Sustainable or attainable?

Sustainable or attainable?

The Pacific Coast Builders Conference has long taken the helm in the conversation about trends and innovation for the building industry. At the 2011 show a few weeks ago, that discussion was in high gear, fueled by a collaboration with West Coast Green, a conference on green innovation for the build environment. We were able to sit down with Jim Heid of Urban Green to get an update on sustainable communities.

As an advisor to the development industry, Jim sees the economic downturn as both a help and a hindrance to sustainable building practices. On the one hand, developers have had more time to explore sustainable approaches that don’t cost more. On the other hand, cost remains a factor—and consumers are not demanding sustainable features.

It seems logical that projects stalled by the recession might be rethought to be more sustainable. But there’s a big roadblock. According to Jim, the expense of another run through the regulatory process is keeping old-school design approaches in play.

Our conversation with Jim will be posted in four segments. Be sure to log on next week for Part 2.

Big Ideas from PCBC

Big Ideas from PCBC

Several Big Ideas were introduced by John Martin and Randal Jackson in their Gen M 2345 presentation at PCBC. The starting point was a typical subdivision that went into bankruptcy during the downturn a year ago. The group has repurposed the site with homes and land planning that makes sense for today.

Prominent in the plan are two-story triplexes designed specifically to accommodate Generation M:  multigenerational households. Each generation has a residence on a single level with private entrances and living spaces, yet there is still enough room to gather as a family. The result is a community that is denser with more usable open space.

Another Big Idea came from B3 Architects and Berkus Design Studio:  a plan to repurpose vacant big box stores into mixed-use communities with residential lofts and retail. According to the firm, the concept promotes economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Designing homes for Gen M

Designing Homes for Gen M on The Real Story

Imagining the community of the future begins with an important question: who are we building for? Silents, Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y? According to John Martin of Martin & Associates and Randal Jackson of The Planning Center, it’s Generation M, which stands for multi-generational family.

Introduced during the Imaging the Future Design Charrette at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, Generation M is anchored by the Baby Boomers (ages 46 – 64), who will become a sandwich generation, providing support for both aging parents and divorced children (and perhaps grandchildren) or children who have moved back home after college. This type of household is found in the housing market in increasing numbers and, according to John Martin, homes designed specifically for Generation M have the ability to turn the housing industry around sooner than later.

In terms of land planning and design, Generation M communities are defined as high density to offer attractive pricing with flexible spaces to serve the changing needs of these multi-generational families. The complete presentation is available on

The conversation will continue tomorrow with more specifics on Generation M home designs.

Factory fresh to your walls

Factory fresh to your walls

We were attracted to Sean Desmond’s Bonded Logic display at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco last week because it was full what looked like blue sponges.  The material is a new and natural insulation product, and it gets its color and character from recycled blue jeans.

We may still be selling our old blue jeans in Russia, but brand new scraps and clippings from the manufacture of denim clothing in the United States goes to the Bonded Logic factory, where it is spun, quite literally, into a material that looks like blue cotton candy before it is compressed into a more durable form of insulation—UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation, to be precise.

The insulation comes in sheets, to be cut and put in place—making it an amateur-friendly product for the weekend remodeler.  The recycled product also has no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and doesn’t use formaldehyde in its manufacture.  It comes in a number of R-ratings, appropriate for different regions of the country. See

An oven that shows you the beef

JennAir on The Real Story Blog

PCBC, the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, was held last week at Moscone Center in San Francisco. For the past 50 years, PCBC has been the industry’s leading edge conference, bringing together builders, manufacturers, architects, environmental engineers and landscape designers.  Its aim?  To advance the conversation about community and homebuilding.

This year, the trade floor had hundreds of exhibiting companies, displaying their newest products. A number of the products have are available to the consumer, so we thought we would feature several of the most interesting in this week’s Real Story.

We met Ed Lindner, the Director of North Pacific Division of Whirlpool Inc., after waiting our turn in line to see a new convection oven that reminded us more of an iPhone than a conventional kitchen appliance. According to Ed, the oven has a 7-inch full-color screen, and a library of more than 16,000 pictures to help the cook decide what to make—and how to make it. Imagine sliding your finger along a screen, looking for ways to cook beef, and having not only every cut of beef listed, but pictures showing how it looks cooked from rare to well-done. The chef indicates which version of the beef is cooked to their liking, the oven indicates what kind of pan to use, and then calculates the temperature and the cooking time to get the result shown in the picture.

This double convection oven has 3900 watts, and eliminates the need for preheating. Since seeing is believing, look for it at