Most Requested Sustainable Features in New Homes

smart appliancesAs homebuyers become more aware of how eco-friendly features can save them money and protect the environment, demand for these features is rising steadily. Including commonly requested sustainable features in new homes is one way to attract attention from informed homebuyers.

Low-E Windows

Low-E (low emissivity) windows are treated with a coating that improves their ability to reflect radiant energy. The coating holds energy in on the same side of the window it came from. In summer, the windows reflect the sun’s heat back to the outdoors. In winter, they reflect warmth back into the room.

Windows are one of the biggest sources of unwanted heat gain and loss in a house. These energy-efficient windows can reduce energy loss by 30 to 50 percent, yet only cost around 12 percent more than standard windows.

Smart Appliances

Modern technology can do a lot to make a home more comfortable and convenient, and today’s homebuyers know it. In their search for new homes, they’ve come to expect smart, WiFi-enabled appliances that can adjust to the homeowner’s needs and be accessed remotely.

One of the most cost-effective options to install is a smart programmable thermostat that offers precision control over indoor temperatures.

Smart refrigerators that allow for remote monitoring and control are another good choice. Washers and dryers with smart technology that can adjust their cycles based on the homeowner’s remote input are also among the popular sustainable features in new homes.

Alternative Energy Options

As solar, geothermal and wind energy become more accessible, homebuyers are coming to expect options like these. One way to meet this demand is by installing photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. The cost of solar technology is dropping steadily, making it an increasingly practical option.

Geothermal heat pumps paired with radiant floor heating are also sought after for the exceptional comfort and efficiency this combination provides. Because underfloor heating is so much less costly to install in a new construction than to retrofit, homebuyers benefit if it’s already installed.

For more tips on including sustainable features in new homes, contact us at Construction Monitor.

5 Green Construction Trends To Look Out For

The big push in green construction throughout 2016 will put an emphasis on creating energy-efficient buildings that have a low-impact on the health of the environment. Sustainability and energy efficiency are becoming more important to business, governments and consumers around the world. This opens up the possibility for new products that are environmentally responsible. Each year, more firms are shifting their focus to green building. In 2008, only 13 percent focused on green buildings. In 2013, the trend increases to 28 percent. 2015 reports showed as high as 51 percent of respondents aimed to include green building practices. Those who watch construction trends will benefit from keeping their eye out on a few key developments.

Sustainable and GreenSingle-Family Home Construction

Green construction is booming, and construction companies that take advantage of green trends will see greater profit margins. Companies are beginning to use more sustainable building materials since consumers are demonstrating that they are willing to pay for efficient buildings. This can include recycled content, easily replenishable resources, locally available materials and salvaged materials. Choosing companies that carefully regulate their resource uses is important to consumers, and it can result in a better outlook for the environment.

Smarter Technology

Homes are beginning to make better use of technology to anticipate the needs of the occupants. In home building, it’s becoming more common to integrate lights that shut off when nobody is in the room and use an economical heating and cooling system that adjusts to occupants. Construction crews are also using advanced technology to create plans and test designs for any issues. Designers can quickly change materials used in the building process to find the most economical and environmentally-friendly option for each project.

Emphasis on Renovations

In the field of construction, there is an increase in the trend toward renovations. This offers a more economical option for upgrading a location, and the process may add new technologies to make the building more environmentally friendly. With renovations. most of the original structure remains intact, but key elements like insulation and electrical systems can be upgraded to provide better energy efficiency. Entire heating and cooling units can be replaced, and the building gains from increased overall efficiency. Remodels are popular when renovating a building, and there are various enhancements that can be used to reduce mold, use durable materials and making the most of energy utility usage.

Multi-Family Housing

Single family homes are expensive to build, and they can have a negative environmental impact. Multi-family homes solve this problem by dividing a home into more than one smaller units. These homes still offer the convenience and privacy of a home, but they take up less room and many of the resources can be shared between homeowners. Green multi-family homes are expected to increase to 79 percent of all multi-family homes that are built by 2018. Customers are willing to pay for green homes, and customers can save even more money when the cost of homeownership is reduced through the selling of multi-family homes.

High-Efficiency Products

Air conditioners, heating systems, electrical systems and alternate fuels can help reduce energy expenditures and make a building green. Consumers have shown an interest in paying for technology that can reduce their environmental impact. As the technology becomes more widespread, it will also become cheaper to produce. By taking advantage of the current interest in high-efficiency products and green construction techniques, construction companies can increase their profits while providing customers with what they need.

The market is continuing to favor green building. Construction companies that don’t take advantage of these trends are going to find themselves left behind as other companies begin to incorporate green technology in their homes and buildings. Buildings that offer renewable energy are on the rise, and the future of green building will require an initial investment in new technology and building techniques. However, the future of green building is bright as consumers continue to demand more energy-efficient building practices.

The Living Building: The New Green Building Challenge

With energy-efficient and sustainable construction maintaining a significant place in the current construction industry, new initiatives that support green building continue to emerge. Net-zero buildings, for example—those buildings that create as much energy as they use—have become increasingly popular among energy-conscious and environmentally aware contractors and clients. A new initiative, the Living Building, has the potential to take the concepts of green building even further.

green buildingThe Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge (LBC), promoted by the International Living Future Institute, is a carefully controlled building certification that can be applied to structures that meet extremely strict standards of sustainability, energy efficiency and green construction. The LBC standards are so stringent that fewer than 10 LBC-certified buildings exist as of March 2016, according to reporter Kim Slowey on the Construction Dive website. Another 20 buildings are in the precertification stage.

LBC standards increase the sustainability factor to a level that turns a building into an almost natural part of its surrounding environment. The standard “calls for the creation of building projects at all scales that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture,” according to the Living Building Challenge website.

A certified building must meet standards in seven distinct areas, known as “petals,” Slowey reported. These comprise Place, Water, Energy, Health and Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Both net positive water and energy are required, as is a healthy indoor environment. The standard requires car-free living, access to nature, and careful consideration of the beauty and spirit of a structure.

Although LBC certification is a considerable challenge, meeting it gives environmentally aware builders and occupants the opportunity to take a large-scale, positive step toward confronting what they see as some of the biggest threats to the planet’s future.

LBC certification could also provide practical benefits and economic returns in cities that are aggressively pursuing sustainability and environmentally conscious construction, Slowey noted.

Construction Monitor helps modern construction professionals understand the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Contact us today for more information on green building trends and what living buildings are going to mean for the future of sustainable, energy-efficient construction.

Economists Forecast Another Good Year for Housing

When the housing market improves, construction employment picks up along with it. In terms of both new homes built and new hires, 2016 is shaping up to be even better than last year.

construction employmentSingle Family Homes Driving the Market

In February, housing starts rose 5.2 percent to their highest point in five months. For the year as a whole, housing starts are expected to increase by 12 percent. Spending on residential construction has also seen steady growth from 2011 and is expected to grow throughout 2016.

Despite the slump the single-family home market has been in recently, the outlook for this market is especially promising this year. The market grew by 7.2 percent in February and experts suggest the growth rate of the single-family home market will begin catching up with the multifamily market. Improvements in the job market are a major factor in this recovery.

The multi-family home market is still expanding, but at a slower pace. For 2016, a 5 percent increase is expected. Falling apartment vacancy rates show demand for rental units is still growing. Even so, experts predict this market’s recovery is nearly complete and the rate of growth will slow in the near future.

On the down side, applications for building permits fell by 3.1 percent in February. This is following a slight dip in December and no change in January. Because fewer applications for building permits signals less construction work in the future, this could mean a slowdown is ahead.

More Jobs for Skilled Workers

The outlook for the construction employment job market also bright. 71 percent of construction firms plan to take on new workers this year, according to a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America. Of those, 8 percent plan to increase their headcount by 26 percent or more.

The majority of firms reported difficulty finding skilled tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and drywall workers. This leads to delays that can stretch on for weeks if not months, slowing the industry as a whole.

For more in-depth information on construction employment, and the latest on construction leads, contact us at Construction Monitor.

Roofing: Blue is the New Green

In urban areas, rooftop runoff can overwhelm the sewer system and contribute to water pollution. While vegetation-covered green roofing slows this runoff somewhat, its capacity is limited. For effective storm runoff control, blue roofing is a more effective option.

construction leadsHow a Blue Roof Works

A blue roof is designed expressly to store rainwater temporarily in order to regulate drainage from the roof. The water can then be gradually discharged into the sewer system, directed toward groundwater recharge or even used to irrigate the landscaping. This prevents the sewer system from overflowing, protecting the city from the discharge of polluted water.

A number of different devices can be used to store the water. The roofs are classified as either passive or active based on the method used for water storage. Passive systems typically use shallow pools or barrels. Blue roofs are best suited to buildings with long, flat roofs of the design often found in commercial developments.

The Future of Blue Roofing

One of the most influential blue roof pilot programs was carried out by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). The company hired to develop the roof installed risers and dams to direct rainwater into collection ponds, as well as trays capable of holding up to 2 inches of water. The tray system proved the most successful, cutting storm runoff from the roof by 45 percent.

Despite the potential benefits, storing water on a building roof poses a number of problems. The roof must be strong enough to bear the weight of standing water. Both the storage system and the roof must be sealed well to prevent leakage. It’s critical that the architect, building engineers and others involved in the building’s design collaborate closely to address potential issues. Even minor oversights can result in sudden and total collapse of the roof.

Furthermore, selling building owners on the benefits of blue roofs is a challenge because these roofs benefit the community as a whole rather than the individual building owner.

To learn more about innovations in blue roofing, contact the construction leads experts at Construction Monitor.

Top Sustainable Features in New Homes

As the demographics of new-home buyers shift to younger and more energy-conscious purchasers, builders are recognizing that energy efficiency and sustainability are becoming major considerations in home purchases.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that energy efficiency, represented through energy savings and decreases in electricity bills, is a high priority with many new-home buyers.

sustainable features in new homesThis trend is being driven by the entrance of more millennials into the housing market, according to information on the NAHB website.

Younger buyers tend to be more concerned about sustainability and energy efficiency and have demonstrated a willingness to pay more for new homes with these features—up to twice to three times more, according to the NAHB.

The top sustainable features in new homes include:

  • Energy Star certification: This certification, from the government’s Energy Star program, certifies a home as being as energy efficient as possible.
  • High-efficiency appliances and HVAC systems: High-efficiency appliances and heating and cooling equipment can slash monthly energy costs by a substantial percentage. In many cases, these devices can pay for themselves in energy savings alone by about the halfway point of their expected functional lifespan. Geothermal heating and cooling is an especially efficient option.
  • High-efficiency windows: High-efficiency windows, including windows with low-e glass, are designed to be tightly sealed, preventing air and energy loss around the window, its frame, and its casing. Low-e glass helps keep heat in during the winter and out in the summer.
  • Renewable energy options: Some houses can be equipped with solar panels that can produce a substantial portion of a home’s energy via sunlight.
  • Programmable thermostats: Electronic programmable thermostats provide a high level of control over HVAC system operation and can provide significant energy savings.
  • Low-flow fixtures: Low-flow faucets, showerheads, and other fixtures reduce water usage while still providing plenty of water for daily use.

Construction Monitor helps construction firms keep up to date with the latest trends and developments throughout the residential housing industry. Contact us today for more information on the most desirable sustainable features in new homes and how you can more effectively offer these features to your customers.

Sustainable Building Materials: Keeping Your Jobsite Eco-Friendly

With sustainable construction maintaining its popularity as a viable building approach, more builders and their customers are turning to environmentally friendly construction materials as substitutes for less eco-friendly options. You can use the following list to identify some of the sustainable building materials available to you.

sustainable building materialsInsulation

Fiberboard and spun fiberglass have long been a popular choice for insulation used in residential and commercial construction. Fiberglass blanket insulation is commonly used between joists and beams in walls, floors, and ceilings. More sustainable options include:

  • Wood fiber insulation: Wood fiber insulation provides a high level of heat resistance. It originates from a highly renewable and sustainable source and is not toxic.
  • Cellulose insulation: Cellulose insulation is often made from recycled newspaper or other paper products. As a wood-based material, cellulose is also renewable and safe to use.

Structural Materials

Bricks, concrete, and metal are three very common structural materials used in construction projects. Obtaining and manufacturing these materials can be harmful to the environment while consuming resources that can’t be easily renewed. Alternatives include:

  • Straw bales: Straw bales are thick, heavy blocks of material made from naturally growing straw. These bales can last for many decades if properly maintained. Since straw comes from a natural plant material, it is fully biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
  • Timber: Traditional timber is still a good option for framing a house or other structure. Timber is natural and renewable and provides high versatility for construction applications.

Flooring

Concrete, tile, and wood laminate have been frequent choices for flooring in the past. Sustainable alternatives include:

  • Bamboo: Bamboo flooring comes from a fast-growing grass that can easily be adapted for use as a construction material.
  • Hardwood: Hardwood floors suggest luxury, but they are actually highly sustainable. Hardwood is very tough and versatile while offering natural beauty.

Wondering what’s going to be influencing the construction industry over the next few months? Count on Construction Monitor for insight into the trends that will have an impact on your business. Contact us today for more information on sustainable building materials and the role sustainability will play in tomorrow’s construction industry.

Scientists May Have Found a Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions During Concrete Production

concrete productionConcrete is one of the most common building materials found in the construction industry, used for everything from floors to walls to driveways. The most common methods of producing concrete, however, also generate significant amounts of carbon dioxide, making concrete a substantial contributor to overall greenhouse gas emissions throughout the country. A new method of concrete production pioneered by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) stands to make concrete a greener construction material by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide created through concrete production. Continue reading Scientists May Have Found a Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions During Concrete Production