Lloyd Alter, writing for Treehugger:

According to Jacob Atalla of KB Home, “The best way to predict the future is to make it.” So he and others in the building industry often build model concept homes to test out ideas. Michele Lerner of the Washington Post talks to a few people in the industry to get a sense of what’s coming next.

“When we imagine the home of the future and look at innovations, it’s important to answer two questions,” said Matt Power, editor in chief of Green Builder media in South Portland, Maine. “Just like you ask yourself about relationships, you should ask, ‘Does this make your life better?’ And if the answer is yes, then ask yourself from an ethical point of view, ‘Does this reduce my impact on the Earth?’ ”

Alas, when you look at what they are actually proposing, it doesn’t have a lot to do with reducing impact on the earth. They pay lip service to energy consumption, but it is all about adding stuff.

As always, Alter has exposed the raw nerve of the building industry that ultimately holds progress up for the entirety of civilization: complacency.

Cramming more gadgets and features into the home only results in planned obsolescence, and yet more crap to eventually make its way to a landfill.

We can, and should do better as an industry.

 

Television, unless it is available to stream via Hulu, Netflix or HBO Go, isn’t something I watch much of. CBS apparently aired an impressive program highlighting the impact of the skilled labor shortage on the construction industry, and the resulting impact on the rest of our economy and infrastructure.

Here’s an excerpt:

America’s economy has a growing labor crisis — a shortage of skilled construction workers. These men and women — carpenters, plumbers, electricians and masons — put a roof over your head. They’re getting harder and harder to find, at a time when — with two devastating mainland storms in the past month — they’ve never been more needed.

“Over the last four years, we’ve seen rising rates of open jobs,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Homebuilders. “In other words, there’s a help wanted sign put out by the builder or the remodeler, and they simply can’t fill it.”

Where does the shortage come from? In short, the “Great Recession” had a lot to do with it:

The 2008 recession hit on homeowners, and homebuilders, hard. More than 1.5 million residential construction workers left the industry. Some changed careers; others simply retired. Many immigrant workers went home and never came back because of tougher immigration laws.

Of those 1.5 million workers that left the industry, reportedly on about half have returned.

Here’s video:

San Diego’s Building Industry Association played host to an outstanding and dynamic presentation earlier this morning on the topic of energy and the 2016 California building codes that went into effect at the beginning of this year.

The panelists included a great mix of building professionals and thought leaders that don’t merely speculate on the impact of green building — they live it:

(more…)

California will require that all residential housing comply with zero net energy requirements beginning in 2020. My own personal conversations with many of the builders in Southern California points to a real reluctance — if not outright denial, in some cases — about meeting those goals.

Patrick Sisson, writing for Curbed, reports that across North America, it is clear that some builders are bucking the status quo resulting in some rather positive news:

According to a new report by the Net-Zero Energy Coalition, while its still on the fringe, this type of sustainable construction is rapidly gaining popularity. In 2016, 33 percent more net-zero units were built across the U.S. and Canada than the previous year. The 8,023 new single-family and multifamily units will eliminate the equivalent of 16,406 cars and 77,929 tons of CO2 emissions each year, versus buildings that met code compliance.

The majority of the new buildings, 61 percent, were part of larger, multi-unit projects. The largest multi-unit project (663 units, completed and occupied) and the largest single-family project (350 units, in design) are both at the University of California Davis’s West Village, a huge residential project that’s expected to grow substantially in the coming years due to expansion.

It should come as no surprise to longtime green building professionals that UC Davis is leading the way. The school has been home to many of the most pioneering green building benchmarking and best practices research over the past several decades.

Denver Post’s Brian Eason writes:

Declaring that the measure “will help make our housing more affordable,” Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed into law one of the most hard-fought compromises of the 2017 session — a bill that will make it more difficult to sue builders for shoddy condo construction.

Business leaders for years have been seeking wholesale reforms to the state’s construction defects laws, blaming the state’s dormant condominium market on a legal environment that they say enables an excessive amount of lawsuits against developers. That, they argue, drives up insurance costs, leading developers to avoid building condos entirely in favor of rentals.

House Bill 1279, which took effect immediately when the governor signed it Tuesday, requires a majority of a condo complex’s unit owners — rather than just its homeowner association board — to consent to legal action against a developer for poor construction.

In a previous article at the Denver Post, various parties weighed in on the then-pending bill and the reasons why such legislation isn’t a panacea for creating more housing.

Financial Times’ Matthew Klein has proposed an interesting alternative theory about the skilled labor shortage in the US that has impacted all sectors of the construction industry, but especially the residential market.

He posits that by looking at homebuilding data in Japan, the implication is that the US isn’t facing a labor shortage so much as it is dealing with sub-par productivity. Despite the fact that Japan’s population is less than 40% of US population, only 14% more homes have been built in the US since 1992.

Surely an aging society without a reservoir of cheap (and often illegal) immigrant labour would have fewer builders as a share of the labour force than a relatively youthful and foreigner-friendly country such as the US. Unsurprisingly, there has been a glut of articles over the past few years warning of “labour shortages” due to the combination of aging and falling immigration rates, with the implication that this has been restraining construction and inflating house prices.

Reality is the other way around. Despite radically different demographics and essentially no immigration, Japan has consistently employed a much larger share of its workers in the construction industry than the US, although the share has dropped over time. Even at the peak of America’s housing bubble, only about 5.5 per cent of workers were employed in construction. In Japan last year, more than 7 per cent of employees worked in construction — and that’s a lot lower than in the early 2000s…

Another way of putting all of this is that America built about the same number of housing units in 2016 as in 1992, but somehow required about 46 per cent more people to do it. Japan built 31 per cent fewer houses in 2016 than in 1992, but its construction workforce had fallen by 19 per cent. Productivity deteriorated in both countries, but productivity fell much further in America than in Japan.

Garrett Huffish, writing for Digital Trends, reports that the first on-site 3D-printed residential home was built in Russia for about $10,134:

Printing the self-bearing walls, partitions, and building envelope took the machine 24 hours to complete. The final result is the first house printed as a whole with an area of 409 square feet.

Erecting the house during the coldest time of the year in Russia was no easy task. The concrete mixture used in the printing only sets right in temperatures above 5 degrees Celcius. Meanwhile, the outside temperature was sitting at minus-35 degrees Celcius. A simple solution was found by setting up a sealed tent around the construction site to keep it warm enough.

Here’s a video:

Learn more at Apis Cor’s website.

Housing shortages abound throughout the modern world, and in the UK, the situation is not much different than here in the US. Also not much different: substantial claims of defective construction due to cut corners in an effort to meet demand.

In fact, the country’s National House Building Council, which provides 10-year warranties covering most newly constructed homes, reportedly paid out £90-million (US$110,852,100) to homeowners in 2015-2016. According to the Guardian, this is nearly triple the amount paid to resolve claims from a decade before. Here’s more on the story:

This week the Guardian reported that Bovis is set to award people who live in some of its newbuild homes a total of £7m in compensation, in response to claims that houses have faulty plumbing or wiring, missing insulation, and other serious defects. Some people say they were offered money to move into homes that have not been completed. When the news broke, the Bovis share price fell by 10%, wiping £100m off its stock market value.

This is just one part of a bigger story of complaints about Britain’s construction giants – and what happens when the rush to build leads to corners being cut and houses left either unfinished or deeply defective. On social media there are hundreds-strong groups telling their personal stories: “The toilet leaked into the living room and when my plumber came to fix it he found the toilet had not been installed correctly”; “having my kitchen ripped out for the second time”; “no insulation in roof”; “mould growing all over the house … too dangerous too live in as I have asthma”.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on to build as many new homes as possible. Even if it is behind on its targets, the government still wants a million to have been put up by 2020. The year 2015 saw a big jump in completed builds: 142,890 homes were finished, a 20% year-on-year increase. Last year the number was put at more than 150,000.

Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s treat is a neat video that a builder made during the construction of his brother’s home.

The way he made this video is actually really cool. By programming a route for the drone, and then flying that exact route every day, Youtube user ChuckPPhotography then edited the video from around 32 to 34 of the passes together. The end result makes it look as if the entire home was constructed during a single pass of the drone.

My team and I have been working on something similar for our clients.

Check out the video below:

Hammer and Hand is a Portland, Oregon-based contractor specializing in high performance residential construction. Sam Hagerman, Skylar Swinford and Dan Whitmore, three of the green building experts at Hammer and Hand, put together their predictions for high performance residential construction in 2014. The entire article is worth the read.

Here is a summary:

  1. Focus will move beyond Net Zero Energy to Net Positive Energy buildings.
  2. Market mechanisms that reward energy conservation and renewable energy production will flourish.
  3. Building energy codes will move away from prescriptive rules toward performance-based measures.
  4. CO2 heat pumps will help transform heating and cooling performance.
  5. US-made high performance windows will continue to make high performance building easier here.
  6. Builders and designers of high performance homes will design ventilation systems with a focus on quality of ventilation rather than just quantity.
  7. The US-led move to make Passive House more climate-specific will improve performance at both micro and macro levels.
  8. Passive House competition will result in better software tools for high performance building practitioners.
  9. Europe’s push to eliminate thermal bridges in buildings will make high performance building more mainstream in the US, too.
  10. China’s interest in high performance building will propel US market.

Source: Hammer and Hand, via Regenerative Homes’ Stephen Bolling