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Scarcity and Solutions for the Home Building Industry


Scarcity and Solutions for the Home Building Industry

Shortages add pressure, but they also prompt inventive solutions

November 7, 2016
Image: 3345408 via Pixabay
This article first appeared in the November 2016 issue of Pro Builder.

Growing up near Boston during the energy crisis of the mid-1970s involved waiting for the school bus in the dark during double daylight savings time, pulling on an extra sweater instead of turning up the heat, lots of carpooling, and even more bicycling. For many of us, energy saving became as rote as multiplication tables. It’s a habit I retain decades later, living in sun-baked Los Angeles, where electricity prices currently best the U.S. average by more than 40 percent.

We’re experiencing shortages once again, but it’s not an oil embargo prompting long lines at the gas station this time around. If walking the show floor at Greenbuild in early October was any indication, we’re a nation crunched for resources, American builders are feeling the lack, and manufacturers want to help. Compact, load-sensing washers and dryers, cool roofs, and sustainable forestry products were in abundance at this year’s show. There was an entire pavilion devoted to water, featuring water-wise fixtures, water harvesting and reuse systems, and smart home water use and detection devices. All address shortages that have myriad consequences for builders, including a strong impact on profits (Image: 3345408 via Pixabay). 

Land, water, and power—three essential resources for building homes—are growing costlier and harder to come by. In this month’s special report, we talk to builders and developers that are managing despite the shortages. You’ll read about how The Olson Company built 88 townhomes on the site of a former Sriracha hot sauce plant in Southern California, land that CEO Scott Laurie might previously have dismissed out of hand. You’ll learn about KB Home’s continuing commitment to building houses and creating communities that emphasize water saving. You’ll hear about Babcock Ranch, a master planned community in southern Florida with a solar farm all its own.   

Labor, another precious resource, is a serious scarcity that we’ve been addressing for quite some time. Here, we offer a manager’s guide to surviving the crunch, with five actions to take right now. And contributor Scott Sedam continues his quest for long-term solutions. He tells the story of George Hess, president of Vantage Homes, in Colorado Springs, Colo., whose efforts have prompted the return of the shop class, helped reinvigorate a school district, and suggest that we as a nation loosen our vise grip on the notion that every high school student should head straight to college.

What are the most pressing resource issues for you? Drop us a line to let us know how you’re managing.

Written By

Amy Albert is editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine. Previously, she worked as chief editor of Custom Home and design editor at Builder. Amy came to writing about building by way of food journalism, as kitchen design editor at Bon Appetit and before that, at Fine Cooking, where she shot, edited, and wrote stories on kitchen design. She studied art history with an emphasis on architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, has served on several design juries, and is a recipient of the 2017 Jesse H. Neal Award for excellence in journalism. 


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