Construction Trends

March 2007

Green Schools Are Hot
The latest issue of the SmartMarket Report™ series from McGraw-Hill Construction, part of The McGraw-Hill Companies, shows that the education sector is the fastest-growing market for green building. That’s good news for the industry, given that education construction is the largest construction sector, by value, at $53 billion for 2007. MHC focused on the education sector because of the specific sensitivities children have to indoor air pollutants and environments, as well as the amount of time students (at the K–12 and university levels) spend in these buildings.

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International and the U.S. Green Building Council were co-sponsors of the report.

The study also found the following:

• The concern for "improved health and well-being” was the most critical social reason for driving education green building—a factor that was not as highly rated in MHC’s prior research into the commercial and residential green building markets.

• Fiscal advantages of green building, such as energy cost savings, are the major motivation behind the building of green schools and universities.

• Higher first costs are the primary challenge to building green in this sector, though recent studies by Capital E and Davis Langdon point to minor increases in first cost increases, which are more than recouped in operational cost savings.

• "Operational cost decreases” resulting from green building are the most important trigger to faster adoption of green school building.

• There is a strong need for access to and information on green building products, particularly those relating to improving health, such as reducing mold and indoor air pollutants.

• Across the board, the industry is calling for independent, third-party standards for green building products.

The research results contained in the Education Green Building SmartMarket Report were drawn from two phases of study. The first phase looked at the perceptions of "green leaders” as defined as owners and facility managers/operators of green schools and universities. The second phase was a survey of a broader representation of school construction professionals as represented by the membership of CEFPI. Though the key results (above) were consistent among both phases of studies, there were some differences. For example, green leaders see factors such as "publicity,” "mission statement incorporation” and "staff demand” as important triggers, indicating their view of increased green building coming from factors that make the process for green building easier. On the other hand, the broader educational facility planning community emphasizes important triggers as ones that are measurable outcomes of green building such as "increased health and well-being,” "energy cost increases” and "productivity benefits.”

For more information on the Education Green Building SmartMarket Report or other MHC studies, go to www.analyticsstore.construction.com, e-mail construction_intelligence@mcgraw-hill.com or call (800) 591.4462.

Code Council Policy Supports Building Green
The International Code Council board of directors has issued a policy position on Green Building/Sustainable Communities to emphasize its commitment to social responsibility and expand the boundaries of public safety.

"Building safety professionals and others in the construction industry have long had a positive impact on the environment,” said ICC board President Wally Bailey. "Strong, durable buildings that are safe and affordable have a smaller impact on the world’s limited resources. ICC is committed to educating our members on green building and participating in activities with other organizations that will assure green building practices are sustainable and safe.”

The policy outlines several initiatives to support green building, including educating its members on programs available for achieving environmentally responsible buildings. The Code Council will advocate for green building in the legislative, regulatory and codes arenas. It will promote environmental features of the I-Codes and how the International Codes support green building, according to the policy.

"Our organization is already a champion for green building,” said International Code Council CEO Rick Weiland. "This policy reinforces our commitment to the environment and assures that our members play an important role on matters related to green building.”

Historically, the council supports green building and the use of environmentally friendly alternative building materials. ICC promotes the benefits of green building in its magazine, Building Safety Journal, which includes an annual issue devoted to environmentally responsible building.

The International Code Council recently moved its headquarters to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building in Washington, D.C. Among the green features in the Code Council’s new world headquarters are energy efficiency, rainwater collection, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems, water-efficient fixtures and waterless urinals, excellent day-lighting and views, and use of recycled content materials.

Builder Confidence on the Rise in February
Builder confidence continued to rise in February, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index released Feb. 15. The HMI increased from 35 in January to 40 in February, up from a low of 30 last September and the highest level since June 2006.

"Builders are still cautious as they continue to manage their inventory, but their assessments of the demand side of the single-family market are improving,” said NAHB President Brian Catalde, a home builder from Playa del Rey, Calif. "Every component of the February HMI—present home sales, sales expectations for the next six months and buyer traffic—showed a significant positive uptick in February.”

"The HMI results are consistent with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s assessment to Congress this week that there are signs of stabilization on the demand side of the housing market,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders.

Lower energy prices, favorable mortgage rates and solid growth in employment and household income have all contributed to the recent stabilization of home buyer demand, Seiders added. "In addition, builders continue to offer substantial sales incentives to move their product and limit cancellations, which has helped to firm up buyer demand.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months. The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers. Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number higher than 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

All three component indexes registered improvement in February. The index gauging current single-family home sales gained six points to 42, while the component measuring the traffic of prospective buyers rose five points to 31. Of particular note, the index gauging sales expectations for the next six months jumped over the 50 threshold for the first time since last June, posting a seven-point gain to 55.

"Builders are becoming increasingly convinced that the abrupt downslide in home sales is in their rear view mirrors, and they see better times as they look at the road ahead,” Seiders said.

The HMI rose in all four regions in February, with the Northeast posting the biggest gain of eight points to 46. Five-point gains were registered in the Midwest and South, to 29 and 46, respectively, while the West moved up two points to 35.

Green Building Is Not As Complicated As You Think
Is it hard to build green? Is it a lot more expensive? Do I have to live in a straw-bale cottage or some other strange building to say I’m a green home owner? No, no, and most decidedly no, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines are about to celebrate their second birthday. Designed to help bring residential green building into the mainstream, the guidelines also demystify the process and debunk the myths of green building for consumers—and for home builders.

Using the guidelines, local homebuilding associations are creating regionally appropriate green building programs for interested builders, and that interest is growing rapidly. Twelve state and local associations have launched voluntary green building programs, with another dozen on the way.

Is it more expensive to build green? Experienced builders say it doesn’t have to be. Guidelines-based programs award points for resource efficiency, and if you’re using fewer materials, you’re saving money, they point out. And some green building ideas—like positioning a home’s windows to best take advantage of natural light—don’t cost any more than conventional building, and they save money for the homeowner.

There are more green building products than ever. Easier to use insulation, chemically neutral paints and flooring and natural landscaping products are no longer difficult to find. Most home-improvement stores carry a full line of compact fluorescent bulbs, which use 70 percent less energy, and advances in solar roof panels and shingles, wind turbines, and efficient appliances make green technology less expensive than even a few years ago.

Chicago Metallic Announces 2006 Award Winners
Brooks Williams, market manager for specialty products for Chicago Metallic Corporation, Chicago, has announced the winners of the 2006 Ceiling Installation Excellence Awards. The winners receive an award certificate, a cash prize, press release and publication of the achievement in Chicago Metallic promotional materials. The judging was based on degree of difficulty, environmental specifications, excellence of fit and finish, attention to detail, integration of building systems and overall appearance. Three prizes have been awarded.

10,000+ Square Feet: Bryan Baldwin and Mike Angel of Baldwin Acoustics and Drywall, Moore, Okla., won this category for their installation of Chicago Metallic ceiling panels in the outside canopy and interior of the Oklahoma City Bus Terminal.

5,000 to 10,000 Square Feet: Chuck Stock of Acoustical Ceilings, Inc., St. Charles, Mo., has been awarded top prize in the 5,000 to 10,000 square feet building category. The structure that won is an office building owned by the Gabriel Group (Earth City, Mo.).

Less than 5,000 Square Feet: Chris Eno of Acousti Engineering, West Palm Beach, Fla., installed a Chicago Metallic ceiling system in the About Family Fitness Center in North Naples (Florida).

Chicago Metallic invites contractors to enter the 2007 Ceiling Installation Excellence Awards competition. The contest is open to contractors who have completed projects in which the ceiling system comprises at least 50 percent of Chicago Metallic product. The projects must have been completed between Nov. 1, 2005, and Nov. 30, 2007. Entries must be postmarked by Nov. 30, 2007.

Contractors must complete the official entry form and submit it with photographs of the project. Interested participants can obtain the form from their local distributor or Chicago Metallic sales representative or by calling (800) 323.7164. A $500 prize will be awarded in each of three categories: 10,000+ square feet; 5,000 to 10,000 square feet; and less than 5,000 square feet. In addition to the cash award, all winners will receive a Ceiling Installation Excellence Award Certificate and be recognized in press releases and upcoming Chicago Metallic promotional materials.

NAHB, ICC Announce Green Building Agreement
The National Association of Home Builders and the International Code Council will undertake the development and publication of a residential green building standard, according to NAHB and ICC leaders.

During a press conference at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla., NAHB and the Code Council reinforced their commitment to sustainable building practices and the creation of national standards for green home building.

NAHB has long recognized many of its members as leaders and innovators in building green homes, but their efforts were local and without any regional or national reference. Members needed clearer guidance, but wanted to maintain flexibility and be able to incorporate regional distinctions. NAHB took on this task with the publication in 2005 of the Model Green Home Building Guidelines, now a nationally recognized green building certification tool.

ICC has been promoting green building requirements through its widely adopted family of International Codes, which set minimum standards for energy efficiency and sustainable building practices for the construction industry and also recognized the need for a national set of standards for home builders and others wishing to voluntarily adopt "above-code” practices.

NAHB and the Code Council are seek ing applicants for membership in the consensus committee for the development for the ANSI green home building standard. Applications can be submitted at www.nahbrc.org/gbstandard and must be received by March 10, 2007, to be considered.

USGBC Begins Pilot Test of New Rating System
The U.S. Green Building Council is now accepting applications for pilot projects to participate in the LEED for Neighborhood Development program. This new rating system integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national standard for neighborhood design.

Interested projects can apply to join the pilot until April 6, 2007. Application information is available from the USGBC Web site, www.usgbc.org/leed/nd. The pilot test neighborhoods will be the first neighborhood development projects to earn the distinction of LEED certification while also helping to refine the new LEED rating system. The pilot phase of the program will conclude in early 2008. Based on feedback gathered during the pilot, the rating system will be revised as necessary prior to being balloted by USGBC’s membership.

The LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system is a collaboration between USGBC, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The program emphasizes the design and construction elements that knit buildings together into a neighborhood, and provides guidelines for better location, design and construction of new residential, commercial and mixed use development. Specifically, the pilot program for neighborhood development evaluates projects in four areas: Smart Location & Linkage, Neighborhood Pattern & Design, Green Construction & Technology and Innovation & Design Process.

For additional information about the pilot and to learn about how to participate, visit www.usgbc.org/leed/nd.

People & Companies in the News
Jeb Williamson has joined Negwer Materials Inc., which is headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., as a branch manager in its Belleville, Ill., office. In his new position, Williamson is responsible for the growth and performance of Negwer’s Belleville distribution efforts, overseeing operations, personnel and financial interests.

HGTVpro.com chose No-Coat® structural laminate drywall corners, a product of Structus Building Technologies Inc., Bend, Ore., as one of the Top 5 Hottest New Products at the 2007 International Builders Show.

Host Scott Branscom will be featuring No-Coat corners on his HGTVpro.com weekly show, a half-hour morning program on HGTV that delivers key information to homebuilders.

This is the first time that Structus has exhibited its product at the IBS.

Structus Building Technologies, Inc., Bend, Ore., has formed a new sales division focused exclusively on the residential building market. The division will be headed by Strategic Account Manager Jeff Burpee, formerly distribution manager for the Mid-Atlantic region. The new residential sales division will also be responsible for managing the No-Coat Certified Residential Builder Program. Still in development, the program will offer builders and contractors customized, on-site training, as well as marketing support.