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Construction Trends

U.S. Housing Stock Ready for Improvement

After languishing for several years, the U.S. remodeling industry appears to be pulling out of its downturn, and a renewal of the nation’s housing stock is under way, according to a major report released Jan. 23 by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. “The U.S. Housing Stock: Ready for Renewal” is the latest report in the Improving America’s Housing series, published by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center. Foreclosed properties are being rehabilitated, sustainable home improvements are gaining popularity, older homeowners are retrofitting their homes to accommodate their evolving needs, and the future market potential is immense as the emerging echo boom generation is projected to be the largest in our nation’s history.

“As baby boomers move into retirement, they are increasing demand for aging-in-place retrofits,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program. “A decade ago, homeowners over 55 accounted for less than one third of all home improvement spending. By 2011, this share had already grown to over 45 percent. And generations behind the baby boomers will help fuel future spending growth since echo boomers are projected to outnumber baby boomers by more than 12 million as they begin to enter their peak remodeling years over the next decade.”

Additionally, the surge in distressed properties coming back onto the market is contributing to an increase in U.S. remodeling spending. “After limited spending during the housing bust, renovating the more than one million distressed properties that were sold in 2011 contributed nearly $10 billion to home improvement spending,” says Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center. “With about three million more foreclosures and short sales in the pipeline, there is even more such spending ahead of us.”

Average homeowner spending on remodeling was 20 percent higher in the Northeast and 10 percent lower in the South, compared to the national average in 2011. Since the 1990s, however, the Sunbelt metro areas have generally seen stronger growth in home improvement spending. As of 2011, metro areas with the highest per owner improvement spending included the rapidly growing Sunbelt metros of Austin, Las Vegas and Phoenix, as well as traditionally stronger markets such as Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
Spending on energy-efficiency upgrades, in particular, continued to expand through the remodeling downturn. “The share of total market spending on energy-related projects rose sharply from 23 percent in 2007 to 33 percent in 2011,” says Abbe Will, a research analyst in the Joint Center’s Remodeling Futures Program. “About a quarter of households undertaking home improvement projects in 2011 did so for energy efficiency purposes.”
Download the report from
Housing Outlook Continues to Brighten but Recovery Still Faces Headwinds
The housing upturn that took root last year is expected to pick up momentum in 2013, but headwinds along a number of fronts could impede the pace of the recovery, according to economists speaking at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 22.
“Nearly every measure of housing market strength—sales, starts, prices, permits and builder confidence—has been trending upward in recent months, and we expect to see gradual but steady growth along these lines in 2013,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
In particular, Crowe said that house prices are up nearly 6 percent on an annualized rate over the past 10 months, and that “this has been a trigger for demand to return. People feel comfortable if they buy a house that it will appreciate, not depreciate, in value.”

Other factors that bode well for the housing outlook include low mortgage rates, strong housing affordability, rising household formations and the fact that two-thirds of U.S. housing markets can now be considered improving, according to the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index.

For the past five quarters, housing has acted as a net contributor to the economy, steadily increasing its share to 12.8 percent of economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2012.

However, Crowe cautioned that builders continue to face several challenges, including stubbornly tight mortgage lending conditions, inaccurate appraisals, rising materials prices and a declining inventory of buildable lots.

Moreover, continuing gridlock in Washington over how much more fiscal tightening is needed to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio, along with calls by some policymakers for major changes to the mortgage interest deduction, threaten to negatively impact consumer confidence and future housing demand.

Setting the 2000–2003 period as baseline benchmark for normal housing activity, Crowe reported that residential remodeling has returned to previously normal levels and that remodeling activity is expected to post a 2.4 percent increase in 2013 over last year.

Meanwhile, multifamily production, which has posted a 273 percent gain from its fourth quarter trough of 82,000 units in 2009 to 306,000 units in the final quarter of 2012, is expected to reach what is considered a normal level of production by 2014.

The single-family market, which has the farthest to go, was running at 44 percent of normal production in the fourth quarter of 2012. Single-family starts are expected to steadily rise to 52 percent of what is considered a typical market by the fourth quarter of this year and 70 percent of normal by the fourth quarter of 2014.

NAHB is forecasting 949,000 total housing starts in 2013, up 21.5 percent from 781,000 units last year.

Single-family starts are anticipated to rise 22 percent from 535,000 last year to 650,000 in 2013, Crowe said. They are expected to jump an additional 30 percent in 2014 to 844,000 units.

On the multifamily side, NAHB is anticipating that starts will increase 22 percent from 246,000 units last year to 299,000 in 2013, and rise an additional 6 percent to 317,000 units in 2014.

USGBC Releases 2012 List of Top 10 States for LEED

The U.S. Green Building Council has released its annual list of the top 10 states for new LEED certifications in 2012, highlighting those regions that are transforming buildings and communities across the country.

The per-capita list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional buildings certified under LEED, through which approximately 2.2 billion square feet of space has been certified worldwide through 2012.

Once again, the District of Columbia tops the ranking, with 36.97 square feet of LEED space certified per resident in 2012.

Meanwhile, Virginia moved into the position as the top state, with 3.71 square feet certified per resident in 2012, overtaking Colorado, with 2.10 square feet certified per person.

Other top states include Massachusetts, which moved up three positions from 2011, with 2.05 square feet per person; Illinois, with 1.94 square feet; and Maryland, with 1.90 square feet of LEED space certified per resident in 2012.

Reflecting the ongoing trend of LEED existing buildings outpacing their newly built counterparts, in 2012 the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system accounted for 53 percent of total square footage certified in these states, compared to 32 percent certified under LEED for New Construction.

Industry Organizations Publish Best Practice Guidance on Risk Assessment

The American Rental Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the International Powered Access Federation and the Scaffold & Access Industry Association have joined forces once again to develop a document of best practices regarding workplace risk assessment and selecting the most appropriate aerial work platform equipment for the job at hand. The result of this joint venture is the “Statement of Best Practices for Workplace Risk Assessment and Aerial work Platform Equipment Selection.”

The participating organizations recognized a need to aid in the identification of hazards, offer guidance for conducting a thorough workplace risk assessment and implementing control measures as well as assist in the selection of the most appropriate AWP equipment for the work involved. The industry remains committed to putting forth initiatives that increase awareness of best practices, clarify responsibilities and address the safe use of AWP equipment.

This document is available as a free download from the Publications section of and from the other three participating associations as well.

UL Announces New Evaluation Service to Issue UL Evaluation Reports

UL (Underwriters Laboratories) announced its new UL Evaluation Service Jan. 30. With this new service, UL will issue UL Evaluation Reports for building products to streamline market acceptance in a fraction of the time normally required to demonstrate compliance with the family of International Codes. UL Evaluation Reports present an evaluation of products to ICC-ES (International Code Council’s Evaluation Service) Acceptance Criteria and compliance with the intent of code requirements.

UL’s new Evaluation Service was designed to provide building materials manufacturers with expedited turnaround time and an easy way of doing business by working with one point of contact for both a UL Safety Certification and a UL Evaluation Report. Additionally, no annual report renewals should save manufacturers additional time and money in the process of getting their products to market. Inclusion of UL Safety Certifications and UL Evaluation Reports on UL’s Online Certifications Directory provides easy access for code authorities, architects and other decision makers to find code-complying products. Also, UL Evaluation Reports are included in UL’s Code Correlation Database, the only database of its kind that directly connects UL Safety Certifications with specific code sections, providing even more ease for decision makers to find code-complying products.

For more information about UL Evaluation Service go to

People in the News

Metabo Corporation, West Chester, Pa., has promoted four individuals from within the company to newly created and existing positions.

Promoted to vice president of finance and operations, Jens Knudsen will be responsible for all customer support activities at Metabo’s West Chester facility.

Mark Linn, formally national accounts manager, has been promoted to director of national accounts.

Formally regional manager–South/Central, Larry Pecht has assumed the newly created position of national key account manager (end user program).

Darren White has been promoted to regional manager–South/Central from sales representative in north Texas. As regional manager, White will be responsible for overseeing the sales efforts in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Southern Illinois.

James B. Moynihan has been promoted to vice president and general manager of the Chicago Metallic® Corporation North America. Steve Noeth has been named as vice president of sales for North America, filling Moynihan’s previous role. Mark Campbell also has been promoted to vice president of operations for Chicago Metallic’s worldwide operations. Moynihan, Noeth and Campbell will work closely with Charles L. Jahn who has been appointed as chief executive officer of global operations, in addition to his continued position as chairman of the board.

New on the ’Net

Milwaukee Tool Corporation introduces its newly designed website, With the objective of making the user experience more intuitive, the new site features less complex, more visual navigation options.

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