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.
Existing-home sales rise sharply
Existing-home sales rose sharply in December, when sales increased for the fifth time in the past six months, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Completed transactions of single-family houses, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops rose 12.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in December. Despite the surge, the figure is 2.9% below the 5.44 million-pace in December 2009.
"December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The pattern over the past six months is clearly showing a recovery. The December pace is near the volume we’re expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level. The recovery will likely continue, as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain.”
The NAR’s report followed by one day a disappointing housing-start report from the Department of Commerce.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,800 in December, which is 1.0% below December 2009. Distressed homes rose to a 36% market share in December from 33% in November, and 32% in December 2009.