High School students’ green house may be golden

MHMSM.com presents Factory Built Housing Industry News at Noon with Erin Patla.

Coming up – High School students’ green house may be golden

But first…these stories:

IMHA Replies to Charges against Colorado Community Owner

The Register has recently published numerous articles and editorials on conditions in Iowa mobile home rental properties owned by the Churchill Group of Carbondale, Colo. The Iowa Manufactured Housing Association (IMHA) will not defend Churchill.
They, and others who operate in the same fashion, have no defense. And if you’re expecting IMHA to bash the Register, forget about it. Register reporter Lee Rood was doing her job. We’re hopeful the light being shone on our industry’s problems will assist in finding a solution.

Would we have been happier if significant space had been given to highlight the outstanding manufactured housing communities we have in Iowa? Of course we would.

Do other housing sectors have problems? Yes, they do. But complaining about these omissions could be viewed as trying to duck the real issue at hand.

The manufactured housing industry cannot afford to dismiss the reality that there are some owners of mobile home communities in this state who aren’t maintaining their properties and aren’t treating their residents properly. We understand all too well there are situations in our communities that result in residents being evicted. In some instances, rent isn’t paid. There are residents not abiding by the rental contracts they signed upon taking residence in the community.

However, residents don’t deserve the highest rent in the county, while receiving the worst services and facing conditions potentially harmful to their health and safety.

Aside from ethical and moral implications about how people are to be treated, it is simply poor business for our industry to allow some mobile home community owners to give all a bad name. Most businesses are fearful of regulation because it often turns into overregulation. However, continued lack of adequate regulation is only going to feed an atmosphere that will result in potential customers choosing not to purchase manufactured homes.

IMHA is going to request legislation in the 2011 session that is resident-friendly, no matter which political party is in control and no matter who is elected governor. Others will have legislative ideas. The Register’s position is that a system is needed to mass produce affordable houses. The manufactured housing industry has been doing this for six decades. The industry already has a 43 percent market share of all houses built in the United States, excluding land, sold for under $150,000. Our building cost is about $40 per square foot. If Iowa State University – as suggested by the Register – or others can help us become more efficient, we’re ready to learn.

IN MARKET NEWS: The remodeling market slid backward during the second quarter, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index, or RMI. The RMI sunk to 40.7 from 43.8 in the first quarter. Current market conditions slid back to 42.6 from 44.5 in the previous quarter. The group also says future indicators of remodeling business declined to 38.9 from 43.1 in the last quarter. The index measures market demand for current and future residential remodeling projects based on remodelers’ perceptions and indicators of future activity like calls for bids. Any number below 50 indicates that more remodelers say market conditions are getting worse than report improving conditions. The RMI has been running below 50 since the final quarter of 2005.

Last week the investing site Smart Trend provided its list of the top five companies in the Homebuilding industry as measured by the price to cash flow ratio. The site says companies with the lowest ratio often present the greatest value to investors. Those companies include Hovnanian Enterprises, Beazer Homes, Pulte Homes, Brookfield Homes and Standard Pacific.

Stocks rebounded from a steep drop early Friday to move into positive territory, but no sooner did the “stocks gain” articles appear online then the index dropped to close a little more than a point below the open. We’ll call it flat.

A slump in consumer sentiment was offset by the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer which exceeded forecasts by economists.

Manufactured Housing composites were up .53 Friday. Meritage Homes had the highest percentage gain at 2.56, closing at $17.61 per share. Of the stocks on our watch list, only Global Diversified Industries, Sun Communities and Skyline homes ended down, and those only modestly.

“Up next, High School students’ green house may be golden”

But first, this podcast of News at Noon is sponsored in part by: LifeStylist.com – Lifestyle Driven Designs by Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber. Furniture, Decors and Model Homes designed for your budgets and your customers’ lifestyles.

Contact them on the Web at answers@lifestylist.com or LifeStylist.com or call 214-941-8341.

High School students’ green house may be golden

Dennis Hockman, Chesapeake Home

The recent “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” trip to Baltimore drew attention from every major news outlet in town. As the cameras rolled, hip celebrity carpenters and throngs of local volunteers showed up to work long hours in the Maryland heat. At the end of the week, a great charity received a truly needed new space to help further its mission. And in just a few months, the weeklong ordeal will be broadcast for the nation to see.

Squeezing a months-long project into a week makes for great television, and when a prime-time TV show comes to town, that’s news. The recent coverage reminded me of a similar, but comparatively invisible program in Harford County, (Maryland).

For the past five years, the students of Harford Technical High School have been teaming up with Harford Habitat for Humanity to develop a building program of their own.

Quietly, beyond the public eye, a small group of students, their teachers, Harford Habitat for Humanity and local volunteers are doing something extraordinary – by all accounts, something that has never been done. They’re building a modular Habitat for Humanity house that receives the highest certification from LEED, a building certification system for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to establish a common standard of measuring green buildings on such criteria as site sustainability, healthfulness of the interior and energy efficiency.

“Last year, the students built their first green house, and it achieved a LEED for Homes Certification, and was the first and only modular, green-certified house built by students in the country,” says Mike Svezzese [seh-VEE-zee], an instructor at Harford Tech and a pioneer of the school’s modular homes program.

In an effort to one-up themselves year after year, the Harford students set a 2010 goal to achieve LEED Gold Certification, but with continued support and funding from Bank of America and the donation of solar panels and other materials, it’s likely the house might receive a Platinum Certification, LEED’s highest honor. If so, this program will have achieved something never done before: a Habitat for Humanity, LEED Platinum-Certified modular house built by high school students.

Harford Tech Principal Chas Hagan is proud of the work his students do to make each house better than the last.

“Each time, we take another step in making the program more important for the students. What they are learning about green building is real world, even a step past the real world,” Hagan said. “Our students are learning things that even builders in the field are not doing. They are one up on many professionals in the industry.”

Still, because the complicated LEED ratings and certification process can be difficult for even seasoned professionals to navigate, the school and Harford Habitat consulted with Chuck Cooper and others at Frederick Ward Associates Inc., an architectural and engineering firm, who also donated many hours to make sure the house would be as green as possible.

Dave Guttman, construction manager with Harford Habitat for Humanity, was only recently introduced to green building through the Harford Tech program.

“When you’re caught up managing the project, you don’t see what really goes into it until the very end. When I went back and reviewed everything we have done, it was great to see how much detail went into every facet of the design and construction,” says Guttman. “Looking back at all the little things that add up to such a great, big thing, you realize it is a huge accomplishment.”

Prime-time reality show it’s not. But maybe it should be.

On behalf of Production and IT Manager Bob Stovall, Editor L.A. Tony Kovach, Associate Editor Catherine Frenzel, INdustry in Focus reporter Eric Miller, and the entire MHMSM.com writing and support team, this is Erin Patla. Gday!

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