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It has been long been said that “homebuilding is a local business” and as much as I’d like to think that Lean always transcends locality, that is not always the case. Last week during one of our LeanWeek events in Austin, the head of a drywall installation company asked about using 54” width drywall—aka “stretch board”—in lieu of standard 48” widths for 9’ ceilings. Nine foot ceilings are rampant in Austin and so many other markets these days—unless of course they are 10’.
Like Reese Witherspoon in a romantic comedy, this house flat out exudes charm. It’s a simple ranch that hits all the key marketing hot spots for today’s buyer. The open plan and long site lines also help it to live a whole lot larger than what it is. Let’s take a closer look:
Active-adult communities sure have come a long way. We all know that the massive numbers of baby boomers hitting retirement age want to remain active in their golden years, and they’re very demanding about home and community design. But some of the newer projects coming online are over the top. Think four-star-quality cuisine and state-of-the-art gyms with personal trainers and Zumba classes.
M. Night Shyamalan, the director of The 6th Sense, was opposed to including what has become one of the most memorable movie lines of all-time “I see dead people.”  
Seattle architect Ross Chapin has been designing and writing about small homes for 30 years. Examples of Chapin’s work can be found in various parts of the country. Some of his techniques for maximizing space will be featured in the May issue of Professional Builder, but Chapin has many more ideas than I could fit in a single article. Here are a few good ones:
Working at my second office yesterday (Starbucks), two latino twenty-somethings and their language choices caught my attention.  
Professional Remodeler’s 40 Under 40 program is open to remodeling professionals in North America. Professional Remodeler is currently accepting nominations for the 2013 40 Under 40 program that recognizes the top under-40 professionals in the remodeling industry. Applications are now due April 15, 2013. Professional Remodeler’s 40 Under 40 is open to remodeling professionals that are currently under 40 years old.
Recent house-price gains and a shrinking backlog of homes for sale suggest that we are at the front end of a seller’s market. This new reality is as much a surprise as was the unexpectedly strong rise in new-home sales during 2012. 
There’s an interesting article in the March 25 issue of Time magazine called “10 Big Ideas” (read the digital version here). Some of the ideas are fanciful, but idea #2 resonated with me: Shrink your living space.
Professional Remodeler wants to hear about remodeling companies who thrived in 2012. In the May issue of Professional Remodeler, we will be listing the Market Leaders, the top remodelers across the country. Click here for a Market Leaders entry form or you can receive an entry form by e-mailing Heidi Riedl at hriedl@sgcmail.com. 
The overriding principle of Lean Design is marketability. The winning combo is to make the home simple and efficient to build while having an elevation that will blow your face off. Make the design current with all the hottest trends, but hold the complexity of multiple foundation jogs, improper building dimensions, and overuse of engineered lumber. A few weeks back I heard from Lloyd Poe, a great builder who owns Lifestyle Homes out of Richmond Virginia. He wrote:
Quality is not about tunnel vision, a focus only on the reduction of variation in production alone. Quality is no longer just about the product, but the management of all operations and should be integrated into all aspects of a business. Focusing on every aspect of a business requires a systematic look at an organization to discover how each part relates to the other.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. 
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal shed light on investors who are buying foreclosed homes, fixing them up, and renting them out. Flippers and speculators were blamed for inflating the housing bubble of the past 10 years; now they’re getting prospective buyers, who are afraid of missing out on cheap homes, off the fence. How times have changed.
The past few years have been excruciating for the National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show. However, the falling attendance and exhibitor space that has plagued recent shows has stabilized, and the overall mood of the trade show has improved dramatically as remodelers and builders have garnered more business recently.
“I’ve got a 40-page company policy and about 40 Hispanic employees. Any advice when it comes to translation?” This question came at me during the Q&A session following a Landscape Spanish Seminar I hosted outside Chicago last week.   
The courtyard, an ancient concept for bringing natural light into homes while preserving privacy, is in full flower in America today as lots get tighter and the popularity of outdoor rooms increases. Courtyard homes have been around for years in those parts of the U.S. that get plentiful sunlight for a good part of the year (such as California and Colorado). But there’s no reason a home in Massachusetts or Minnesota can’t have one too, as long as it’s designed properly.
Wanted: Woman who could get me out of a third world prison. This is how Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, articulated what he was looking for in a wife. Before this explanation, he started with the adjective “resourceful.”  
Last June, Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative was launched as part of the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Challenge. Today 32 buildings are participating in the CBI, a voluntary effort to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings larger than 200,000 square feet. The goal is to reduce energy use by at least 20 percent within five years.

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