Green Building Conference underway in New Orleans
New Orleans The National Association of Home Builders Green Building Conference is in full swing in New Orleans, with a host of education sessions and green vendor displays, and a special focus on green building in the Big Easy.
Education sessions dealt with the basic ins and outs of green building, from how to explain green to consumers to what big builders are doing to tackle the green movement.
Michael Strong of Houston-based remodeler Brothers Strong; Scott Sevon of Palatine, Ill.-based Sevvonco; and Tom Kelly of Neil Kelly Co. of Portland, Ore., discussed how remodelers can best “sell green” to consumers who might be overwhelmed with information.
Sevon said that showing consumers a real cost-savings, coupled with the use of materials that will stand the test of time, is the best way to get the point of “green” across. Statistics also help, he said, pointing out that “36 percent of our total energy use (nationwide) and 65 percent of electricity consumption comes from residential use.”
Strong noted that it is an advantageous time for remodelers and builders getting into green, because so many manufacturers are pushing their new products.
“There’re a lot more free products than ever before. When it comes to green, vendors and manufacturers are falling all over themselves giving this stuff away,” he said.
The Green Building Show also included tours of a number of green homes built in the New Orleans area. Toni Wendel of Olde World Builders showed off two home projects, currently under construction, that will meet newly adopted “Crescent City Green” criteria, developed by the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans. The primary energy-savings features of these homes have to do with, of course, cutting down on air conditioning costs by building a tight envelope and using energy-efficient windows, which were purchased at a special discount through Pella, Wendel said. But the homes also feature FSC-certified wood that is termite-resistant, water-saving plumbing fixtures and a host of other green features.
KC Contractors displayed a home, which was rebuilt after having been inundated by nearly seven feet of water. The home is just one example of how builders have fit energy-efficient homes into neighborhoods with an eye toward ensuring the home fits in with surrounding architecture.
Duplexes being built by Green Coast Enterprises, a third city builder, are set to include bamboo and tile floors, as well as other mold resistant building materials. Will Bradshaw of Green Coast Enterprises told HCN that he plans to move into one of the condominium units with his wife when the project is complete.
“New Orleans is ground zero for all of these issues coming together — sustainable building and affordable building,” he said.
This is the 10th annual Green Building Conference, but attendance numbers — both for vendors and attendees — are up well over last year, said Don Carr, program manager for the NAHB National Housing Quality Certified Home Builder program. The group is also awaiting the publication of a new national green building standard document, set for later this month, he said.
The Green Building Conference continues through today with further education sessions, including New Orleans-specific sessions on the Make it Right housing initiative and other green building projects that are tied into ongoing rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina. For more information, visit the HCN Green In Store blog at www.greeninstore.blogspot.com.
Mafia case enters home improvement channel
A sweeping indictment unsealed last week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, N.J., alleges a far-reaching criminal enterprise engaged in illegal gambling, extortion, loan sharking, labor racketeering and a fraud scheme involving a Lowe’s store in Paterson, N.J. Members of both the Gambino and the Lucchese crime families were named in the indictment, which charged 23 individuals and capped a two-year investigation by the FBI.
One of the defendants, India Fugate, worked as a 28-year-old customer service associate at Lowe’s in Paterson, N.J. According to the indictment, Fugate fraudulently obtained personal identification information from Lowe’s customers and, with the help of Gambino family member Andrew Merola, used the information to open store credit cards and purchase merchandise.
The indictment describes a second scheme where Fugate and other organized crime figures created fake bar codes that enabled them to fraudulently purchase goods from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Best Buy, Circuit City and other New Jersey stores. The items, which included power tools, were allegedly purchased at greatly reduced prices.
Other parts of the indictment allege betting on sporting events using a Web site and tool-free phone number, collecting payments from construction projects that wanted to use non-union labor and forcing coffee cart vendors to pay kickbacks.
Chris Ahearn, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s, said the company “was pleased that we were able to support the FBI in its investigation.”
BMHC will combine SelectBuild and BMC West
Building Materials Holding Corp. (BMHC) announced a net loss of $33.9 million for the three months ended March 31, compared to a $5 million loss for the same quarter last year. The company also announced it will be unifying its two major business units, BMC West and SelectBuild companies, in order to streamline operations. The company estimates the move will reduce expenses by $20 million to $25 million.
Net sales for the quarter were $355 million, down 37 percent from $599 million from last year.
“Challenging industry conditions continued across U.S. home-building markets during the first quarter,” said Robert Mellor, chairman and CEO.
Mellor also said that the company is working to realign its business to meet the current market conditions, which included reducing its work force by 20 percent during the quarter.
“We are conducting a comprehensive analysis of our business and developing an initial plan for improved profitability and cash flow to right-size the organization to reflect today’s home-building market,” Mellor said.
According to BMHC, the realignment will flatten the company’s organizational structure by reducing its existing 13 regions to seven: Intermountain (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah), Midwest (Illinois), Northwest (Oregon, Washington), Pacific (California, Northern Nevada), Southeast (Florida), Southwest (Arizona, Southern Nevada) and Texas.
Company president and COO Stanley Wilson said the company intends to maintain the two unique brand identities, while taking advantage of the new synergies created by the realignment.
Along with the realignment, SelectBuild’s accounting, accounts payable, purchasing, payroll and information technology elements will be absorbed into the existing corporate structure.
BMHC also said that, upon the completion of the evaluation, it expects to shut down a number of underperforming business units, as well as consolidate some business units into other operations.
“With the centralization of administrative functions, the regional realignment and the closure or consolidation of certain business units we expect to be better positioned to focus our unified vision on maximizing operating efficiencies and growth opportunities for our core businesses,” said Mellor.