Builder Blog from Integrity Windows and Doors

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The National Association of Home Builders has good news for those who have evolved their green and sustainable building practices.

The NAHB is will be adding green/sustainable categories to many of its existing programs, including the Best in American Living Awards, The Nationals, the 50+ Housing Awards, the multifamily Pillars of the Industry Awards. Winners in each program will automatically be entered in the NAHB’s Green Awards program.

The Green Awards program, itself, is adding several categories to encouraging great participation and spread recognition. Best in Green categories will include:

  • 50+ Home or Community
  • Single-Family Production Home
  • Single-Family Custom Home
  • Multifamily Project
  • Interior Project
  • Remodeling Project
  • Development
  • Sales and Marketing Strategy
  • Systems-Built Home

“Green and sustainable building is no longer just a niche, we now see it in nearly every segment of the building industry,” said NAHB chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del. “As such, it made sense to expand the NAHB Green Awards to offer additional opportunities to reward the great work in sustainable building practices we see across the entire industry.”

Winners for the Green Awards will be announced at IBS 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, or to apply for an award, please visit

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Builders in the state of Minnesota will face a unique dilemma starting in January 2015. Governor Mark Dayton has led the charge on legislation that will require homes of 4,500 square feet or more to have a sprinkler system. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Gov. Dayton “was persuaded by fire officials’ arguments that home sprinklers would reduce deaths and better protect firefighters who must enter burning homes.”

“I simply do not see how we can further jeopardize the lives of the individuals whose mission is to protect the public and who risk their lives on a daily basis,” Dayton wrote in a 2011 veto letter.

Local builders are less than thrilled about the measure, which could add thousands to constructions costs and price out potential buyers. The average cost of sprinkler installation has been estimated at $4,200-$4,500 per home, and in some cases, much more.

“This is really a case of Governor Dayton ramming a $10,000-20,000 expense down the throats of new home buyers,” said Shawn Nelson, president of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. “This is simply bad policy, everyone knows that, and it’s time for the governor to work with the industry and come up with a better way to do this.”

As a builder, where do you land on this issue? Is the safety for families and firefighters worth the price tag, or is this an overreach?

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Stairways that wow custom-home clients

August 1st, 2014 by Berit Griffin

When it comes to designing and building custom homes, few features have the potential to impress like a stairway. Part form, part function, stairways present unlimited options for your consumers — many of which they probably haven’t even considered.

Bottom line: When a client comes to you seeking a custom home design with no real preconceptions and direction, the stairway is a great place to start if you’re looking for a centerpiece. Just check out some of these incredible designs from

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While our judging panel continues to review entries for the Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Award program, the vote for this year’s People’s Choice is heating up. After a few weeks of voting, the field has been trimmed by the general public to 10 very impressive finalists.

You can view them here.

We encourage you to check out these breathtaking projects from some of the industry’s best and brightest. The current round of voting ends five days from now, so vote for your project once per day until then!

Do you have a favorite among the finalists? If so, which project is your favorite and why do you love it?

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Young adults have always been attracted to large metropolitan cities like moths to a flame. There is an irresistible pull — entertainment, shopping, dining, nightlife, the sheer hustle and bustle.

Not all major U.S. cities are viewed equally by millennials, though. New research from the National Associations of REALTORS examined metro markets most attractive to first-time homebuyers who fall into the age group. Their study factored current housing conditions and housing affordability, job creation, and population trends in 100 metro areas across the country.

“Limited job prospects, student debt, and flat wage growth have combined with tight credit conditions and low inventory to price millennials out of some of the top cities such as New York and San Francisco,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, NAR research finds that there are other metro areas millennials are moving to where job growth is strong and home ownership is more attainable. These markets are well-positioned to soon experience a rise in first-time buyers as the economy improves.”

The top metro areas included:

  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Minneapolis
  • New Orleans
  • Ogden, Utah
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

NAR also identified the following markets with high potential for attracting millennial home buyers:

  • Madison, Wis.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • Omaha, Neb.
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Washington, D.C.

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The high today is 96 degrees with humidity. You’re off to work in the morning when you come to an abrupt stop. The thermostat. How should it be set? Your home will be empty for the next nine hours, but you hate the thought of returning home to muggy living quarters. More than that, you hate the idea of running the thermostat — and the electric meter — to keep the empty house cool.

For a growing segment of homeowners, this an antiquated problem. That’s because home automation is giving homeowners more control than ever, especially while away from the home. According to BUILDER Magazine, that’s a convenience homeowners are increasingly willing to pay a premium for, too.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents in a recent BUILDER Magazine survey ranked energy management as one of the top features that matter most to them in a smart home. HVAC heating and cooling management was cited as the most important feature in helping to reduce utility bills. Nearly 43 percent of respondents say they’d be interested in replacing their thermostat with a “smart thermostat,” one that automatically adjusts when the home is occupied.

As for the premium cost, the survey found that 51 percent of respondents would be willing to pay up to $500 for a fully equipped smart home; 32 percent say they’d pay $500 to $3,000.

[Image courtesy Builder Magazine]

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Builder confidence soars in July

July 18th, 2014 by Berit Griffin


Confidence is in the air according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The July score of 53 indicated that more builders view sales conditions for newly built single-family homes as as good rather than poor.

July marks the first time since January 2013 the score has been above 50.

“An improving job market goes hand-in-hand with a rise in builder confidence,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “As employment increases and those with jobs feel more secure about their own economic situation, they are more likely to feel comfortable about buying a home.”

According to the NAHB, all three HMI components posted gains in July. The index gauging current sales conditions increased four points to 57, while the index measuring expectations for future sales rose six points to 64 and the index gauging traffic of prospective buyers increased three points to 39.

The HMI three-month moving average was up in all four regions, with the Northeast and Midwest posting a one-point and two-point gain to 35 and 48, respectively. The West registered a five-point gain to 52 while the South rose two points to 51.

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Integrity is doing things a little differently this year for the 2014 Integrity Red Diamond Achiever Awards. The polls are now open and the general public can help us by voting their favorite projects for the People’s Choice award.

Last year, we debuted the People’s Choice by allowing the general public to pick their favorite of the five Red Diamond Achiever Award winners. This year, the public can vote on any project eligible for a Red Diamond Achiever Award. Voting is limited to one per person per day.

On Monday, July 21, we will reveal the official voting rank. Then, on Monday, July 28, we’ll reveal the top 10 remaining projects in the contest. Whichever project earns the most votes by midnight on Monday, August 4, will be crowned the People’s Choice.

Trust us — there are many deserving projects in this year’s contest. So, grab a cup of coffee and take some time to check out the best work from the industry’s brightest and best. Just click here!

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greenhomesThe average homebuyer might place a great deal of value in standards like LEED, Green Star and Passive House. Yet, year after year, building professionals pay top dollar to achieve these standards and carry the certification.

Steve Hansen at asks, “Would it be possible to improve the performance, quality, and sustainability of more homes with a simpler, more streamlined, and cheaper building standard?”

That’s the thinking behind the Pretty Good House standard, which, unlike the above-listed certifications, currently lacks a backing organization in need of funding or any fee for certification. In fact, there is no certification. But there are still guidelines that impress the importance of building above minimal standards.

Steve Konstantino, owner of Maine Green Building Supply, organizes Pretty Good House standards as follows: General, Site Considerations, Design, Foundations, Building Envelope, Windows, Mechanicals, and Interior Finishes.

According to, here are some of Konstantino’s guidelines:

  • “Use locally sourced materials and labor.
  • Keep the structure less complex.
  • Make things durable.”

And some ideas are more specific. For the building envelope:

  • Build walls to R-40 with thermal break for cold climates.
  • Build ceilings to R-60 with thermal break for cold climates.
  • Aim for airtightness at 1.5 ACH 50 or better.

Some guidelines address sustainability:

  • Use materials that have low embodied energy.
  • Keep the conditioned living space relatively small per occupant (maybe 600 s.f. for the first and 300-400 s.f. per additional occupant).
  • Avoid using fossil fuels.”

To learn more about the basics of Pretty Good House standards, check out

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Though the housing market has steadily improved over the past few years, there are still many challenges preventing a truly robust recovery. In light of low inventory, labor shortages and stringent mortgage qualifications, some building professionals are showing savvy with new tactics to lure buyers.

In Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, Mary Ellen Podmolik introduced new ways professionals are capturing the attention of buyers:

  • “…Data scientists at real estate firm Redfin have developed a mathematical algorithm that crunches hundreds of pieces of information on a property, its surroundings and the market, then it labels as ‘hot’ those listings likely to go under contract within 14 days of their original listing … ‘What matters to a particular homebuyer is not the macroeconomic conditions or housing starts,’ said Bridget Frey, Redfin’s vice president of engineering. ‘What they’re trying to do is (decide), ‘Should I watch the World Cup this weekend or should I go on a home tour?'”
  • “Lexington Homes had every intention of building a model at its Lexington Place development in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. But with 11 of the 20 sites sold before it could build a model, the company opted for a different strategy … It talked with four owners at the community and now takes prospective buyers through their homes. In exchange for opening their homes to strangers and for keeping them neat, the homeowners get gift cards from Lexington … The idea saved Lexington the time and expense of building, decorating and furnishing a model, a process that can cost $30,000 to $70,000 and keeps a home off the market, said Jeff Benach, co-principal at Lexington Homes.”
  • “BMO Harris Bank wants its loan officers to think outside the normal operating hours of Monday through Friday, so it has encouraged them to partner with real estate agents and help staff open houses Sundays … So far, more than 1,000 loan officers have given it a try, and the bank said it hopes to have its employees at another 1,000 open houses before the homebuying season slows. Loan officers are answering consumers’ questions about mortgages as well as helping agents at busy open house events.”

We’re curious: Has your company tried any new tactics over the past few years to generate business? If so, were they successful?

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