Home prices hit new lows in nine cities
The S&P/Case-Shiller Index, a bellwether for the new housing market, reported that home prices fell in 19 of the 20 metro markets across the country in November 2010 compared with October 2010. The 10-City Composite was down 0.8%, and the 20-City Composite fell by 1.0%.
In year-over-year comparisons, the 10-City Composite declined 0.4%, and the 20-City Composite fell 1.6% from their November 2009 levels. Only four MSAs (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) showed year-over-year gains in November.
“With these numbers, more analysts will be calling for a double-dip in home prices,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. Nine markets (Atlanta; Charlotte; Detroit; Las Vegas; Miami; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Chicago; and Tampa, Fla.) hit their lowest levels since home prices peaked in 2006 and 2007.
Cleveland museum will build a green home
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History will construct a home that represents the future of energy-efficient housing. SmartHome Cleveland will be built on Museum grounds and open to the public this summer for viewing in conjunction with an exhibition about climate change.
SmartHome Cleveland was designed using the Passive House methodology, a standard of energy performance. The house will be built using a wall system based on structural insulated panels. Construction should be completed in early June, when it will become a temporary exhibition.
Designed without a furnace, SmartHome Cleveland will be 90% more energy efficient than a typical home, according to the exhibit organizers. It will be constructed using sustainable materials and furnishings, advanced stormwater and healthy housing techniques, and biophilic design to connect occupants to nature.
Three elements distinguish "passive house" structures from typical houses: high levels of insulation, with walls up to 18 ins. thick; a carefully sealed building envelope with minimal air leakage combined with efficient heat-recovery ventilation for superior indoor air quality; and ultra high-performance windows — typically triple-paned.
"SmartHome Cleveland will give thousands of people hands-on experience with the most advanced, practical and attractive techniques of green building and energy conservation," said David Beach, director of GreenCityBlueLake Institute, the center for sustainability at the Museum. "It will also raise design standards in Northeast Ohio by increasing awareness of passive house principles, and can help make Cleveland a center for advanced design."
SmartHome Cleveland will be on display from June to September 2011. Afterward, the house will be moved to a lot on Wade Park Avenue in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood and become available for purchase.
Positive outlook for building products sector
A report just released from Standard & Poor’s Rating Services predicts a stable 2011 for most building products manufacturers, despite continued weakness in construction activity. The report, entitled “Efficiency Gains Should Keep The U.S. Building Materials Sector On An Even Keel in 2011, Despite Low Demand," predicts that most companies will remain cash flow positive and maintain adequate liquidity to meet near-term obligations, as well as funding possible working capital growth should markets recover.
"Most companies in the sector have already lowered their costs, which we think will allow them to continue to navigate an extended period of overall lower demand," said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Thomas Nadramia. "As a result, we expect the operating performance of the companies we rate in this sector to generally remain flat, or improve modestly, over the next few quarters."
Debt maturities for rated U.S. building materials companies will be manageable in 2011 and 2012, according to the S&P report, with only about $1 billion and $2 billion, respectively, coming due during these periods.