Builder Blog from Integrity Windows and Doors

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There are 11,842 lakes in the state of Minnesota, and with the opener tomorrow, you can bet each of them will be visited by at least one fisherman hoping to reel in the first great story of the season.

As a company based in the Upper Midwest, we love the great outdoors. Whether it’s fishing, hunting or water sports, there is nothing like enjoying nature with good company.

So, when we were considering how to reward building professionals who take the time to enter or nominate a project for the Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award program, a $50 Cabela’s® gift card seemed a natural choice. Our feeling is this: If you’re willing to take the time to complete the submission form, you owe it to yourself to spend some quality time outside.

And as any Minnesotan will tell you tomorrow, if it’s fishing season, there’s no reason not to be on a lake!

Click here to learn more about the Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award. The entry deadline is June 26, 2014. 

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Midway through the entry period, we are very impressed by the quality of submissions we have received for the 2014 Red Diamond Achiever Award program. Each year, the program recognizes outstanding design, innovation, sustainability and quality in projects by the nation’s premier builders, remodelers and architects using Integrity products.

One aspect that keeps this program fun — but also challenging for our judging panel! — is the sheer diversity in projects submitted. From classic to modern, rural to urban, residential to commercial, we tend to see a little of everything. We are continually amazed by the creativity, vision and craftsmanship in the building industry.

That in mind, we thought we would take a trip down memory lane and show you some of our favorite photos from past winners. We also want to remind you the deadline to enter or nominate a project is June 26, 2014. You can read the full entry details here. And keep in mind Integrity is giving a free $50 Cabela’s® gift card for each entry as a thank-you to those who take the time to submit.

40th Street Project by Blue Sky Building Company28168525229ddfb83dd818bbe73fcc31


Bailey Residence by Sellars Lathrop Architects


Rebel Valley Project by Pinnacle Custom Builders


Pasture Project by Imbue Design & Benchmark Modern

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May is National Home Remodeling Month. With the cold and snowy weather in the rearview — knock on wood — many homeowners are prepared to pull the trigger on projects they spent the long winter months dreaming about. And the grass isn’t the only thing turning green.

Increasingly — and not surprisingly — those projects are focused on energy efficiency. According to a survey released by the National Association of Home Builders on Thursday, “Over the next five years, the percentage of remodelers who expect to be doing more than 60 percent of their projects green will double.”

According to the survey, the most common remodeling project centers on the installation of high-performing, Low-emissive (Low-E) windows. Rounding out the list are high-efficiency HVAC systems, programmable thermostats and ENERGY STAR appliances. Other popular features include ceiling fans, moisture control products such as bathroom fans, water conserving fixtures and high performance insulation.

“The improved availability and affordability of high-performing building products means energy-efficient features are being incorporated into more home improvement projects,” said NAHB Remodelers Chair Paul Sullivan, CAPS, CGR, CGP, of Waterville Valley, N.H. “Remodeling can not only improve the overall layout and features of a home, but depending on the upgrades you choose, you can also save money on utilities, improve indoor air quality and strengthen the long-term value of your home.”

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Early last month, Professional Builder distributed a survey to a random sample of print and digital subscribers with no incentive offered. A total of 223 readers responded, and by chance, represented a broad swath of the industry many roles. The respondents included diversified builders/remodelers (35%), custom home builders (27.3%), architects/designers (13.2%), production builders (6.4%), manufactured, modular, log home or systems builders (3.6%), multifamily builders (2.3%) and 12.3% responded as “other.”

As with any survey, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. However, some observations can be made from this data. Here are a few trends that really stood out to us, but for the full list, but sure to visit here.

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[Tables courtesy Professional Builder]

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Earth Month is a great time for those of us who work in the building industry to consider our role in sustaining the health of the ecosystem. Over the past decade, homes have become more efficient, appliances and HVAC systems have become smarter and everyday building professionals have gained a better understanding of what it means to build green. This industry has a lot to be proud of.

At Integrity, we are proud to support sustainable forestry management and are committed to conserving natural resources, including efforts to preserve old growth and ancient rain forests. We have a genuine appreciation for the critical role forests play in the quality of life within the global ecosystems.

Here a thing few things you may not have known about our company:

  • Integrity utilizes pine in the manufacture of Wood-Ultrex windows and patio doors, a resource not associated with rainforests.
  • Integrity purchases from reliable raw lumber suppliers with sound forest management practices, which subscribe to the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) promoting good forest stewardship.
  • Marvin is a Charter Member of the Forest Products Management and Development Institute at the University of Minnesota.
  • Marvin supports the WDMA Green Task Force Statement of Beliefs.

Our commitment to conserving natural resources isn’t a one-day thing, a one-week thing or a month-long thing. This is our business, all year.

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Five questions with Matt Risinger of Risinger Homes

April 22nd, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Now and then, the Builder Blog likes to catch up with today’s brightest building professionals to discuss best practices, trends and the state of the industry. Recently, we interviewed Matt Risinger, principle of Austin, Texas-based Risinger Homes. Risinger’s company specializes in building and remodeling with a focus on efficient, healthy and durable construction.

The summer building season is just around the corner. How are you feeling about the general state of the industry going into this important time of year? 

Matt Risinger: It’s a really busy time in Austin right now, but it seems to come in waves. Many of the established trades are super busy, but that’s also because they lost some of their workforce in the 2007-2010 downturn. It’s going to be a bumpy ride for builders as business ramps up and we figure out the manpower needs. Overall, I’m very bullish about our industry right now. I see architects and engineers that are swamped so that’s a very positive sign of more work coming to builders.

What are some of the most common features your clients request these days?

MR: I’m seeing a push for more houses that are low-maintenance and have low operational costs. As we build more efficient houses the step to Net Zero becomes smaller and smaller and I find clients are really excited about a zero net electricity bill at the end of the year. As the Boomer generation continues to grow and we build more houses for that age bracket I see both of these trends going up big time. This plays out in the window segment by customers wanting windows with a traditional wood look but without the maintenance. Integrity has been building that product for years now, but I think it’s going to see a spike in demand in the next few years. I also have seen more requests for windows as a feature in the house and Marvin certainly has that market locked up. Marvin’s Lift and Slide Doors are also a wish-list item I see.

Rustic Modern, once thought a run-of-the-mill design trend, is showing some real staying power. What is it homeowners love so much about this particular style?

MR: This is a style that’s here to stay! I think the blend of contemporary and clean with the power of natural materials resonates with people. A stark modern house has limited appeal, but a house with some traditional elements (hardwood floors, painted casing/base, etc.) allows some connection to houses people have owned in the past.

What’s your favorite new building product or tool from the past few months? 

MR: I’m an HVAC geek, so I have to mention a new dehumidifier from Ultra-Aire that provides a small amount of cooling while it dehumidifies. It’s called the SD-12 and it’s going to be on the must list for well-built custom homes in the South. Speaking of HVAC, the new buzzword you’ll be hearing a lot about is “VRF” — Variable Refrigerant Flow technology. All the big companies have it and are feverishly coming to market with traditional looking equipment that can operate at varying capacity from 15%-100%. This technology will reduce cooling bills and increase comfort.

What three words best describe Risinger Homes at this very moment?

MR: Experts. Craftsmen. Steady.

We’ve got a great team of expert builders and seasoned craftsmen. The people that fit those descriptions are steady busy right now. I want Risinger Homes to grow, but to do it slowly and deliberately. As a builder, we only get one reputation. I want my reputation to be “Excellence.” As the building business grows I want to ensure we maintain quality and customer focus. Good times! I thank the Lord every day for my blessings.

Special thanks to Matt Risinger for participating in this interview! We highly encourage readers to check out Risinger’s YouTube channel, Twitter account and blog for more great building insights and discussion. 

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Quality management systems may be the single most important factor in every building company’s success. Reputation is everything in this industry. All it takes are a few avoidable mishaps to ruin your brand. Therefore, it behooves builders to constantly improve oversight, even if it means taking on a major project to test one’s practices.

Surely, you remember “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The show went off the air in 2013, but famously featured homes dramatically made over in the span of just a few days. In 2008, Veridian Homes (Madison, Wis.) was approached with an opportunity to build a home for a family in desperate need. The company’s quality management practices would be tested like never before.

Denis Leonard, president of Business Excellence Consulting, LLC., and a quality management systems expert, wrote about the experience for

The challenge was to build a 3,000 square foot home within 106 hours. There were eleven weeks before the start of construction during which time all aspects of design and project management had to be completed.  When the project was over, construction had actually been completed in just 96 hours to Energy Star and the WI Green Built Standards.

Ultimately, the lessons learnt and transferred from the “Home Makeover” project resulted in a 25% reduction in the Veridian Homes evenflow construction schedule, which had already been an industry recognized schedule.

One challenge yielded massive improvements in process and efficiency. Your company can take on a similar challenge that doesn’t involve reality television. Johnson encourages builders to dedicate themselves to constructing a zero-defect home or an entire home in a week to benefit in the same manner Veridian Homes did.

Johnson and his colleague, Gary Zajicek, co-authored a must-read whitepaper about the experience Veridian Homes had on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and what others in the industry can glean about quality management amidst difficult circumstances. The whitepaper is available for free here.

Below is the episode in which Veridian Homes participated:

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“Energy efficient” doesn’t begin to describe the Honda Smart Home, a forward-thinking development constructed in collaboration with the University of California-Davis. Achieving a net-zero carbon rating is one thing, but this home actually produces a surplus of renewable energy!

Though currently uninhabited, the Honda Smart Home generates a surplus of 2.6 megawatt-hours (Mwh) of energy per year. (For comparison, the average American home uses about 13.3 Mwh per year.) Some of that surplus will be used to power a Honda Fit electric vehicle, which also will come with the home as a nod to the fact 44 percent of greenhouse gases are emitted by homes and vehicles. explains how the surplus is achieved:

“With advanced lighting, geothermal heating and cool and a 9.5 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, the Smart Home’s design will use less than half of the energy a similarly sized new home in Davis would when it comes to heating, cooling and lighting. It’s also three times more water-efficient than the average U.S. home.”

UC-Davis is in the process of selecting a member of its community to reside at the home so researchers from the school and Honda can production and consumption habits in a real-life setting.

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Peak building season is just weeks away. Before things to get too busy, now is the perfect time to enter or nominate a project for the Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award Program. The award recognizes outstanding design, innovation, sustainability and quality in projects using Integrity products. As if earning industry acclaim and a great prize package wasn’t incentive enough, every entrant or nominee receives a$50 Cabela’s gift card just for taking the time to submit a project.

After winners are announced in the fall, they (along with one guest) are flown to Minneapolis and Warroad for a VIP experience. Here are highlights from the 2013 event:

2014 Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award winners also will receive…

  • Award - A beautiful glass award that features a picture of your project.
  • Project Profile - Integrity will create a Project Profile of your project and feature it on Integrity’s website, Integrity’s Facebook page and other social media opportunities deemed appropriate by Public Relations.
    • You will receive 200 printed copies and the electronic creative files for your own use!
  • Press Release/Media Support - Press Release sent to your local market’s newspapers as well as a copy for you. The project will also be featured on Integrity’s national social media outlets, E-Newsletters, and Public Relations. Winners from last year were featured in more than 100 media outlets and local newspapers!
  • Cash Donation - A $200 cash donation will be donated on behalf of your company to a charity of your choice.
  • iPad - An iPad Air™ will be awarded to the winner of the People’s Choice Award which is voted on by the public to decide their favorite of all of the entered projects.
  • Website - Each winner will be prominently featured on the Integrity website.
  • Calendar – Integrity will create a 2015 monthly calendar featuring winners and other top entries. We will provide a number of calendars for the winners and one calendar for each entrant. We will also host an order period where dealers/distributors can order box quantities.
  • Winners Badge – Winners will receive an electronic badge to be used in any business materials or imagery displaying that they are a Red Diamond Achiever Award Winner.

Click here to learn more about our 2014 Red Diamond Achiever Award Program.

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What green does and doesn’t mean to homeowners

April 9th, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group (Knoxville, Tenn.), has spent the past decade thinking green. As a researcher, Shelton has studied how Americans feel about environmental and energy issues, and building professionals should take note.

The If you build it, they will come philosophy may work for cornfield baseball diamonds and ghosts, but green building? Not so much.

In an interview with BUILDER senior editor Jennifer Goodman, Shelton offers a harsh, but helpful assessment of how green building has been marketed by professionals and perceived (or not perceived) by prospective homeowners:

Shelton on what consumers think of high-performance housing:

“High performance” is one of those terms that builders and their advisers have gotten really comfortable with, and, unfortunately, it’s begun working its way into consumer-facing marketing materials. Here’s why that’s unfortunate: Last fall in our ninth annual Energy Pulse study, we asked Americans if they could confidently and correctly explain the term “high-performance home” to a friend. Eighty-four percent of the American population said, “No.”

We must stop using this term unless we’re going to really make the effort (i.e., support with marketing dollars) to make it meaningful to consumers. I love it and happen to think it’s a much better way of communicating the value proposition of a more efficient, sustainable home, but when 84 percent of the population tells us they don’t get it, it’s a great indicator that we’re just talking to ourselves on this one.

Shelton on the best way to market green home features:

Americans care more about comfort, their health, keeping their family safe, resale value, and lower utility bills than they do about “green.” So that’s another term builders should stop using. For years, we tested the term “energy-efficient home” against “green home,” and “energy-efficient home” so handily clobbered “green home” year over year that we stopped testing it. “Efficient” is something they can make sense of. “Green” sounds squishy.

But make no mistake: consumers care about many of the benefits of a green home, they just aren’t turned on by the term. So builders should talk about the health benefits (keeping allergens and toxins out of the house), the comfort benefits, and controlling energy costs. They also should talk about resale value. We see that as the No. 1 barrier to Americans truly embracing efficient homes. They believe they’ll pay more for it without getting their money back when they sell it, yet they believe they’ll get their money back for aesthetic awesomeness (granite countertops, hardwood floors, etc.).

A recent UC Berkeley/UCLA study of 1.6 million home transactions found that green labeling improved selling price. Controlling for all other factors, such as location, school district, crime rate, time period of sale, views, and amenities, researchers found that the 4,321 certified energy-efficient homes sold at an average price premium of 9 percent. Builders should start using this fact as part of their pitch to help Americans really embrace the value of a better built, more efficient home.

We highly recommend reading the rest of Shelton’s BUILDER interview here.

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