BUILDING TODAY

 for a better tomorrow.

News and Updates

  • 20 Jun 2018 3:47 PM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)

    Green. It’s a color between blue and yellow on the visible spectrum. It’s also the primary color in nature, our monetary system, and Mr. Yuk stickers. Green has also become “a political, environmental, and social movement that seeks to protect natural resources including animal and plant species as well as their habitat for the future” (according to Wikipedia). However, the frog told us it isn’t easy being green, and in the world of green building, coming up with a set of definitions and standards isn’t easy either. 


    What is Green Building?

    At the risk of too many definitions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines “Green Building” as the practice of 1) Increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials; 2) Protecting and restoring human health and the environment, throughout the building life-cycle; siting, designing, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction.

    We’ve come a long way since coal-burning stoves and leaded gasoline, but the green building movement strives for more than carbon emissions. Previous impressions of environmental issues tended to be an emotional protection of “Mother Earth.” Green buildings now tackle operational cost-effectiveness throughout the lifespan of the building and inhabitant well-being for greater efficiency and quality of life. 

    In the United States, buildings alone account for:

    • 72% of electricity consumption

    • 39% of energy use

    • 38% of all carbon dioxide (C02) emissions

    • 40% of raw materials use

    • 30% of waste output

    • 14% of potable water consumption

    (Source: US Green Building Council)


    Green homes and buildings have become commonplace throughout the country. According to NAHB, the green building market is expected to grow at a rate of 17 percent annually through 2022. Within four years, the collective value of the global green building market is anticipated to surpass a valuation of $245 billion, up from $158 in 2015.

    By 2018, studies show green construction will account for more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs – more than one-third of the entire U.S. construction sector – and generate $190 billion in labor earnings. The industry’s direct contribution to U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is also expected to reach $303.5 billion from 2015-2018.

    In Pennsylvania, total green construction contributed 342,000 jobs from 2015 – 2018; producing almost $19.5 billion in labor earnings. Specific residential statistics are hard to come by, but features like ENERGY STAR are now the norm in 23,538 homes throughout the Commonwealth.

    Residential Green Building

    However defined, green homes are expected to comprise around 30 percent of the new-home market in 2018, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. From the beginning of the green-building movement, the biggest motivator for consumers has been reducing their monthly heating and cooling bills, according to builders and green-building advocates. The benefit for home builders sometimes isn’t so clear.

    Brian Baker, Owner and Director of Marketing & Design of studio26 homes in Orefield, PA built his first green designated home in 2005. “The most popular green building attribute we hear about and work with is energy efficiency, because saving money on energy bills is a tangible benefit when the utility bill comes every month. Healthy homes are also well-liked, especially with owners who have health problems that need high-performance functions like superior air quality.” Brian also notes that others “simply want to be good stewards of the environment.”  

    With those high-performance standards needed to be met in site design, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and building operation and maintenance, residential green construction can be time-consuming and tedious. However, the typical green home can cost more than a “regular” home, so builders and contractors can see more profit in turn. They can also take advantage of volume discount savings, and reduced labor costs, as the learning curve to implement and install different items is diffused. Some green builders are taking advantage of fast-track permits and reduced permit fees in their jurisdictions. Other builders are finding they have access to land they wouldn't have had access to otherwise while building green.

    What makes a Green Building Green?

    Like so many definitions of what constitutes a Green Building, there are just as many ways to quantify and qualify what is green. According to some estimates, there are more than 80 green building accreditation programs across the country. That doesn’t take into consideration the hundreds, if not thousands of green building municipal government regulations or state laws (more on that later).

    Fortunately, there are just a few certification programs and designations that have risen to the top of the green building movement – making residential home builders and buyers more in sync to consolidate both resources and productivity before, during, and after the building process.

    Single-Attribute Residential Green Building Rating Systems

    The 800-pound gorilla in this category is one most are familiar with - ENERGY STAR. Created in 1992 and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ENERGY STAR and its partners (according to the EPA) have saved American families and businesses more than $450 billion in energy costs and over 3.5 trillion kWh of electricity, while achieving broad emission reductions. Its success can also be measured by its brand identification; more than 90% of American households recognize the ENERGY STAR logo.

    ENERGY STAR has grown into a behemoth – with over 75 residential and commercial product categories. Currently, more than 60,000 product models have earned the ENERGY STAR blue sticker based on EPA’s 26 years of energy efficiency experience. More than 2,200 product models from more than 140 manufacturers were recognized as “ENERGY STAR Most Efficient” in 2017.

    Multi-Attribute Green Building Rating Systems

    While the field of single-attribute green building product certifications is dominated by ENERGY STAR, the construction and manufacturing industry recognized during the rise of that designation the need for more comprehensive reviews of products. As the name suggests, multi-attribute labels examine two or more environmental impacts of a product or material.

    Some of the most popular of this broad-reaching, multi-attribute eco-labels include Green Seal, Underwriter Laboratories’ EcoLogo, Cradle to Cradle, Design for the Environment, and the Good Housekeeping Green Seal of Approval.

    Third Party Green Building Rating Systems

    According to industry experts, the most authentic and trustworthy certifications are those awarded by an independent third-party that has no business or monetary relationship with the product manufacturer or home builder. These designations generally have a transparent, open and clear system that standardizes how points are awarded to achieve certification.

    National Green Building Standard
    The National Green Building Standard (NBGS) certification from NAHB tasks single-family and multifamily buildings to achieve high-performance standards in site design, resource efficiency, water efficiency, energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and building operation and maintenance. This certification program is for res
    idential homes only and now boasts over 100,000 units that have been awarded this seal of approval.

    A home or multifamily building can attain one of four NBGS performance levels — Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Emerald so builders can provide options based on market preferences, homebuyer budgets, and other regional or cultural influences.

    Points are earned when a project complies with the numerous green building practices laid out within the Standard. These practices fall into six general categories:

    • ·         Lot design, preparation, and development
    • ·         Resource efficiency
    • ·         Energy efficiency
    • ·         Water efficiency
    • ·         Indoor environmental quality
    • ·         Operation, maintenance, and building owner education

    A building’s highest rating depends upon the lowest threshold met by any of the six categories. For example, if a project missed the threshold for Emerald in one category by a single point, it will still only achieve Gold certification even if it reached the required number of points for Emerald certification in all other categories.

    Furthermore, for dwelling units greater than 4,000 square feet, the number of total points required to receive certification levels increases by one point for every additional 100 square feet. This makes it more challenging for larger dwellings to receive the same certification as smaller dwellings to account for the larger environmental impact of larger homes.

     

    LEED

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)—was created in 2000 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), for rating design and construction practices that would define a green building in the United States. LEED is used throughout North America and more than 30 countries with over 6,300 projects currently certified across the globe and over 21,000 projects registered. As of 2017, over 35 state governments, 380 cities and towns, and 58 counties have enacted sustainable legislation, ordinances, or policies, many of which specifically call for LEED certification.

    The original growth of the LEED rating systems began in commercial and institutional buildings, particularly at colleges and universities who used their green buildings as educations showcases for students and teachers. The LEED seal of approval is growing in popularity for single family, condos and apartments too as the aforementioned municipalities and homeowner associations look for a national standard to measure consistency in defining the features and performance of a legitimate “green” home.

     

    Green in Pennsylvania

    LEED certification continues to rise in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia and China. States with the most LEED-certified homes include California and Texas. Pennsylvania ranks 12th in state LEED-certified residential units.

    The number of certified LEED professionals in Pennsylvania is over 6,700, with the majority having the LEED AP designation – the highest credential from the U.S. Green Building Council.

    Real estate website ADOBO recently revealed a new ranking of the U.S. cities with the most certified green construction. Philadelphia cracked the top 10 with over 900 LEED-certified residential projects within the city limits. The average square footage of these green projects comes out to 17,901 square feet, with 0.15 projects per 1,000 people.

    The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which administers the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, as part of its 2017–2018 resource plan, will award points to developments achieving certain types of LEED certification. Specific attributes they are looking for include innovative design elements such as smart site selection, walkability, and public transit-oriented design, many of which also contribute to credit toward LEED certification.


    Other green designations

    Green Globes—originated in Canada and was brought to the U.S. by the Green Building Initiative (GBI) in 2004. It is now cited in many Federal, State, and Municipal mandates.

    Buildings are rated on a 1,000 point scale spread across seven categories including energy, indoor environment, site, water, resources, emissions, and project/environmental management. Users can indicate that certain credits may not be applicable to a project, a feature unique to Green Globes. It also does not have prerequisites. A Green Globes rating requires a Green Globes Assessor to perform an onsite assessment of the building. This ensures that the self-reported claims made in the online documentation are verified. Both new construction and existing buildings can be evaluated using Green Globes; commercial or multifamily.

    Living Building Challenge (LBC)—is a performance-based system initially launched by the Cascadia Green Building Council. In April 2011, the International Living Future Institute became the umbrella organization for both the Cascadia Green Building Council and the Living Building Challenge.

    The LBC makes stringent demands on its buildings such as 100% net zero energy, 100% net zero water, on-site renewable energy, and 100% recycling or diversion of construction waste. It examines the site, water, energy, materials, health, equity, and beauty factors. All of its tenets are mandatory, making it (according to LBC) the most rigorous green building certification system in the market today.

     

     Green Building Professionals

    If you’re looking to build or renovate a home constructed with the latest green technologies and products, what designation should you look for? How can builders, remodelers, manufacturers and other members of the residential home building industry, who are committed to making homes green, market themselves and promote their green designations?

    Fortunately, there are industry-wide designations one can look for in a residential home builder or remodeler that adds a certified green professional designation next to their name. These professionals have the necessary classroom work and practical field experience who incorporate green and sustainable building principles into homes.

    The NAHB Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation is a reliable way to identify those green building professionals. By incorporating the National Green Building Standards into the curriculum, CGPs are trained to incorporate energy, water and resource efficiency, improved indoor environmental quality and sustainable and locally sourced products into their projects.

    CGPs must successfully complete 18 hours of classroom instruction and have at least two years of building industry experience before they earn their designation. They also are required to adhere to the CGP Code of Ethics and complete 12 hours of building industry and green-related continuing education every three years.

    Even more experienced CGPs with more years of green building background can complete the educational requirements for the Master CGP designation. As interest in sustainable construction practices grows, expect to see more Master CGPs in your community.

    LEED Green Associate/LEED Accredited Professional/LEED Fellow

    LEED credentials denote proficiency in today’s sustainable design, construction and operations standards from the abovementioned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

    More than 200,000 professionals have earned a LEED credential in the United States. They’re tested and certified on their knowledge of LEED rating systems and are able to demonstrate green building expertise in green design, construction, and operations. More advanced LEED designations specialize in interior design, neighborhood development, and green post-build maintenance.

    Does having these green designations help professionally? According to Brian Baker, who has several, “they’re more important in the commercial building industry where the projects are often more complex, but in the residential area they can provide an up-front endorsement of your competence as a green builder to a prospective client.”  

     

    Green Building Laws, Ordinances, and Codes, oh my!

    Residential home construction is a complicated endeavor even for the most basic of construction. From time and materials to surveys and subs, general contractors and remodelers have their hands full. While the number of sustainable regulations and their cause-effect can be debatable, state and local government’s environmental policies are deeply entwined with those who construct and remodel.

    Energy codes are one of the most utilized green building edicts. They regulate a building’s energy efficiency by specifying minimum levels of insulation, efficient lighting, air sealing, and other energy-related building components. According to Brian Baker, “municipal mandates are helpful for more homes to achieve high-performance, which is advantageous for the owner,” he says, but cautions governmental agencies not to enact policies that “push down growth.”

    Commonwealth Codes

    In a recent example of state code changes, the PA Uniform Construction Code (PA UCC) by the PA Review and Advisory Council (RAC) recently made revisions which regulates the adoption, revision, or elimination of green building code provisions for the Commonwealth. These statewide codes are housed in the 2015 International Code Council (ICC) Model Codes book.

    Homes built to the 2015 model residential energy code will be about 25 percent more efficient than the 2009 code. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that over a 30 year period, the energy bills in a home built to the 2015 code in Pennsylvania will be more than $8,100 lower than in a home built to the 2009 code!

    Commercial buildings will save energy as well. The DOE’s analysis found that construction costs for commercial buildings in Pennsylvania will be lower for some types of building due to requirements for fewer lighting fixtures and the use of smaller HVAC units due to lower heating and cooling loads. Under the new code, buildings may cost less to build and less to operate.

    Builders in Pennsylvania will be required to start following the new codes on October 1, 2018.

    Local & Municipal

    Increasing numbers of local, county and regional governments are also devising ways to promote green building through comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances. Some promote sustainable building practices through adoption of green building programs, often with their own set of green building guidelines. These programs vary widely from place to place depending on local goals. Programs can apply to different types of buildings depending on use (residential or commercial), size, or type of development (new construction or renovation).

    Some programs are mandatory, while others are voluntary but promoted through the use of incentives. Some communities create programs that require or encourage certain types of development to qualify for “green” ratings under third-party guideline and certification programs such as LEED or ENERGY STAR.

     Green Pennsylvania

    As one could imagine, with over 2,562 municipalities in Pennsylvania, green building codes and regulations are numerous and varied. Recent information from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) shows a couple of examples of green directives at the borough and township level.

    The Borough of West Chester in Chester County adopted zoning regulations that require new buildings over 45-feet tall to be designed and built with ENERGY STAR and/or LEED certification. West Chester is the first municipality in the country where, by law, private buildings must be designed to earn the ENERGY STAR label.

    In the Delaware Valley region, the Borough of Doylestown, in Bucks County, created a Green Points building incentive program that provides permit fee reductions or waivers if proposed buildings incorporate green building methods. Approximately 25 properties have utilized the program so far. Following Doylestown’s program, the Borough of Swarthmore in Delaware County adopted a Green Points program modeled on Doylestown’s initiative.

  • 20 Jun 2018 3:06 PM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)

    While much attention has been placed on the record number of young adults who are delaying homeownership, recent research from NAHB shows that 70% of Americans still believe that owning a home is an essential part of the American Dream. That is why the homebuilding industry celebrates National Homeownership Month in June.

    The benefits of owning your own home are numerous — for you and for your community. You build financial strength and emotional well-being for you and your family, and at the same time, as a homeowner, you promote increased stability for the surrounding community.

    Financial Benefits: Building equity and accruing wealth when the value of your home appreciates are among the longer-term financial benefits of homeownership. The home equity you build increases your net worth.

    Also of importance to note is that long-term, buying is cheaper than renting. In some cases, it may be cheaper to rent, but over time, as the interest portion of your mortgage payment decreases, the interest that you pay will eventually be lower than the rent you would have been paying.

    Once a year at tax time, you get a reminder of another advantage of owning a home.

    American homeowners saw their tax bills trimmed by a total of more than $100 billion in 2017, according to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation and NAHB analysis. This includes both the mortgage interest deduction and the real estate tax deduction. On average, 70 percent of homeowners with a mortgage claim this deduction and 90 percent of all mortgage interest paid gets deducted, according to NAHB.

    For those concerned about recent changes to federal tax codes for home ownership, most of the revisions shouldn’t affect the average homeowner. For example, unless you needing a mortgage for $750,000 or higher, you need not worry. Other changes to real estate deductions by the new tax laws can be offset by decreasing income-tax rates for many. Finally, the standard deduction is actually rising, which in some cases will help to offset the loss of itemized deduction cuts.

    Quality-of-life Enhancements:   Homeownership increases stability for you and for the community where you live. Homeowners are less likely than renters to move every year or two. Once you settle in, you make friends, get to know the neighbors and develop a sense of community — and that’s a motivation to help maintain a safe and thriving environment for you, your family and your neighbors.

    If you value privacy, apartments and townhouses are poor choices for anyone who truly values their peace and quiet. You share parking lots, parking spaces, and common areas with your neighbors, and even thin walls in some cases. Owning a home means you have the freedom to landscape, rearrange, remodel and live the way that you choose (homeowner association restrictions notwithstanding.)

    Finally, owning a home can be the ultimate family heirloom. Your home can be the “home-base” of children, grandchildren, extended family and friends over the years. The sentimental and monetary value of keeping a home in the same family is a perk that can’t be matched by any traditional heirlooms or prized possessions.

    To learn more about the benefits of homeownership or find homeownership opportunities in your area, contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a pro or go to www.nahb.org.   

  • 12 Jun 2018 9:13 AM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)


    PBA announced that a record 789 students were awarded a certification from its Endorsed Trade Program (ETP) at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The program currently includes 114 technical programs from 29 trade schools throughout the Commonwealth.

     “PBA is committed to an endorsed trade education program that meets and exceeds industry standards in curriculum, mission and educational goals,” said Daniel Durden, PBA’s CEO. “We recognize the urgent need for skilled trade workers in Pennsylvania. Workforce development is a critical function of PBA’s mission to our residential builder and remodeler members.” 

    Trade program endorsements involve a thorough review and evaluation by construction industry professionals using criteria established by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB.)  PBA’s Endorsed Trade Program is recognized by the PA Department of Education and endorsed by the Pennsylvania Association of Career and Technical Administrators. Those endorsements ensure trade programs like the ETP meet high standards of performance and will properly prepare students for a career in the industry with foundational knowledge in the building trades. 

    Chris Warren, Chair of the PBA Workforce Training and Education Committee oversees the management and growth of the program. “Our endorsed school graduates are highly desirable in the residential building industry. PBA members and non-members alike have access to this exceptional group of graduates. Thus, this partnership is a win-win for both home builders and the trade schools that train them.”

    PBA collaborates with schools around the state to certify home building trade programs in fields such as building construction, cabinetry, HVAC, masonry, and plumbing. Those programs must meet NAHB educational guidelines. Students who complete PBA-certified programs are then tested and receive their accreditation - providing reassurance to builders and potential employers they are well-prepared for work with a residential construction company. Further information about the program can be found at www.pbaendorsedtrade.org.

  • 04 Jun 2018 4:15 PM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)

    How to Choose a Home Builder

    If you're in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder as carefully as you shop for your home. Whether you are buying a condo, a townhouse, a house in a subdivision or a custom-built house, you want to know that you are buying a good quality home from a reputable builder. Here are some tips to help you choose a builder.

    Make a List of Possible Builders

    Once you have thought about the type of house you want, you can create a list of potential builders.

    • Contact your local home builders' association to obtain a list of builders who construct homes in your area. You can find your local HBA at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.
    • Look in the real estate section of your local newspaper for builders and projects. Looking through the ads and reading the articles can help you to learn which builders are active in your area, the types of homes they are building and the prices you can expect to pay. Make a list of builders who build the type of home you're looking for in your price range.
    • Local real estate agents may also be able to help you in your search.
    • Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Ask about builders they have dealt with directly, or ask them for names of acquaintances who have recently had a good experience with a builder.


    Do Your Homework

    When you have a list of potential builders, it's time to start asking lots of questions — of both the potential builders and the owners of their homes.

    • Interview potential home builders to get the answers to all the questions you have. Here is a list of questions to ask builders.
    • Then, visit a builder's recently built homes and subdivisions. Drive by on a Saturday morning when home owners may be outside doing chores or errands. Introduce yourself and say you are considering buying a home from the builder who built their home. Talk to several owners, and try to get a random sample of opinions. The more people you talk with, the more accurate impression of a builder you are likely to get.
    • Some questions to ask home owners include: Are you happy with your home? If you had any problems, were they fixed promptly and properly? Would you buy another home from this builder?
    • Usually, people tell you if they are pleased with their homes. And if they are not, they'll probably want to tell you why.
    • At the very least, drive by and see if the homes are visually appealing.
    • When you talk to builders and home owners, take along a notebook to record the information you find and your personal impressions about specific builders and homes. Doing so will help you to make comparisons later.

    Shop for Quality and Value

    Look at new homes whenever you can. Home shows and open houses sponsored by builders are good opportunities to look at homes. Model homes and houses displayed in home shows are often furnished to give you ideas for using the space. You may also ask a builder to see unfurnished homes.

    When examining a home, look at the quality of the construction features. Inspect the quality of the cabinetry, carpeting, trimwork and paint. Ask the builder or the builder's representative a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. If you receive the answers verbally rather than in writing, take notes. Never hesitate to ask a question. What seems like an insignificant question might yield an important answer.

    Questions to Ask Your Home Builder

    When you're thinking about buying a new home, selecting the right home builder is a key step in creating the home of your dreams. You should feel comfortable asking a potential home builder every question that you think is important. And, a professional builder or sales representative will want to make you a happy and satisfied home owner.
    Besides the questions of "How much does it cost?" and "When can we move in?" here are some other questions you should ask:

    • Will the builder give you references of recent buyers/occupants?
    • Does the builder have a financing plan established?
    • Are there options in the floor plan — for example, can a basement or deck be added?
    • Can a room such as the basement be left unfinished?
    • How much "customizing" can be done versus standard features?
    • Can appliances be up- or down-graded?
    • Are there any additional fees relating to the home or development?
    • Will there be a home owners’ association? If so, what will the dues cost and what do they cover?
    • Does the builder offer a warranty program?
    • Does the price include landscaping? What if the plants die within a year?
    • Are there any restrictive covenants?
    • What are the estimated taxes on the property?
    • How is the school system rated?
    • Are day care and grocery stores convenient and satisfactory?
    • What about emergency facilities — police, fire department and hospitals?
    • Are there any major development plans for the area in the next five years?

     

  • 22 May 2018 11:16 AM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)
    May is National Remodeling Month

    Aging-in-Place: Remodeling for a Lifetime

    What is “Aging-in-Place?”

    According to most experts, aging-in-place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change.

    According to a recent NAHB survey, “desire for better/newer amenities” and “need to repair/replace old components” once again ranked as the top reasons owners remodel their homes.  However, several other reasons to remodel are gaining ground, particularly the desire to be able to age-in-place.

    The baby boom generation has many choices as this large population of potential clients for remodelers, builders, contractors, and occupational therapists considers where to live – but overwhelmingly, seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes.

     

    What does Aging-in-Place look like?

    If you are like the majority of Americans you want to continue living at home in a familiar environment throughout your maturing years. Aging-in-place means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level. It addresses the need to remodel existing homes and design new homes so that people can age in place and not have to move to assisted-living facilities as they age. Since the vast majority of homes we live in are not well designed for aging seniors, a movement in residential construction has sprung up to meet this new consumer demand.

    Boomers, who are 77 million strong and make-up 28% of the U.S. population, are leading this trend. The economics of aging-in-place modifications are a no-brainer. Moving to a typical assisted-living facility can cost up to $60,000 annually. The cost to widen the bathroom door, put in safety bars, and add a roll-in shower would typically cost about $6,000 to $8,000, but doing so is a one-time expense, not a yearly drain on your finances.

    Too early to think this applies to you? Consider how many folks struggle with bouts of arthritis at an early age. If you fell and broke a leg, how easy would it be to get up and downstairs in your house? Perhaps you have an aging parent or relative who may need to move in with you. Most home owners don’t think they will need traditional aging in place items like task lighting, grab bars, and other home modifications for their own use, but their family members and visitors might.

     

    Universal Design

    Aging-in-place means so many different things to so many different types of home owners, it’s difficult to find where to begin the process of evaluating the needs of everyone living in, or potentially living in the home. A good place to begin is universal design, which refers to products and spaces that can be used by the widest range of people.

    The theory behind universal design is to have an environment (in a building, product, or service in that environment) that is designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. Universal design considers the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process and takes advantage of products, services, and environments that meet peoples' needs.

     

    Aging-in-place Action Plan

    Fortunately, there are industry standards in place to help potential remodelers make sense of the multiple challenges of aging-in-place planning. NAHB’s answer to this is CAPS, which stands for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. It’s a construction credential that has builders, architects, remodelers, designers and even occupational therapists using universal design ideas, aging-in-place principles designed to custom-fit your home to you and your family as time goes by.

    CAPS design takes your current and future circumstances into consideration by using the universal design principles to focus on elegant, aesthetically enriching, and barrier-free environments. These are changes that can actually increase the value of your home, according to most realtors.

    Construction and design professionals are taking advantage of CAPS training across the nation. This designation is taught through the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP.


    Aging-in-Place Planning Checklist

    Universal design taken to the practical level can include the most common aging-in-place remodeling, like raised toilet seats, chair lifts, and walk-in tubs. However, improvements that make homes universally more livable (e.g., replacing lower cabinets with pull out drawers, large windows providing natural light), however, will make them appealing to everyone regardless of age.

    Here are some ideas additional aging-in-place ideas to consider when planning a new or remodeling home project:

    Home Safety

    • Better outdoor lighting to get you from your car to the door.
    • Attractive ramps or a zero-step entrance for the home.
    • Handrails at existing steps and porches.
    • Fewer or no stairs.

    Kitchen Helpers

    • Lever-handle faucets with pull-out spray.
    • Raised dishwasher to avoid back strain (a good idea for front-loading washers and dryers, too).
    • Rolling island that can be placed back under the counter.
    • Lower, side-opening oven.
    • Adjustable height sink.
    • Side-by side refrigerator with slide-out shelves and a water/ice dispenser.
    • Cooktop with controls on front.

    Bathroom Amenities

    • Attractive grab bars in the shower.
    • Lever handles on faucets.
    • Slide-bar-type hand-held shower, for sitting or standing.
    • Tub and shower controls moved closer to entry point.
    • Widened entry doors to at least 32.”
    • Higher toilets with non-slam seats and lids.

    Home Comfort

    • Improved lighting with recessed fixtures in common areas and hallways.
    • Lever handles on doors and windows.
    • Lower light switches and thermostats; raised outlets.
    • Wider doors that accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.

    Smart Homes = Smart Aging in Pace
    The trends in home automation and interconnection are a perfect example of taking the many tools of universal design to its practical conclusion. Internet-connected thermostats, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely not only help everyone in the house live well together, but can save time, money and energy.

    ***

    With so much to consider while using aging-in-place during your remodeling project, it’s hard to go it alone. The CAPS designation is a reliable way to identify professionals to modify your home or build a new one that is designed for a lifespan. CAPS graduates receive training about the technical/construction aspects and learn about the unique aspects of working with older Americans.

    Visit NAHB’s aging-in-place and remodeling website for more info.

    To find an NAHB Certified Aging-in-Place professional in your area, contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.

     

  • 11 May 2018 8:49 AM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)


    Weigh Your Options before a Do-it-Yourself Remodel


    Homeowners are tackling more home improvement projects than ever, according to a new study from Home Advisor. What’s more, they spent an average of roughly $1,850 more on home improvement projects than ten years previous.


    Home project spending is up among millennials, but less than half report always hiring a professional to help complete home improvement projects — in part because they’d have to save for or finance a home improvement, and in part because they’re uncertain they’re being charged a fair price.


    Age of home and length of residence matter. Homeowners who’ve lived in their homes for less than six years spent the most on home improvement projects last year, followed by those who’ve lived in their homes longer than 11 years. Homeowners who’ve lived in their homes for six to 10 years, on the other hand, spent the least on home improvement projects.


    With websites like Pinterest, and home improvement shows too numerous to count, many homeowners feel they can take on that bathroom or kitchen, but DIY remodeling isn’t always the best path to that completed remodeling project.


    Safety


    Without the proper training and preparation, a DIYer can and has landed in the emergency room. Unfamiliarity with new tools and techniques can lead to life-threatening accidents. Follow product directions and safety procedures and always use proper safety equipment.

    A good rule of thumb for any homeowner is to avoid projects that require a license. Veteran remodelers advise against doing electrical or plumbing work on your own and avoid making structural changes to walls, roofs, and floors. You run the risk of compromising the structural integrity of your home and having a large hole in your roof or floor. Leave this work in the hands of professionals with the proper training.

    Even projects that appear simple like laying floor tile can result in you stubbing your toes every time you are in that room if improperly installed.

    Time

    DIYers often tackle larger projects than they can handle before the holidays so that visiting family can enjoy the updates. But when something goes wrong, there is no one to hold to the deadline. Hiring a professional will ensure that you have a contract with a completion date and that the remodeler will bring in whatever help is necessary to get the job finished on time.

    Even professional remodelers sometimes need extra time on projects when they find surprises behind walls. Troubleshooting these issues often takes more time and expertise than originally planned. If timing is a priority for your weekend warrior, call a professional remodeler to get your project completed.

    Cost

    Purchasing new tools is exciting but consider the price of all the specialty tools used for a one-time project when they are sitting untouched in your garage for a few years.

    Additionally, many of the products purchased for the DIY market, although designated by a name brand, are not always the same quality available to contractors. It is also important to verify the terms of the product warranty. Many warranties become void by improper installation.

    Codes

    Depending on the scale of the project, some home improvement projects can also involve compliance with local codes that require permits and inspections.  In addition, older homes may have asbestos and /or lead paint. The removal of these two dangerous materials are often strictly regulated in most states. Other common DIY code violations are deck ledger fastening problems, basement bedroom egress windows, and botched electrical work.

    Work that’s not up to code may be discovered by an inspector when you try and sell, putting a big damper on your plans. You may be required to fix any problems (with added expense) before a buyer will consider making an offer. And if your buyer should later discover fixes that aren’t up to code, you could be sued for repairs and damages.

    ***

    Not all projects require permits and inspections. Start off by inquiring with your local building authority and discussing your project in detail.

    There are some home projects that professional remodelers believe can be tackled by determined DIYers such as hanging pictures, interior painting, caulking, changing door knobs and cabinet pulls, and some aesthetic work (depending on skill level) such as installing crown molding. Just consider the safety risks, time and cost involved in a DIY project of any size.


    Still think you can tackle a big remodeling project? Just remember, DIY projects should be fun and suit your skill level. If they’re not, then consider hiring a professional.

    For information about hiring a remodeler, contact your local builders association or search the Directory of Professional Remodelers (www.nahb.org/remodelerdirectory) to find a professional remodeler in your area. Visit www.nahb.org/remodel for more information on remodeling. The PA Builders Association Buyers Guide has hundreds of products and services for the DIYer from all over Pennsylvania. 

  • 04 May 2018 10:52 AM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)

    Bathroom Remodels – Hire a pro for the new king of home renovations

    You’ve collected ideas of your dream master bath, drafted a general budget, and talked with friends about how you wish your home was more comfortable or modern. You’re hitting remodeling websites to find the latest trends in bathroom design and fixtures. It sounds like you’re ready to hire a professional remodeler to get your project done right.

    You’re not alone. Bathrooms have now overtaken kitchens as the most popular remodeling project. The kitchen is king among the spaces with the most impact on a home’s identity. But having a beautiful bathroom is just as, if not, more important for many homeowners.

    In fact, bathrooms overtook kitchens as the most popular remodeling project, according to a new NAHB survey. NAHB has released the results highlighting the most common remodeling projects to kick off National Home Remodeling Month in May.

    Survey Says

    In the survey, remodelers reported the most common projects in 2017:

        81% did bathroom remodeling

        78% did kitchen remodeling

        49% did whole house remodeling

        37% did room additions

        30% did window/door replacements

    While remodeling is commonly associated with kitchens and baths, demand for green upgrades continues to swell as homeowners seek to save on utili

    ty costs, improve air quality and increase the value of their homes.

    An additional survey by NAHB Remodelers showed that high-performing, low-emissivity (Low-E) windows are the most common green-building product installed by residential remodelers. Programmable thermostats and high-efficiency HVAC systems also ranked highly among the most common green products used.

    Hire aPro

    Check out these steps for hiring a professional remodeler:

    Collect names of remodeling companies.
    1.  Start by searching the National Association of Home Builders’ Directory of Professional Remodelers at nahb.org/remodel. You’ll get a list of licensed remodelers in your area to contact.

    Discuss your project with a couple remodelers.

    2.  Call a few remodelers from your list to discuss your project. Describe what you envision for the home remodel, styles you like, your estimated budget, and other ideas for the remodeling work. Ask the remodeler if they can provide background information on their expertise. They may have a website or brochure they can share that describes their experience and accomplishments.

    Ask if the remodeler has general liability insurance.
    3.  Be sure to ask some important questions about the remodeler’s business that will help ensure you hire the best professional. Does the remodeler have a contractor’s license? Do they have general liability insurance in case of an accident on the job? Do they guarantee their work? How do they handle any problems that may arise on the project? Having these answers in advance will prevent future problems and nail down the best professional remodeler for the job.


    Check the references and background of the remodeler.

    4. After you start speaking with remodelers and find one or two who match your project’s needs, be sure to conduct some background research by checking with the Better Business Bureau, talking to their references, and asking if they are a trade association member (such as NAHB Remodelers). Remodelers with these qualities tend to be more reliable, better educated, and more likely to stay on top of construction and design trends.

    Don’t fall for the lowest bidder.

    5.  Many people may be lured by the lowest price to their remodeling project, thinking that they have found a great deal. But beware of these alluring low prices. These bids may be more costly in the end if the contractor is cutting corners, not taking into account certain costs, or is inexperienced. Professional remodelers have stories about coming into homes to fix remodels from unscrupulous contractors who did shoddy work or failed to complete the job. Often times, the lowest price may not ultimately provide the best value for your home remodel.

    Make the smartest investment in your home by hiring a professional remodeler. They’ll help you stay on budget, solve remodeling challenges, and provide a higher-quality service.

    For more tips on planning a home remodel or hiring a professional remodeler, visit nahb.org/remodel or contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.

  • 04 May 2018 8:27 AM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)

    Rep. Charlie Dent (R) was honored on April 30th by Lehigh Valley Builders Association (LVBA) with the National Defender of Housing Award, acknowledging him as a forward-thinking federal legislator who recognizes housing’s significant role within the U.S. economy.

    “Dent understands the key national issues facing home builders and remodelers here in the Lehigh Valley,” said LVBA Executive Officer, Chuck Hamilton.  “We commend him for his past support of pro-housing policies such as removing needless regulatory barriers that drive up the cost of housing making it more difficult for families to afford a home.”

    The Defender of Housing Award honors a very important partnership--the working relationship between builders and lawmakers. In many ways, members of Congress create the blueprint for our businesses with their votes on legislation that defines how our industry operates.

    John Howard, chair of the LVBA Governmental Affairs Committee, added, “This award represents a strong commitment to affordable housing, consumer choice and most importantly, the significant contribution that home building makes to the economy. Homeownership is the engine that drives this nation, and the Defender of Housing Award goes to those who enable more homes to be built.”

  • 01 May 2018 8:39 AM | Craig Hoffman (Administrator)

    On May 1, 2018, the PA Uniform Construction Code (PA UCC) Review and Advisory Council (RAC) submitted their required report to the Department of Labor and Industry (Department) adopting the majority of code provisions contained in the 2015 International Code Council (ICC) Model Codes. 

    The submission of the report to the Department signals the end of the RAC’s re-review of all previously un-adopted code provisions contained in the 2012, and 2015 editions of the ICC Model Codes. 

    PBA was successful in advocating for the non-adoption or modification of the most egregious code provisions contained in the 2015 ICC Model Codes, but all residential builders should be prepared for a major update to the current PA UCC beginning in October of this year.  

    New Regulations

    On October 1, 2018, new regulations will go into effect codifying the RAC report on the 2015 ICC Model Code re-review including the provisions of the 2014 National Electric Code.

    PBA is working on materials and educational training sessions to help make the transition to the revised PA UCC easier to manage for our members.

    Moving forward, all subsequent RAC review and adoption of future Model Code provisions will be delayed by a full three years.  As an example, the 2018 ICC Model Codes will not be eligible for enactment in Pennsylvania until March of 2022. 

    Other Key Changes for Builders:

    Design or Construction Contract Time-frames:

    Members should also be aware that a new limitation relating to design and construction contracts will be implemented with the updates to the PA UCC.  A design or construction contract that is entered into prior to the effective date of regulations implementing changes to the PA UCC, in this case October 1, 2018, may be issued under the code in place at the time that the contracts were signed if the permit to build and inspect is applied for within six months of the effective date of the regulation or the period noted by municipal ordinance, whichever is less.   Simply, if you want to build under the 2009 PA UCC you must have a signed design or construction contract dated prior October 1, 2018, and pull the building permit prior to April 1, 2019.  



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