easily be kicked in by intruders. Still, glass blocks — particularly those assembled with mortar — are usually stronger than standard windows. (
Washington Post (12/18/03) P. H2; McClintock, Mike
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No More Cold Feet in Your Warm Home

Radiant flooring heating systems can be water- or electric-powered, the latter of which is cheaper and easier to maintain. The systems are installed under tile, marble, stone or wood floors to evenly heat floors, walls and ceilings. Home owners can also make their dwellings cozy by using the same flooring material to connect rooms, rather than installing floors of varying colors and materials in each living space. (
Copley News Service (12/15/03) Brun, Christine
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Building Walls That Add Character

Builders in recent years have opted for flat walls over alcoves, niches and other built-in features. However, these recesses can serve as storage areas for entertainment centers or display cases for books and other collections while jazzing up the property's interior. So-called "wallscaping" projects might include window seats or built-in cabinets, bookcases and shelves of any material and style. By placing built-ins on either side of fireplaces or windows, builders can create a focal point for the room. Floor-to-ceiling and open-shelf built-ins, meanwhile, can make ceilings appear higher and rooms look more spacious. Homedowners can even install kitchen cabinets on the walls of their living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms to resemble actual built-ins. (
Philadelphia Inquirer (12/14/03) P. J16; Walsh, Michael
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Home of the Future Will Include an Array of Electronic Gizmos

An increasing number of home buyers want their residences equipped with the latest technology, such as wireless computer networks, security systems, energy-efficient appliances and ventilation systems with air sensors that detect mold and other allergens. Builders are picking up on buyer demand and will make many of these items standard in their new homes by the end of the decade. Systems that let home owners control lights and alarms from handhelds or the Internet, as well as those that monitor the elderly and other ill family members, are in the works. Meanwhile, more and more buyers are asking for additional electrical outlets to handle these power-hungry devices. Though the most up-to-date technology tools can make homes more appealing than others on the market, real estate appraisers say they do not enhance a property's value unless they are on the buyer's must-have list. However, Baltimore-based appraiser Michael Cassell believes they will add value to homes as they gain popularity. (
Baltimore Sun (12/14/03) P. 1L
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Recent Wildfires Could Singe Builders With New Codes

Experts do not foresee a skilled labor shortage in North California related to the rebuilding of 3,600 homes razed by wildfires in the southern part of the state, even with new-home construction at record levels. Construction Industry Research Board Director Ben Bartolotto notes that workers often travel long distances to complete jobs, so the reconstruction of homes spread throughout 20 counties should not burden the industry. Moreover, California Building Industry Association CEO Bob Rivinious says the rebuilding will take place over a long period, considering that assessments, cleanups and project approvals are still in the works. However, many counties are expected to establish new building and zoning codes as a result of the recent fires — which could concentrate development in city areas, force builders to use fireproof materials  and require sprinklers in new buildings. According to F.W. Dodge Senior Economist Ralph Gentile, these new rules could put specialty contractors in high demand. "The most critical caveat is if construction activity is near a peak and there's no labor flexibility and no excess materials in certain markets," he remarks. "Building codes and zoning requirements could lead to a construction crunch — but that's a long-term possibility." (
Sacramento Business Journal (12/15/03) LeClaire, Jennifer
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Floors Set Foundation for Fashion Statement

Today's home owners are beginning to look at flooring as a fashion element for their residence. "Gone are the days when you install flooring once when the house is built and leave it there until it wears away or you move away," says Chris Davis of the World Floor Covering Association. The preference for carpet is fading, dropping from 80% of the market share down to about 65% over the 15 years. It is not obsolete, though; rather, the trend is toward textured carpets or floor coverings with designs. Meanwhile, home owners are turning to different types of wood —with Australian cypress, hickory and cherry especially popular right now — and are increasingly asking for stone flooring. "Stone isn't just for the kitchen and bathroom anymore," Davis notes. "Even on a modest budget, people put stone in places like their entryway where it will make a dramatic statement." (
Chicago Tribune Online (12/13/03) Cada, Chryss
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Home Chapels Add a Spiritual Dimension

"Altars Made Easy" and "Spiritual Gardening" author Peg Streep says a growing number of home owners are incorporating spiritual retreats into their residences. Some of these spaces are simple prayer rooms with seating or kneelers for devotional reading; while others have altars, crosses, pews and stained-glass windows for more elaborate rituals. Formal chapels, however, are less common. Separate rooms for prayer give home owners places to meditate and relax without distraction. "Where better than in my own home to have a sacred environment?" asks Loveland, OH, home owner Dona Johnson. "Why do I have to drive anywhere when I can have a sacred space that I walk past and participate in every day?" (
USA Today (12/12/03) P. 11D; Cohen, Joyce
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The Value of Energy Efficiency

The Environmental Protection Agency, NAHB, Cornell University and the NAHB Research Center are collaborating to determine how much energy-efficient upgrades enhance residential property values by analyzing a number of published studies on the subject. Such knowledge is important because it could prompt builders to exceed minimum standards and spark energy-efficient investments by home buyers who expect to recover the value when they sell. However, such calculations are difficult because the value is based on future energy savings. The studies found that home prices rise by between $11.63 and $20.73 for every $1 shaved from utility bills and $528 for every inch of insulation. Depending on the standards used when building the home, energy-efficient upgrades add anywhere from $1,315 to $3,416 to the home price. NAHB, Cornell and EPA now are working on a database to determine how energy efficiency impacts home prices in terms of neighborhood and location. (
Home Energy (12/03) Vol. 20.6, P. 30; Laquatra, Joseph
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Conjuring a Superphone With Three Formulas to Choose

For people on the go looking for a cell phone with operating system capabilities, three major products by three different makers might be just the thing. The Motorola MPx200, which runs on Microsoft Windows and costs roughly $300, offers several novelties, such as recharging via a U.S.B. cord connected to a laptop; automatic synchronization of the phone's address book, calendar and e-mail with Microsoft Outlook on a Windows PC; and automatic switching to vibrate mode when a meeting is scheduled on the calendar. On the flip side, its keys do not light up, in contrast to the Sony Ericsson P900, which is loaded with features, including a camera, Blue-tooth transmitter, five-way side-mounted thumb dial, a touch-sensitive screen and an alphabet keyboard. The Sony product, which is priced at about $600, can be a bit technical for the novice, running as it does on the not-very-popular Symbian operating system, and the number of functions present on the device tend to slow down its processor. The PalmOne Treo 600, at $450, perhaps offers the most bang for the buck, providing similar features to the Sony, yet running on the Mac-like Palm OS 5.2.1. operating system. Though all three offer voice dialing, slow Web browsing, a speakerphone (except for the Motorola) and the ability to run add-on-programs, the Treo offers 10,000 Palm programs, thus dwarfing its competitors. Motorola users can choose either AT&T or Verizon as carriers, while Treo users have the option of Sprint, Cingular, T-Mobile or AT&T. Though no carrier officially offers the Sony product yet, since it is set to hit markets in January, the phone accepts the Subscriber Information Module card from AT&T, Cingular and T-Mobile. (
New York Times (12/11/03) P. E1; Pogue, David
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Setting Out the Welcome Mat at Your Home on the Web

Setting up a personal home page online can be inexpensive and easy with the proper service provider and tools, and there are editing programs available to create pages. The first place for an individual to go when creating a home page is to their service provider. AOL offers three tools; 1-2-3 Publish is the easiest, involving little more than information and favorite links, while Easy Designer is more sophisticated and offers an HTML option. AOL Journals is AOL's Web log offering and can be updated through AOL Instant Messenger — and by phone, for audio files. EarthLink's Trellix Site Builder lets users build a site quickly and offers options for business owners; users can also integrate a Web log within a regular Web site. Yahoo's Geocities provides a free service and two paid services; the free service has two Web page creation tools, and Geocities Pro users can choose their own domain names. Homestead offers three levels of service, including a domain name, and its Site Builder software has a lot of features. Individuals can also use a Web page authoring program to build their own sites and choose a Web service as a host. (
New York Times (12/18/03) P. E7; Magid, Larry
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PDA Office Files Go Native

With DataViz's Documents to Go Premium 6 and iGo Quickoffice Premier 7 — the newest productivity suites for personal digital assistants (PDAs) running the Palm operating system — users can transmit Microsoft Office files back and forth between their personal computers (PCs) and PDAs. PC connections were once necessary to complete native file transfers, but these latest suites can wirelessly move files using memory cards, email, infrared beaming or Bluetooth technology. Users can create and edit documents in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications from their handhelds. (
PC Magazine (12/09/03) P. 59; Brown, Bruce; Brown, Marge
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