Remodeling activity hit a record high in 2015 as the nation continued its long recovery from the Bush-era housing collapse, according to the latest report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (see: "Improving America's Housing 2017"). "The residential remodeling market—spending on improvements and maintenance to the owner and rental stock— reached a record high of $340 billion in 2015, surpassing its previous peak in 2007 by seven percent in nominal terms," the Joint Center reported. The nation is primed for a long expansion in the industry, the Harvard think tank predicted: "Homeowner spending on improvements is projected to increase 2.0 percent per year on average through 2025 after adjusting for inflation. Almost half of these gains are expected to result from an increase in average spending per homeowner as incomes and home values rise."
Highlights from the report:
- Boomers rule: "Older homeowners will continue to dominate the remodeling market, as they make investments to age in place safely and comfortably," the Joint Center predicted. "Expenditures by homeowners age 55 and over are expected to account for more than three-quarters of market growth over the decade."
- Affordability matters — and it varies by location. With prices high and credit still tight, young couples and young families have trouble purchasing homes and funding home improvement projects, especially in expensive metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Washington, D.C. But in more affordable heartland metros, the young adult demographic is more likely to own a house and to invest in upgrades.
- The industry is still growing: "At last measure, the total number of residential remodelers—including both self-employed contractors and payroll firms—reached over 700,000 in 2012, an increase of 35 percent since 2002," the Joint Center reported.
- The last bust was big, the report noted: "Half of all remodelers with payrolls either closed their businesses or moved to self-employment during the industry downturn from 2007–2012. More than 68 percent of large-scale remodelers (with receipts of at least $1 million) in 2007 survived, compared with less than 38 percent of remodelers with revenues under $250,000."
- And maybe you've noticed: We're not getting any younger. From the report: "Today, the construction industry workforce is considerably older than at the peak of the housing boom with fully one in six workers age 55 or over, up from one in ten in 2007."
Huber Engineered Woods (HEW) has settled with rival Georgia-Pacific in a lawsuit claiming that GP infringed on Huber's patents for ZIP System, the wall and roof sheathing system that integrates a weather barrier membrane and proprietary tape with OSB panels. According to Huber's complaint (archived here), GP's "ForceField" system, like ZIP System, is based on OSB panels with an integrated weather barrier and seam tape — and, Huber charged, uses technology developed by Huber. In fact, claimed Huber, GP actually hired former Huber employee and engineer Richard Jordan, whose name is on Huber's ZIP System patents, to help GP develop ForceField. Now, says Huber, GP has agreed to pay Huber for the use of its technology. According to a Huber press release of March 2, "The settlement includes a license under HEW's patents to GP to cover sales of GP's ForceField products with a payment of an undisclosed upfront amount and ongoing royalties."
For building and remodeling contractors, the key lesson to draw from the lawsuit and its resolution may simply be that for practical purposes, Huber ZIP System and GP ForceField at this point are broadly equivalent products, and the choice between them can probably be made based on price, availability, and customer service. Here's Huber's 2012 YouTube video about ZIP ("ZIP System® Wall Sheathing and Tape For Builders"), and here is GP's 2016 YouTube upload introducing ForceField ("ForceField Air & Water Barrier System").
Legal marijuana may be causing a power drain for utilities in big pot-growing states, according to a release from the New England Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) (see Utility Dive cache: "Energy Use Increases Dramatically in States Legalizing Marijuana: Energy Experts to Publicly Discuss Implications for First Time in Northeast"). Says NESEA: "Cultivating cannabis in greenhouses requires such large amounts of energy that the stability of the electric grid may be threatened in some instances." Fred Davis of Fred Davis Corporation, an online wholesale lighting distributor headquartered in Medfield, Mass., will chair a discussion session about the issue at NESEA's BuildingEnergy conference and trade show in Boston (March 7 to 9). Commented Davis: "I have no expertise in agronomy, but I do think it's nuts that a crop like marijuana is grown indoors at all."
STATE BY STATE
Kentucky: A bill that would have changed net-metering rules for rooftop solar in the state was withdrawn after pushback from the solar industry, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports (see: "Bill that would make home solar energy more costly in Kentucky appears dead," by John Cheves). "This is a nationwide effort to undermine these policies," Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, told the Louisville Courier-Journal (see: "State senator 'shocked' by solar bill pushback," by James Bruggers). According to Kharbanda, bills to modify net-metering "are based on the misconception that solar power requires subsidies when studies are showing it's an overall benefit to utilities and the electricity grid," the Courier-Journal reported.
North Carolina: Did low-e windows start a fire on a next-door property? Raleigh TV station WRAL (Channel 5) has a report (see: "Energy-efficient windows blamed for starting fires"). Investigators at first suspected arson, but after surveillance cameras recorded fires starting at the same location several times, they noticed the heat of window reflections from the house next door and pointed the finger at the windows as the source of the fire, the station reported.
Hawaii: Builders may have to include graywater-recovery systems in new homes, if a bill introduced by state Senator Clarence Nishihara becomes law, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (see: "Hawaii bill requires gray water systems for new buildings," by Cathy Bussewitz/Associated Press).