Prefab Eco-Friendly Tiny Studio in Austin

As a follow up to our recent article about prefabs and tiny houses by ClearSpace Homes, I want to share this 182-square foot studio already built by the company. It’s a showroom for ClearSpace Homes, outfitted with a concealed fastener steel siding, Hardie lap siding, zero-VOC paints, strand woven bamboo floors, soy-based spray foam insulation, white modified rubber roofing, LED lighting, CFL lights, and reclaimed wood detail. The studio, which costs about $28,500, includes a built in desk, microwave, fridge, and storage.

[+] More about ClearSpace prefab studios in Texas.

Credits: ClearSpace Homes.

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Clayton Homes Intros Home Energy Guide

Clayton Homes, maker of the popular i-House, is the largest producer of homes in the country and accounted for 7% of homes constructed in 2011, according to the annual report of parent Berkshire Hathaway.  They have a large residential footprint, and their efforts to educate home purchasers can go a long way.  So it’s great to learn of their recent announcement of a new home energy label along the lines of what we’ve discussed previously with other builders.

The following Home Energy Guide has been rolled out across the country to every new home the company has on display.

Clayton’s home energy label is modeled after the DOE’s Builders Challenge label, yet it’s different in some respects.  The company took feedback and found that homeowners want four things in a label: (1) a visual scale, (2) energy saving features, (3) projected monthly costs, and (4) projected savings compared to a home without the energy saving features.

Each home will display a specific and unique label in the interior that can help home purchasers understand (and compare with other homes) the energy impact of their home under certain assumptions like utility rates, occupant behavior, and climate patterns.

Credits: Clayton Homes.

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green bean coffee

Energy Efficiency is Pervasive These Days

In findings presented at the NAHB’s National Green Building Conference and Expo in Nashville, McGraw-Hill Construction said more than 80% of builders and remodelers responded that energy efficiency is making homes greener now than in the last couple years, according to a SmartMarket Report called New and Remodeled Green Homes: Transforming the Residential Marketplace.

The 60-page download includes findings based on a survey of 416 residential builders, developers, and remodelers taken during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Of those that responded, about 60% believe efforts to improve indoor air quality have made homes greener than two years ago.  Also, about half of them — and especially the remodelers — consider durable materials to be one of the most important features of their homes.

So what’s driving the growth in new and remodeled green homes?

First, there’s a perception that green homes are higher in quality.  Second, homeowners are seeking green homes in order to save money and minimize energy costs.  Surprisingly, initial costs are noted as an obstacle by less builders than before, signaling that perhaps homeowners are interested in investing now to save later.

Thus, green is penetrating the market at all levels, new and remodeled.  The market for green homes is currently at $17 billion, and it’s expected to increase to between $87-114 billion by 2016.

[+] For a copy of the report, visit McGraw-Hill Construction.

Credit: McGraw-Hill Construction. 

Read more: Energy Efficiency is Pervasive These Days

SmartDeco is Simple, Affordable, and Green

Here’s an interesting product that got its start with a successful funding from Kickstarter.  SmartDeco is affordable, engineered, blank furniture made with 100% recyclable Enviroboard — a light-weight corrugated fiberboard, like cardboard, but with a middle layer of oscillating arcs for strength.  The flat-pack furniture is made in California and folds in places without the need of tools.  Available pieces include a stand, dresser, and desk, and all of these items are available for about $65 or less each (white costs a little more).

[+] More about SmartDeco furniture made in the USA.

Credits: SmartDeco.

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Green Homes Currently a $17 B Market

Green homes comprised 17%, or $17 billion, of the overall residential construction market in 2011, according to new findings in the Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study by McGraw-Hill Construction.  Mc-Graw Hill predicts green homes will gain market share over the next few years to between 29-38% of the market by 2016 — a market that could equate to $87-114 billion by these forecasts.

Additionally, 34% of remodelers expect to be doing mostly green work by 2016.

Factors that contribute to the growth of the green homes market include “higher quality” and “increases in energy costs,” while obstacles continue to be “higher perceived first costs” and “lack of consumer education.“  Builders guesstimate that the premium to build green is about 7%, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

Areas with the highest growth in green homes include, first, the West Coast, second, the Midwest northern region west of the Mississippi, and third, the New England area.

Notwithstanding a brutal housing economy, “green has grown significantly as a share of activity— indicating that the green market is becoming an important part of our overall economic landscape,” said Harvey M. Bernstein, VP of Industry Insights and Alliances, McGraw-Hill Construction.

As the housing economy begins to, perhaps, come back a little from recent doldrums, 33% of builders and 22% of remodelers expect to be dedicated to green building work by 2016.

[+] More about the Green Home Builders and Remodelers Study.

Credit: McGraw-Hill Construction.

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Austin 360 Roofing Now Offering Spray-On Radiant Heat Barrier to Significantly Reduce Energy Costs for Central Texas Homes and Businesses

Austin, TX (PRWEB) July 9, 2009

Austin 360 Roofing, a leading, Texas-based roofing company, has extended its energy efficiency product and service offerings to central Texas customers by supplying a spray-on radiant heat barrier. The company has partnered with STS Coatings to immediately begin delivering HeatBloc Ultra.

“Radiant heat barriers are a proven solution for lowering energy costs, especially for homes in warm climates like Central Texas,” said Eric Trybala, president of Austin 360 Roofing. “And with its ability to be sprayed on to the underside of the roof, HeatBloc Ultra can be easily and safely applied in enclosed areas like attics. HeatBloc Ultra is an industry leading radiant heat barrier, and a great addition to Austin 360 Roofing’s service offerings.”

Radiant barriers are reflective materials that block heat transfer and reduce solar energy from penetrating roofs and increasing the temperature in homes and businesses. They are normally installed on the underside of a roof and reflect most solar heat upwards. This means that very little radiant heat is emitted down into the structure, essentially keeping a building shaded from the sun.

Austin 360 Roofing is offering HeatBloc Ultra as its radiant heat barrier of choice because it adds the benefit of being able to be sprayed on to the underside of roof decks, rafters, ridge and gable ends. By applying a thin, even coat to these surfaces, up to 75 percent of the potential radiant energy transfer into the attic can be blocked, significantly reducing air conditioning costs.

HeatBloc Ultra also does not degrade over time, like traditional foil-based radiant heat barriers which can tear and can accumulate dust, diminishing effectiveness. Also unlike foil-based barriers, it does not block cell phone, antennae, or dish signals. HeatBloc Ultra is permeable to water, and does not trap water vapor within roof decks or sidewalls, an important consideration in warm attic conditions where water damage can be particularly detrimental.

“STS Coatings has a long history of supplying high-quality radiant heat barriers and other roofing materials to Central Texas residents,” said Cayce Kovacs, President of STS Coatings. “We are proud to be working with quality applicators such as Austin 360 Roofing.”

About Austin 360 Roofing

Austin 360 Roofing is a leading roofing company in Central Texas, specializing in houses, apartment complexes, office buildings, and industrial parks. The company provides expert craftsmanship in asphalt shingles, tile roofs, metal roofs, flat roofs, and green roofing solutions. Additionally, Austin 360 Roofing manages all aspects of insurance assessments and negotiations for roof repair due to hail, rain, lightning, wind, and fire damage. The company is locally owned and operated in Austin, TX, but serves the entire Central Texas area. For more information see

About STS Coatings

STS Coatings, Inc. is headquartered near San Antonio, TX. In addition to HeatBloc Ultra, the company offers several other related businesses and products including Roof Guardian Technologies, Wall Guardian

Olympia Steel Buildings Offers Innovative Ways to Cut Energy Costs

Mc Kees Rocks, PA (Vocus) August 19, 2010

Olympia Steel Buildings has announced a new energy efficient choice for its pre-engineered commercial, industrial, agricultural and residential steel buildings. Now when you choose a color option for your pre-engineered steel building, a new energy-efficient silicone-polyester color coating, Ceram-A-Star

Payday Loans Now Help with Emergency Living Costs

(PRWEB) September 29, 2011, an online payday loan provider, is helping to ensure people can cover an unexpected home or car repair without worry.

With so many opportunities for an unexpected emergency each day, almost everyone will need to come up with instant cash at some point. Because of this, savings accounts could be drawn from, and vacation funds could be depleted. Unfortunately for some, this instant cash isn?t something that is easily accessible, and they need a bit of help when the unexpected happens.

For homeowners and vehicle owners looking for quick cash to cover an emergency cost, payday loans are a simple solution. These loans are a way to borrow money, with a short turnaround time for repayment – such as on the next payday. They are an easy and efficient way to get cash when it is most needed.

Payday loans can be used for any home or car emergency situation, including:

Benovia Winery Harvests Solar Energy to Reduce Costs and Carbon Footprint

Santa Rosa, CA (PRWEB) September 14, 2011

Benovia Winery has taken a major step forward in its sustainability program with the recent installation of solar panels that will produce most of the electricity the winery needs, according to Mike Sullivan, Benovia’s co-owner, general manager and winemaker.

Benovia, a Russian River Valley vintner of premium Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel wines, chose Real Goods Solar to install 171 photovoltaic modules on the roof of its winery, Mr. Sullivan said. The system will produce more than 60,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, reducing the winery’s PG&E bill by at least 92 percent.

Benovia’s commitment to solar power benefits the planet as well, Mr. Sullivan said, noting the installation will reduce its CO2 emissions by some 1180 tons over 25 years — the environmental equivalent of more than 20 acres of planted trees.

“Using the same energy that ripens our grapes to power our winery just made a lot of sense to us,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We’re making our CFO happy, and at the same time doing something good for the environment.”

Also factoring into Benovia’s decision were financial incentives available from the Federal government and State of California, Mr. Sullivan said, noting Benovia’s new investment in renewable energy will pay for itself in a little over nine years.

The solar installation pairs perfectly with Benovia’s continuing commitment to maintain good stewardship of the land and reduce the winery’s carbon footprint, Mr. Sullivan added. “We take our roles as custodians of this beautiful Valley very seriously,” Mr. Sullivan said. “By using environmentally sensitive technology and farming practices, we can not only produce wines our customers love, but give them a few more reasons to feel good about choosing Benovia.”

Some other initiatives Benovia Winery has undertaken in its ongoing sustainability program at the winery and its three estate vineyards include:

Farming the winery’s Cohn Vineyard organically

Using organic mulch and fertilizer on all estate vineyards

Erecting owl boxes and raptor roosts to encourage native predators

Conserving water with dry farming techniques

Controlling soil erosion with cover crops, straw mulching and drainage system maintenance

Using wind machines instead of water for frost protection

About Benovia Winery

Founded by husband and wife team Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, and joined by winemaker partner Mike Sullivan, Benovia Winery farms more than 72 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel from estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County. The name of the winery is derived from Joe and Mary’s fathers’ names, Novian Anderson and Ben Dewane. Established in 2005, Benovia’s mission is to create iconic and thought-provoking Grand Cru quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel wines. Benovia wines are sold through an allocation system direct to customers, as well as distributed to select restaurants nationwide. Total production for the current release (2009 vintage) is approximately 4,000 cases. Winery tastings and tours are available daily by appointment. Benovia Winery, 3339 Hartman Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95401. (707) 526-4441.

About Real Goods Solar

A leading residential and commercial integrator of solar energy, Real Goods Solar has installed over 6,500 systems since 1978. For more information, visit:


RE/MAX Survey Finds Homes Become More Modest As Builders Keep Costs Down In Chicago Real Estate And Illinois Real Estate Markets

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) January 23, 2009

Not long ago, every American family seemed to be seeking a trophy house – and new homes rapidly became bigger and grander as builders responded to those demands in the Illinois real estate and Chicago real estate markets. Today, the situation has changed markedly, especially for Chicago homes priced at $ 400,000 or less, but even homes in higher price brackets are making a nod toward modesty.

“We’re seeing a definite trend toward affordability and value in new moderately priced homes in the Chicago real estate and Illinois real estate markets,” reports Debbie Maxvold, broker/owner of RE/MAX Accord which has offices in Bloomingdale, IL and Rockford, IL. Her organization is heavily involved in marketing new homes in the Rockford area.

Larger home builders are shifting away from offering homes of 2,500 to 3,500 square feet and instead are emphasizing designs in the 1,600 to 2,500-square-foot range, according to Maxvold. To make the more limited amount of space as functional as possible, many new homes now utilize a great room concept, with one large living area that is open to the kitchen replacing the separate living and family rooms of more traditional floor plans.

Kathy Dames of RE/MAX Realty of Joliet in Joliet, Illinois, is seeing similar shifts in the new homes being offered in the Chicago real estate market of Will County.

“Builders are looking at the future and scaling back. They are building simpler designs that deliver the most house for the money. Instead of building homes of 2,800 to 3,000 square feet, they are building more homes of 1,800 to 2,300 square feet. And rather than offering an oversized kitchen and family room and separate living room, the homes being built now provide a somewhat smaller kitchen and a large great room but eliminate the traditional living room. They also have 9-foot ceilings throughout rather than the volume ceilings common a few years ago,” said Dames.

Other techniques builders are using to keep Illinois real estate home prices as low as possible while still delivering the primary features consumers desire include less expensive trim and fixtures, smaller lot sizes and less extensive standard landscaping. Some designs make greater use of shared baths, rather than giving each bedroom a private bath, according to Dames.

Among somewhat more upscale Chicago real estate homes that typically sell for $ 400,000 to $ 600,000, the size and features haven’t been changing as quickly, according to Tom Oliva of RE/MAX Central in Roselle, Illinois.

Lots are getting smaller because of the high cost of farm land, he reported. For instance, in Hampshire, IL, at the northwestern edge of the Chicago real estate market, the typical new suburban lot has shrunk by about a third. Standard lots ranged from one-half to a full acre seven or eight years ago, but current dimensions are typically around one-third acre, according to Oliva.

The builders of these homes are putting more emphasis on using long-lasting materials and minimizing maintenance costs so that owning the home is less burdensome to the family budget.

To do that, said Oliva, builders are installing more energy efficient appliances and furnaces, moving from wood shake roofing to architectural shingles and replacing cedar siding with a fibrous concrete siding that is essentially maintenance free for 50 years.

At the upper end of the Illinois real estate market, keeping costs down isn’t as much of a concern, but homes are still becoming less grand in terms of design and square footage, according to Marsha Ulbrich of RE/MAX Unlimited Northwest in Lake Zurich, IL.

“We are building somewhat smaller homes in the $ 1 million-plus segment of the market, but what we are seeing more of are high-tech amenities, such as centrally controlled light, sound and security systems,” said Ulbrich. “There are still homes of 10,000 square feet or more being built, but most are two-story homes totaling 5,000 square feet, with perhaps another 3,000 square feet in a walkout basement level.”

Ulbrich also sees a new emphasis on coziness, with fewer grand spaces and volume ceilings.

“Not long ago it was difficult to sell a luxury home without volume ceilings, but now families want more of a sense of intimacy along with entertainment capabilities,” she said. “These buyers are doing more of their entertaining at home, rather than taking guests out.”

One trend Ulbrich isn’t seeing in most luxury homes is the first-floor master suite. “The families building these homes tend to be young enough so that they still have children in the house, and the parents want their bedroom on the same level as the children’s bedrooms. The exceptions are in homes built specifically for empty nesters, where a first-floor master is becoming quite common.”

According to Susan Rhoades of RE/MAX Suburban in Wheaton, IL, most new upper bracket houses being built these days are custom projects.

“The major changes we’re seeing are in the kitchen/family room area,” she said. “Kitchens have become very elaborate and are open to large family rooms, while the more formal rooms in the house, the living room and dining room, have become smaller.”

Baths, like kitchens, are getting additional upgrades, such as multi-head shower units and full-body sprays, as well as saunas or steam showers. Energy saving features, including tankless water heaters and floors with radiant heat, also are being included.

Another shift that Rhoades has noticed is the growing importance of basement areas, which have, she said, “become a continuation of the upstairs living areas.” These contemporary basements, typically accessed via a wide and open staircase, include such features as a home theater area, wine cellar and recessed lighting, allowing the builder to deliver more finished high-value space at less cost.

“Patio areas are becoming more sophisticated and have replaced decks as the preferred setting,” contends Rhoades, and they often include such features as an outdoor kitchen, fireplace and seating walls.

Two features that seem to be showing up with increasing frequency in new single-family homes across the pricing spectrum are the home office and the three-car garage.

“People want a home office because so many folks now work from home much of the time,” said Debbie Maxvold. “We even see families that would like two home offices because both spouses work at home, but in those instances, they usually convert a bedroom into the second office.”

As for garages, “the three-car garage is here to stay, but to save money when necessary, you will see more tandem designs where the third parking space is behind the other two, rather than garages with three separate doors,” reports Kathy Dames.

In the luxury home market, noted Ulbrich, four-car garages have become the standard, and most homes in that category provide even more parking because it isn’t unusual for a family to have five or six cars if there are teenagers in the house.

While new home construction nationally is at its slowest pace in many years right now, Dames believes that when the housing market does turn around, new home developments will be the first to come back, in part because many of the homes being offered will be more affordable than in the recent past.

“The homes we’ll be seeing at that point will be closer in size to those built in the mid-1980s than to the homes built between 1995 and 2005,” she said.

RE/MAX is the leader in northern Illinois real estate sales and has been number one in residential sales in the Chicago real estate market since 1989. In 2008, the RE/MAX network in northern Illinois closed apprxoimately $ 8 billion in sales.

The RE/MAX Northern Illinois real estate network consists of 3,000 associates and 145 individually owned and operated RE/MAX offices that provide residential, relocation and commercial real estate services throughout the northern one-third of Illinois. The network’s Web site system,, is an outstanding resource for buyers and sellers. RE/MAX Northern Illinois is part of RE/MAX International, a global real estate organization with 7,000 independently owned offices and 100,000 member sales associates in 73 countries.