Category Archives: Eco

NAHB Unveils New Map Tool for Endangered Species

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At the NAHB Board of Directors meeting last week, the association unveiled an important new member benefit for builders, developers and others who want to know more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plans to step up the “listing” process for endangered and threatened plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The interactive species finder map allows members to search by state and county to determine the status of the more than 1,400 species currently protected by the ESA as well as the status of 700 additional species whose listings are now in the planning stages. The NAHB Environmental Issues Committee touts this new member benefit as an “early warning system” for builders who might want to reconsider how to develop a specific property or whether to even purchase it based on its likelihood of being designated as an endangered animal’s critical habitat. State and local home builders associations may also find it helpful to know what listings are in the works for their market areas so that they can begin putting resources together for comment letters and other tools to address proposed listings and habitat designations. Importantly, the new map tool also includes a set of Frequently Asked Questions designed to explain how the ESA works and explain some of the related terminology.

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Today’s house plan photos are those of Archival Designs’ Award Winning Luxury House Plan, Blanchard.
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Study Seeks ‘Right’ Rate of Return for Energy-Efficient Features

A newly published special study on HousingEconomics.com addresses the question of what the appropriate rate of return should be for judging the cost effectiveness of a particular energy-saving feature in a home. While NAHB has a policy that classifies a change in building codes as cost effective if it returns at least 10% in energy savings in the first year, other approaches — for example, those pegged to the current rate on a fixed-rate mortgage — assume a much smaller rate of return will do. NAHB’s economists argue that the common practice of using the current mortgage rate to discount energy savings is unrealistic, fails to account for buyers’ borrowing constraints and doesn’t reflect the way that consumers actually evaluate alternatives when deciding on which features to include in a new house. The article presents evidence from three different sources about rates of return that more realistically reflect household decision alternatives, all of which are in the same neighborhood as (though slightly higher than) the 10% return in NAHB’s current policy. Meanwhile, it argues that the current mortgage rate of 4% is far too low of a benchmark against which to compare utility savings because doing so will result in some features being classified as cost-effective that are clearly priced higher than the market will bear. While NAHB surveys have shown that most home buyers do care about energy efficiency and are very interested in features of the home that can lower utility bills, home buyers on average say they need to save 14% of the upfront cost per year to make an investment in energy efficiency. This aligns with survey responses indicating that consumers are willing to pay about $7,100 up front to save $1,000 annually in utility costs. The study therefore concludes that the right rate of return to use when trying to judge the cost effectiveness of a particular energy-saving feature needs to be in the 11% and higher range if it is to accurately reflect housing market behavior — very near to what is dictated by NAHB’s policy on Cost-Effective and Affordable Energy Codes and Standards.

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NAHB Mourns the Passing of Senior Life Director Dan Coleman
NAHB’s leadership was sorry to learn just before our Spring Board of Directors Meeting of the passing of Senior Life Director Dan Coleman, from Victoria, Texas. Dan earned Builder of the Year honors from the Builders Association of Victoria in 1970, and the following year served as that BA’s president. He was a managing partner of Coleman Roth Homes for a number of years before becoming a manager at Zarsky Lumber and eventually rising to the post of president and CEO of that company, where his father had worked before him. Dan was also president of the Lumbermen’s Association of Texas in 1979 and was named Lumberman of the Year for the state of Texas in 1984. He served his country as a member of the Air Force during the Korean Conflict, and was a frequent traveler who over his lifetime managed to visit all 50 U.S. states as well as places on at least four other continents. Dan passed away on May 25, at the age of 82. Our thoughts are with his wife, daughter and grandchildren at this difficult time.

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Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 to 14,814 sf, and Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!

Data Shows State-by-State Impacts of MID on Middle Class

As debate over tax reform ramps up in Congress, NAHB is emphasizing the critical importance of the mortgage interest deduction (MID) to American families nationwide, and the many reasons that lawmakers should leave this key homeownership incentive intact.

To help further NAHB’s efforts in this direction, our economists recently took a look at IRS data that helps illustrate the importance of the MID to the middle class in individual states across the country. It’s understandable that MID claims will vary across different states, depending on such factors as house prices and other costs of living, household incomes and tax items such as property taxes or state income/sales taxes — all of which help determine whether a home owner claims the standard deduction. And indeed, the IRS data shows that the share of taxpayers who both claimed the MID on their 2010 federal income tax return and reported less than $200,000 in adjusted gross income was somewhat smaller in high cost states such as New York and California, where incomes tend to be higher. Even so, compared to the 91% of taxpayers nationwide who had adjusted gross incomes of less than $200,000 and claimed the MID in 2010, states with the lowest percentage of such taxpayers were still in the 87%-and-above range.

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April Webinars Spotlight Green Building/Green Remodeling

2012 NGBS: An Overview of What’s New
April 3, 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET

In its first four years, the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS) has been transforming the residential marketplace by providing single- and multifamily builders, remodelers and land developers with ANSI-approved guidance on going green. The 2012 version of the NGBS promises to have an even greater impact. This webinar will look in-depth at the changes that affect the single-family portion of the rating system.

Speakers: Vladimir Kochkin, director of applied engineering, Home Innovation Research Labs; Matt Belcher, Verdatek Solutions, LLC

Presented by NAHBGreen


Building Green with Structural Insulated Panels
April 10, 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET

Energy conservation plays a major role in designing and building sustainable homes. Builders can achieve the most energy savings through a high-performance building envelope, such as structural insulated panels (SIPs). SIPs are an advanced prefab building system allowing builders to meet the energy, resource efficiency and indoor air quality metrics of today’s green building rating systems at less cost. This webinar covers the basics of SIP construction’s sustainable attributes, such as thermal performance, resource efficiency and life-cycle analysis.

Speakers: Frank Baker, director, PFB Corp/Insulspan; Bill Wachtler, director, Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA)

Presented by NAHB Building Systems Councils


2012 National Green Building Standard: Remodeling Provision Defined
April 17, 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET

The 2012 edition of the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS) includes expanded options exclusively for remodelers to certify bath, kitchen and basement remodels and additions as well as whole-house remodels. In this session, the speakers will discuss the ins and outs for certifying remodels. The speakers will also explain how the NGBS’s new streamlined format will be simpler for remodelers and home owners to understand and use.

Speakers: Michelle Desiderio, Home Innovation Research Labs; Paul Sullivan, CGR, CAPS, CGP, The Sullivan Company, Inc.

Presented by NAHB Remodelers

Today’s House Design Photo is that of Archival Designs’ Aspen Creek.


Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 sf to 14,814 sf, and the Newport classic house designs range from 1500 to 500o sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs offered.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one could be just for you!

Updated ICC 700 National Green Building Standard Approved

In major news for green-oriented home builders, developers and remodelers, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the 2012 version of the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard on Jan. 10. This is the first update of the ICC 700 since it was published in 2009 following concerted efforts by NAHB and the International Codes Council to establish a nationally recognizable standard for green building. It raises the bar on energy efficiency requirements, and also changes how renovations and remodeling projects are treated so that it will be possible to green-certify functional areas of the home such as bathrooms or kitchens. The latest updates also make the standard as straightforward for remodeling projects as it is for new construction, which should help perpetuate its solid momentum across the industry; to date, thousands of residential units and developed lots have been certified in compliance with the earlier version of the standard by the NAHB Research Center.  Any members who want to take advantage of this new and highly marketable green certification option in the future may contact: Kevin Morrow (800-368-5242 x8375).

Federal Circuit Court Decision a Victory for Property Rights

In an important property rights decision handed down on Jan. 10 and supported by an amicus brief filed by NAHB, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that had blocked a developer’s right to compensation for a regulatory taking when the Army Corps of Engineers denied that developer’s application for a permit to fill wetlands on a specific plat of land. In this somewhat complicated case, Lost Tree Village Corporation wanted to develop a residual 5-acre parcel in a community it had built in Vero Beach, Fla. The developer’s application for a wetlands permit for that parcel was denied, but when the developer brought a takings claim, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that Lost Tree was not deprived of a significant economic benefit because the “relevant parcel” included all previous development on the island.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded the lower court’s ruling, saying that the critical inquiry in determining the relevant parcel is “the economic expectations of the claimant with regard to the property.” For example, when a “developer treats several legally distinct parcels as a single economic unit, together they constitute the relevant parcel.” Conversely, “when contiguous land is purchased in a single transaction, the relevant parcel may be a subset of the original purchase where the owner develops distinct parcels at different times and treats the parcels as distinct economic units.”

The court found that Lost Tree did not treat the 5-acre site (known as Plat 57) as part of the same economic unit as other land it developed in the community, and had not included it in any previous development plans. In a sense, the plot was ignored completely, not intentionally left undeveloped. Therefore Plat 57, by itself, constituted the “relevant parcel.”

Today’s photos are those of Archival Designs‘ Luxury House Plan, Villa Capri.

Choose from more than 400 house plan designs that we offer in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and palladian homes, English manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 sf to 14,814 sf.  Our Newport classic house designs range from 1400 to 5000 square feet.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs or browse our photo gallery to get a sense of the many styles and types of house designs we offer.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one plan could be just for you!

New-Home Sales Held Steady in August

Following a substantial gain in July, the pace of new-home sales fell by a statistically insignificant three-tenths of one percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 373,000 units in August, according to figures released by HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau on Sept. 26. Sales gained in every part of the country except the South, which is the largest housing market. While that region posted a 4.9% decline, the Northeast posted a 20% gain, the Midwest showed a 1.8% gain and the West registered a meager, 0.9% gain. Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale held at an historic low of just 141,000 units in August, which is a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace. In NAHB’s press release analyzing the latest data, NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg noted, “New-home sales in August effectively tied the pace they set in the previous month, when they were the strongest we’ve seen in more than two years — so this is really a continuation of the good news we’ve been getting on the housing front.” NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe added that this latest report “indicates that new-home sales continue to run at a steady pace that’s well ahead of what we were seeing this time last year, and at this rate, the third quarter of 2012 is going to be well ahead of the second quarter.” Dave also observed that the share of new homes sold in the higher price ranges ($400,000 and above) rose significantly in August, and said “This reflects the fact that people who are able to buy homes right now are those in higher-income ranges who have cash and equity on hand, while first-time buyers are having a tougher time getting qualified for a mortgage.”

NAHB Provides Builder Views at White House Conference on Green Infrastructure

One hundred employees of federal government agencies, states, municipalities, research centers, professional associations and environmental groups met at the White House on Sept. 20 to discuss ways to promote green infrastructure solutions for addressing storm water issues. Importantly, NAHB was the only organization in the crowd that represented private enterprise ─ that is, the home building and construction industry – and used a pre-conference survey distributed to all attendees to advocate for flexibility and a range of choices when it comes to low-impact development and other green infrastructure solutions. Our representation at the conference allowed NAHB to express builders’ views that, while rain gardens, narrower streets, pervious pavements and other green infrastructure techniques can help reduce discharge into municipal sewer systems, recharge groundwater and often save money for the builder, they aren’t necessarily the right way to address all storm water problems. Instead, we noted, practices chosen will be dependent on soil, slope conditions or local weather factors, but the goal should be pollution reduction and storm water infiltration in the most cost-efficient manner. Going forward, conference organizers are expected to produce a white paper as a result of the consensus documents that were developed during the meeting. That paper will be posted on the conference website.

Choose from more than 400 house designs and house plans. We offer house designs in a wide range of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and Palladian homes, English Manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 sf to 13,600 sf.  Our Newport Classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 square feet.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs or browse our photo gallery to get a sense of the many styles and types of house designs we offer.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one plan could be just for you!

Going Green in Northeast Ohio!

A few months ago I was driving in Lake County looking for an address, when a gentleman named Jerry, offered to help me.  He suggested I continue into his driveway and go down to his log cabin home while he looked for the information I needed in the phone book.  As I approached the home, I noticed an active turbine windmill, a straw bale garden, and a log cabin.  Jerry offered to give me a tour of the log cabin, which he had built himself.  He added stained glass windows that his wife, Cheryl, designed.  I was quite taken with everything I saw that day, and knew I wanted to share some of it with you.


Let’s start with the straw bale gardens, also called, “SBG”.  The straw bales used to produce their garden, were of particular interest to me. Although I can tell you a little bit about it, and that I saw first-hand how it works, I cannot print the entire set of instructions for you due to copyright infringement laws.  If you are interested in obtaining the .pdf explaining all the ins and outs and how-to’s of this alternative choice in gardening, it is available for $9.99 from www.strawbalegardens.com.  It is 18 pages (eight chapters) of necessary, worthwhile material.  I have read it, and it is well worth the small investment to take advantage of such an innovative method of gardening. It’s so easy; anyone should be able to do it.

Below are some highlights, but the .pdf goes into greater detail explaining in an easy-to-understand manner, the entire process:

  • Preparing the bales for planting is quick and can be done in 12 days or less.  The process can be started in late winter or very early spring.
  • An SBG can be positioned on almost any surface. The surface underneath the bales will not play a role in the process, and will only act as a drain for water that filters out of the straw bales.  Slight sloping can be advantageous.
  • The site will need full sun exposure for a minimum of 6-8 hours necessary each day.
  • A 24” space between rows is recommended.
  • It’s important to use the cut side positioned upward to allow for water and fertilizer penetration.

Above photos are those of Cheryl and Jim’s SBG and below is the wind turbine.

On August 2, 2012, Cheryl and Jim erected their wind turbine, with the hope of becoming totally energy self-sufficient.  It has computer software displaying exactly what the turbine is doing, which Cheryl finds interesting. It’s 45 feet tall and each blade is about six feet long.  Cheryl and Jim are eagerly waiting to see just how much energy they produce, and will keep us updated. Cheryl stated, “We are trying our best to do what we can to help support green energy.”  I would say so.

Next Thursday, I will share the photos of the log cabin Jerry built, and the beautiful stained glass windows designed and made by Cheryl.

Choose from more than 400 house designs and house plans.  We offer house designs in a wide rante of styles and sizes.  Some of our more popular house designs include European-inspired Georgian and Palladian homes, English Manor house plans, Tuscan-style Italian villas, French chateaux, and colonial house plans.  Our Tuscan-style villas range from 1800 sf to 13,600 sf.  Our Newport Classic house designs range from 1500 to 5000 sf.  Our starter castles, mansions and estate homes are designed in the grand tradition of some of the most impressive homes in the world.  Please feel free to search our house designs or browse our photo gallery to get a sense of the many styles and types of house designs we offer.  Our plans have been built around the globe, from Canada to Dubai, and one plan could be just for you!