Tag Archives: Construction

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Construction work begins on JFK’s Terminal 8

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Work has begun on the expansion and rebuilding of New York JFK’s Terminal 8, a project that will cost $344 million and usher in passenger improvements to the airport.

The work is a joint venture between American Airlines and British Airways, who are both Oneworld partners. Once completed, British Airways will move to Terminal 8 from its current Terminal 7, which itself will be closed and redeveloped.

Terminal 8 is currently the largest at JFK. It is set to be redeveloped and expanded with five additional wide-body aircraft gates and four additional remote parking stands.

A planned 70,000 square feet of space will be redeveloped in the passenger and operational areas of the terminal, allowing for improved baggage systems and premium lounges.

An expanded area for retail and concessions will also be allocated, giving greater choice for passengers in the departure lounge.

One benefit for passengers will be the combined location of American and British Airways’ links to London Heathrow inside one terminal. The route currently operates 14 times per day between the two airlines and represents the world’s most profitable air route. It is also the first to generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Work on Terminal 8 is part of the wider plan to redevelop JFK and turn it into a modern gateway to the nation, which was announced in October 2018.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo commented: “This new investment is part and parcel with the State’s broader efforts to modernize airports all across New York. From JFK and LaGuardia to Ithaca and Rochester, we are making historic progress rebuilding our airport infrastructure for the future and ensuring New York State remains the nation’s front door.”

Other work announced with the October plan includes a new $3 billion terminal for JetBlue linked to its existing Terminal 5, incorporated into the vacated Terminal 7, and on the site of the former Terminal 6.

A $7 billion terminal will also be built on the site of Terminals 1 and 2, and the former Terminal 3 will be occupied by the Terminal One Group (Lufthansa, Korean Air, Japan Airlines and Air France). In all, an additional 15 million passengers per year will be accommodated across the works, with modern facilities on a par with other global airports.

In reality, 70,000 square feet is not a huge addition to the overall size of Terminal 8, and from the renderings it appears not much will change in the shape of the structure. In fact, only 33,000 square feet is new space, with the remaining being refurbished space.

What’s more, remote stands are never popular with premium passengers on long-haul flights, so the addition of these gates will hopefully be a temporary measure.

Nevertheless, improving the interiors of America’s terminals is a must when competing with major hubs in other countries. Passengers of American and British Airways are sure to appreciate this.

British Airways is expected to transition to Terminal 8 in 2022 when the works are completed, which will pave the way for the development of the new JetBlue terminal. British Airways Chairman and CEO Alex Cruz said: “We look forward to working with the Port Authority and American Airlines to continue building a world-class transatlantic travel experience in our new home.”

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How hospitality will become more sustainable in 2020

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It seems that hotel sustainability is going to top all hospitality trends in 2020.

The industry is adopting a dual approach to achieve this, featuring a blend of behavioral change and implementation of relevant technologies. The former involves managing resources with moderation and exercising restraints to tackle societal and environmental challenges. The latter will be geared towards creating innovations to contain the current wasteful way of living. The development and deployment of green technology will help proactive businesses drive change.

Preventing waste will be a predominant theme across all sub-sectors. Along with containing food waste, the industry is also looking at managing energy usage to relieve dependence on fossil fuels.

Solar PV systems will become more popular than ever, as will occupancy sensors in automated rooms. Heat exchangers that use the exhaust heat to preheat water — an innovative way to achieve waste heat recovery — will grow in number.

According to research, hotels must reduce their carbon emissions by 66% by 2030 to ensure that growth in the sector is sustainable. Many are using the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) to measure and report on their carbon footprint in a consistent way.

As more hotels look to transition to sustainable properties, technologies that can help them achieve this goal are going to take center stage. Smart building resources to help reduce emissions will lead the pack.

New hotel buildings are considering sustainable design with low energy requirements. They are looking at the “three-zero-concept” approach, which entails prioritizing energy management and lower emissions; using local construction materials and skills; and introducing life-cycle management into the building process.

These designs include water efficiency through rainwater harvesting systems and natural energy via innovative technologies that intelligently and efficiently reduce waste. To achieve the goal of reducing resource use, pollution, and waste hotels are installing high-resolution resource monitoring. They are also coming up with more apps that can engage staff and guests in sustainability and food waste reduction.

Managing guests’ carbon footprint is as important as managing the property. Hotels that are practicing eco-friendly initiatives have reported a significant improvement.

Water-efficient bathrooms have led to a 15% reduction in usage. In-room recycling program for guests has led to efficient disposal of plastic and paper waste. Others have switched their single-use plastics to greener alternatives, reusing towels and sheets instead of opting for daily laundry. All these steps meet the millennial demand for sustainable accommodations.

Along with these trends, ecotourism, where profitability meets responsibility, is set to grow more than ever. Eco-friendliness is no longer a nice-to-have concept. It has now evolved into a must-have priority for the industry and its consumers.

According to the U.N. World Tourism Organization, the number of eco-inspired trips taken by the end of this year will be close to 1.6 billion worldwide. By integrating sustainability into architecture, hotels aiming to conserve natural resources, create green jobs, and safeguard local cultures will help the industry attain sustainable development.

Green hotels practicing ecotourism and sustainability will attract this new generation of environmentally and socially conscious travelers.

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‘Opportunity zone’ tax breaks shown as duplicitous development schemes across the country

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Opportunity zones are a new real estate tax scheme that government officials, city planners, and investment firms are using to convert low-income real estate or already developed areas into large tax break incentives.

When Amazon announced plans to move to Long Island City, the controversial opportunity zone tax break, created from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, was cited as a possible incentive for that location. This caused a flurry of controversy, whereby so-called community improvements, like job creation and affordable housing, would presumably usher in with the HQ2 plan. Amazon would then receive tax breaks for reinvesting in the surrounding community.

Amazon gave up the idea, which includes paying zero taxes on gains from assets held for a decade, because it’s bad public relations.

The proposed HQ2 surroundings would have suffered, too: “Extra traffic that brings Amazon commuters into Long Island City will also bring more pollution and crowded streets. Rent and home prices would skyrocket in a gentrifying climate catering to the new Amazon employee class. Schools would have to carry the extra weight of new students under existing budget constraints.”

People protested and Amazon even cancelled New York plans, with expansion going forward in Crystal City, Virginia — a locale surrounded by opportunity zones. Amazon’s proximity to these tax cuts revealed the need for clarification on who can qualify — or should qualify — for breaks.

Good luck understanding it. Interpretations are some help here.

Can anyone just go into a so-called opportunity zone and buy up real estate or undeveloped land for repurposing while avoiding taxes if capital gains are reinvested? There are stipulations. You have to put properties to new or improved use, and 90% of fund assets must be held in its related property. There are other qualifying stipulations and time restraints for investments, but there are never enough restraints when it comes to community investment.

By November 2019, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., introduced a bill to repeal the law since it included selection corruption, using 56% of census-tracked low-income and adjacent neighborhoods. The zones, which were selected at the state level and approved by the Department of Treasury, strangely included the selection of wealthier adjacent neighborhoods: already developed Indianapolis and Detroit downtowns serve as an example.

Santa Fe resident and Cloud Cliff Bakery owner Willem Malten protests at Santa Fe City Hall. (Photo credit: Michelle R. Matisons)

Santa Fe, New Mexico, faces similar opportunity zone housing and neighborhood exploitation. The city is now considering proposals to develop a large Midtown campus earmarked as an opportunity zone. Potential developers include the highly controversial National Nuclear Security Administration/Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), among other developers, to the ire of community members and organizations opposing LANL plutonium pit production and facility expansion.

The Los Alamos Study Group held a press conference on Jan. 15 in front of city hall to protest LANL’s ominous presence in Santa Fe’s Midtown.

In locales where zone development has commenced, what could have been an ensured investment in affordable housing and job creation has grown into a massive wealth creator instead. Finalized tax code language may render some zone projects less lucrative as communities protest projects that may even violate tax code regulations.

The spirit of the law is in stark violation with its quick applications in early cases before code language was finalized.

Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello and Operations Director Trish Williams-Mello in the shadow of Santa Fe City Hall’s St. Francis statue. (Photo credit: Michelle R. Matisons)

This spirit “must improve the lives of those living in the opportunity zone, either by 1) bringing a new business into the zone that creates jobs or expands the options available to the zone’s residents, or 2) improving the availability, aesthetics and value of the zone’s housing options by engaging in development projects.” This is vague enough not to mandate affordable housing or other needed neighborhood improvements. How convenient.

One important thing to consider is the beloved notion of zone reinvestment — the basis of the tax break — may permit investors to choose other Zones for capital infusions into other funds. Zone-hopping for profit is not community investment.

Language interpretations will matter, and the code’s fine print is beyond the scope of this short article.

More information about zone selection corruption, like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pulling strings to help Michael Milken’s Nevada development project receive tax breaks, may facilitate legal battles to redirect capital to real job development and affordable housing.

Communities, like Santa Fe, can challenge this class bludgeoning tax tool, or even one tied to nuclear weapons profiteering, which facilitates careless development projects: built environment banes for decades to come.

The current political era defined by President Trump leaves a trail of new sports arenas, industrial parks, swanky hotels, and high-end condos built simply because the wealthy need new real estate — again.

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Infographic: 15 things that can be hacked in your life

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Before, all we had to do was install antivirus software, and we’d be safe from anything online. But thanks to the internet of things, computers and credit cards aren’t the only things that can be hacked.

Everything from cranes on a construction site to the fridge in your home can be accessed by a malicious hacker. Education is the first line of defense, however, and this infographic will show you a list of some of the most hackable things in your life right now.

Infographic courtesy BigRentz

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Remodeling activity holding steady for now

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Early indications suggest that, as it has for the previous two quarters, growth in remodeling activity remained more or less flat in the fourth quarter of 2019. Current projections show that trend will continue for much of the coming year.

Remodelers, however, are more optimistic, pointing to current project backlogs and a recent uptick in project inquiries.

The outlook for remodeling business in 2020 varies depending on what part of the market one is looking at. The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) from the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard University is now forecasting only a slight annual gain of 1.5% in national spending for improvements and repairs on owner-occupied homes.

JCHS expects that spending will increase toward the end of the year if the recent upward trend in home sales continues. It is worth noting that the LIRA encompasses all home improvement and repair spending, not just professional services.

Shifting focus to just the kitchen and bath remodeling sector, analysts at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, which partners with the National Kitchen and Bath Association on producing the Kitchen and Bath Market Index (KBMI), have revised their forecast upward for 2020 due to improved home sales in the fourth quarter of 2019.

They anticipate a strong first half of the year in 2020 and then slowing beginning sometime around the second half. They, too, foresee slight year-over-year growth in both small and large discretionary remodeling projects, with a trend toward more smaller and lower-budget projects overall.

In its most recent forecast, based on results of the Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) data from the third quarter of 2019, MetroStudy projected an average year-over-year gain of 2.2% gain in remodeling activity in 2020. Their projection is more in line with that from John Burns than with the LIRA forecast. Either way, the outlook is for substantially slower growth compared to the average 5% annual growth the industry has experienced in the past several years.

Remodelers responding to the just-released Q1 2020 Houzz Renovation Barometer reported modest growth in the fourth quarter of 2019 compared to the previous quarter, with architects and design and build remodelers recording slightly higher gains than build-only remodelers and interior designers. All groups, however, to varying degrees, noted an increase in project inquiries and new committed projects. Project backlogs also increased from the previous quarter.

When asked about their expectations regarding business activity in the coming months, remodelers were confident but more conservative. The sentiment in the construction sector stayed more or less the same as in the previous quarter. In the architecture and design services sector, architects expressed more optimism, but interior designers’ expectations declined slightly.

These are national forecasts. Opportunities for growth will vary in different parts of the country and among professionals offering different services. Other factors such as how the housing market performs, costs of materials, and the on-going shortage of skilled labor, as well as weather patterns, will impact growth.

Barring a major unexpected development, though, the outlook for the industry calls for continued but slowing growth and year-over-year smaller gains.

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Rethinking the ‘placemaking’ agenda

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If modern politics has shown us anything, it is that even in the era of the supposed “global citizen,” issues of place and identity remain connected in powerful ways. The recent election campaign in my home country of the U.K. was testament to this, as in similar ways is the recent political history of the U.S.

If not a leading role, urban planning has at least a supporting role in navigating this difficult era. You will notice that any masterplan or neighborhood vision today worth its salt will feature at least a passing reference to “sense of place.”

However, simultaneously, other forces work against this attachment to place, by encouraging (or forcing) us to “widen our horizons,” to seek employment, diversity or new experiences in novel places. Remote working may be pointing to the emergence of a “placeless workplace.”

“Placemaking” is all the rage in urbanist circles today. But it seems to me that the concept of “place” needs rescuing from its current status as either meaningless buzzword or tool of a divisive nationalism to be a much more progressive guiding principle for what comes next in our neighborhoods.

Making place

The Project for Public Spaces describes “placemaking” as the “collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.” It is certainly the new buzzword of choice, but one that perhaps needs better defining. It’s not all about pocket parks…

Years ago, with the rise of the internet and home working, some suggested that “place” itself would become irrelevant. We would all operate autonomously in an ever more interconnected world that paid little respect to location. But they have been proven wrong.

Our connection to place (known as ‘topophilia’ for the academics among us) remains potent and unrelenting, and certainly not to be sneered at by the internationally mobile elite. As one journalist puts it, even “the placeless still find themselves colliding with a place-bound world.”

Social glue

The societal shift causing tremors in the politics of western countries in recent years is driven in large part by social divergence, reflected not only in rising inequality of wealth and income but also in a physical and emotional distancing of our lives from others.

The “glue” that formerly held communities together is weakening as we retreat behind the doors of our family homes and, with a little help from social media and the age of the smartphone, we are inhabiting smaller and smaller worlds.

As British economist Paul Collier has suggested, what we need to counteract this, and indeed to reshape our toxic modern politics, are more powerful shared narratives. Moreover, he believes, and I agree, that these shared narratives can be inclusive place-based narratives.

This means building a shared identity, but one that cannot be reduced to ethnicity or origin, and one that accommodates some degree of difference. The way we plan our neighborhoods cannot do this alone (and it should probably stop professing that it can) amid a set of broader political and societal structures that encourages “looking after your own.” But it can certainly play an important supporting role.

Spreading your roots

The building blocks of a cohesive society are not individual households but relationships. And at the heart of building and maintaining relationships is the taking on of obligations to others beyond your immediate kin.

These obligations can be “light-touch,” and don’t necessarily entail going on holiday with each other or forming a cooperative… they might only extend as far as checking in on an elderly neighbor or smiling at the bus driver.

I have heard this best explained using the analogy of a tree. The health of a tree doubtlessly relies on the core support of its weighty trunk, but equally it could not remain standing without the dense web of smaller branches rooting it into the ground. Where intense family commitments and deep friendships serve the role of the trunk, keeping us anchored in the toughest times, it is the delicate web of less serious relationships which can give purpose and strength to our daily life.

It is perhaps this web that the urbanist is best placed to nurture. But where to start?

Beyond street furniture

Returning to Collier, he notes that the state has ‘acquired responsibilities that exceed its capacities’ and are in fact better met by others. These others might be what he calls ‘ethical firms’, families or social networks. This is at the heart of U.S. author Robert Putnam’s concept of “bowling alone,” which highlights our weakening interdependence on each other.

If we can create space in our cities for accidental encounters of all types, we can try to steer ourselves back on course. This probably starts with our neighbors, but also becomes part of the drive to get us out the sealed-off bubble of our cars and onto public transport and bikes. Much might be achieved by designing our cities around the principle of “private sufficiency, public luxury,” rather than our current drift toward the reverse.

This is where green space, thoughtful housing design, “living streets” and, indeed, pocket parks play a role. But crucially, this is not merely a question of physical design and goes beyond carefully placed street furniture.

It is also about the “strategic design” of our communities. That might take in the issue of ownership — who owns the stuff in the street? Is this a street owned by buy-to-let landlords? Is it a street of owner occupiers focused on protecting their roost and squeezing a home cinema into the basement?

Or is it interspersed with cooperatives and community-led housing, taking a leaf out of Zurich’s book? Or even a new generation of cohousing schemes? Are our communities structured so that they can represent a truly mixed spectrum of society, or do housing markets stratify us into separate social worlds?

The rescue effort

This new “placemaking” agenda might not offer easy instructions or a “listicle” of “5 things to bring your neighborhood together.” It means a deeper reorientation and revaluing of our sense of ‘place’ as the point where politics begins.

As Paul Collier says in a book of his, “belonging to place is a force too potent, and potentially too constructive, to be abandoned to the far right.” An authentic “placemaking agenda” needs to play its part in the rescue effort.

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A new, blue year

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It’s official: 2020 will be the year of blue — and no, that’s not a political forecast.

For more than 20 years, the Pantone Color Institute (PCI) has been the trendsetter for the hues to watch for in the coming year. Its selection for 2020 is Classic Blue (PANTONE 19-4052), which PCI Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman described in a release as a “boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky.”

Pantone isn’t the only one calling for a blue year. GNT Group, supplier of EXBERRY Coloring Foods, recently declared that Shades of Aqua — “brilliant greens and blues that carry echoes of the natural world” — will be the color consumers choose as they gravitate toward superfoods like kale, matcha and blueberries.

They might be onto something. The history of color psychology is long, with marketers and designers alike paying close attention to the effects certain colors have on viewers.

For example, the color red is believed to stimulate the appetite, which is why so many restaurants incorporate it into their interior design. Just take a look around the next time you visit your local pizza parlor to see it in action.

So why blue? For one thing, it’s America’s favorite color, with 29% of respondents in a 2012 poll picking blue as their hue of choice. And despite the Democratic affiliation, it is often viewed as a traditional, inoffensive choice for decoration.

Then there are the psychological benefits, as suggested in multiple studies:

With anxiety disorders reportedly on the rise, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Americans may feel unconsciously drawn toward a familiar, calming color.

Before you go changing the wallpaper, though, consider the psychological properties commonly associated with other popular colors, along with some of the major brands they’re associated with:

  • Red: Excitement, power (Coca-Cola)
  • Yellow: Happiness (Lay’s)
  • Green: Good taste, envy (Whole Foods)
  • Purple: Sophistication, royalty (Cadbury)
  • White: Happiness, purity (Apple)
  • Black: Sophistication (Guinness)

There is a vast and growing body of evidence suggesting that color plays a subtle role in human behavior. Before making a decision on how to proceed with a design, it’s worth considering how your color selection will affect the message you’re trying to send.

But if you just can’t choose? Well, you can’t go wrong with blue.

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Builders, buyers optimistic about housing market

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Renewed activity in home sales along with low interest rates and a more positive forecast for the economy in the year ahead have boosted builder and buyer confidence in the housing market.

While price increases and a shortage of inventory have hamstrung purchases of existing homes, sales of new homes have been increasing. That trend is likely to continue into 2020 as builders continue to respond to pressures to build more affordable homes.

At the time of writing, housing data from November were not available. However, the National Association of Home Builders announced its Housing Market Index (HMI) for December jumped five points from the previous month to its highest level since June 1999, signaling growing demand for new construction in November.

Index gains were especially strong for current market conditions, up seven points from the month before. The measure of prospective buyer traffic increased four points.

The outlook for sales of existing homes was less certain. The National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales declined in October after two months of positive growth.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun attributed the drop to a slight sudden uptick in mortgage rates during the month as well as the ongoing insufficient supply of available homes, especially those at entry-level price points. Markets where listing prices were around $250,000 drew some of the most significant buyer attention, noted Yun.

On the buyer side, Fannie Mae stated its Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), which has remained fairly strong in the second half of the year, rebounded in November to 91.5 after a slight decline in October, reapproaching the survey high reached of 93.8 in August of this year.

Gains were especially strong among respondents who said now is a good time to buy (up 11 points), in part because more anticipate that housing prices will increase in the coming 12 months (up seven points) but that mortgage rates will hold steady. Respondents also indicated some improvement in household income (up two points) while expressing confidence that their employment was secure.

Looking past November, industry analysts are already weighing in on what market conditions will look like in 2020. The general consensus is for modest growth, with sluggish existing home sales and slight improvement in new home construction and sales.

Nationwide’s Health of Housing Markets Report for the fourth quarter of 2019 concludes, “Demand for housing remains strong in response to above-trend household growth, solid job gains, and low mortgage rates — factors that drive a positive outlook for housing for 2020.”

Experts caution, though, that growth will not be equal in all regions or metro areas. Economists for real estate website Zillow point to strong demand in “the nation’s most broadly affordable markets,” while buyers in high-priced markets will be forced “to fan out in search of areas they can better afford.”

Builders will continue to face many of the same challenges that have hampered production in recent years. According to a poll conducted by Professional Builder magazine, “78% of builders anticipate prices of materials and overall bids will increase next year and they continue to face challenges for skilled labor and managing regulations and entitlement fees.”

Although final figures for 2019 will not be available until January or later, it appears the industry as whole will end the year in a growth positive position and may improve somewhat in 2020. That may not sound like much to celebrate, but it’s a brighter outlook than what was predicted just a quarter ago.

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What lies ahead for remodelers?

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As remodelers prepare to say goodbye to the century’s second decade, they may be feeling a bit ambivalent about their future prospects. All in all, the last half of the present decade has been pretty good for remodelers, with annual growth figures hovering around 5 to 7% or better.

Recent indicators suggest that trend is winding down. The good news is demand for remodeling services should remain solid, but revenue growth in the next couple of years will likely be more modest.

In keeping with other industry indicators, MetroStudy announced that its Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) for the third quarter of 2019 remained more or less flat, squeaking up just a half a percentage point from the previous quarter. Although the index reached a new high of 118.9, it posted a 2.89% year-over-year gain, well below that of the previous several years. MetroStudy projects an average annual growth rate this year of 3.1% for businesses in the 380 metro areas it tracks.

Looking ahead to the start of the next decade, MetroStudy forecasts continued but leaner gains in remodeling activity in the next several years. It anticipates average year-over-year growth of 2.2% in 2020 and 2.4% in 2021, with a possible rebound in 2022.

MetroStudy chief economist Mark Boud pointed to the weak housing market, low turnover in housing, and an expected lower growth in employment in the coming years as reducing demand for remodeling services. Rising home prices as well as the cost of materials and goods, along with a shortage of skilled labor, will also create headwinds for remodelers, according to the third quarter Kitchen and Bath Market Index (KBMI), produced by the National Kitchen and Bath Association and John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Other factors, however, are lining up in remodelers’ favor. Chief among those is demographics. Speaking with Kitchen and Bath Design News, Jay McKenzie, director of consumer insights and research at leading builder marketing firm BDX, observed, “The oldest millennials are entering their mid-30s, a key age for first-time homebuyers, and 10,000 baby boomers per day are heading into retirement.” Consequently, he foresees strong consumer demand continuing into 2020.

At present, many of those baby boomers are choosing to stay in the homes they have and are making upgrades and renovations to make them more functional and comfortable. Kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom remodels with aging-in-place features still remain priorities for these homeowners, as reflected in the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Remodeling Impact Report.

Millennial first-time homebuyers, on the other hand, are in many cases buying homes from boomers who have decided to change their residence and want to customize them to suit their own tastes and lifestyles. Findings from the National Association of Home Builders 2019 What Home Buyers Really Want survey show millennial homebuyers place a high value on having a laundry room, home office or work space, and a more open floor plan, such as expanded kitchen for entertaining or a great room — features not present in the home when they purchase it.

Provided interest and mortgage rates remain low and home prices begin to stabilize, remodelers should see a steady stream of demand from both these constituents. Concerns about health and wellness in the home as well as money-saving utility conservation improvements cut across all generations and are other areas of opportunity for remodelers.

Another growing business for remodelers, highlighted at this year’s Home Improvement Research Institute Summit, is assisting with modifications or repairs needed due to the effects of climate change.

As both winter and summer temperatures and weather conditions become more extreme, homeowners will need to make changes to keep their homes comfortable and secure. Those whose homes have been damaged due to floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters will have to replace or make substantial repairs to parts of the structure.

In addition, consumers who have the means will want to update or redesign their homes to make them more pleasing and attractive. All these trends should help to drive business for remodelers.

However, should the economy and employment growth begin to slow, they may receive more requests for smaller projects with more modest budgets. The volume of demand may remain fairly constant but revenue growth probably will not keep pace with that of years past.

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Bills requiring baby changing tables in men’s restrooms become more popular

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Pieces of legislation mandating that men’s public restrooms include a baby changing station continue to gain support. If all goes according to plan in Wisconsin, the state could soon join others in doing so, reports Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV.

Two state representatives and a state senator — all men — have introduced the bill requiring the changing tables in any newly built or substantially renovated public building.

State Reps. Jonathan Brostoff and David Crowley and state Sen. Chris Larson, all Milwaukee Democrats drafted a measure designed to guarantee gender-equal access to baby changing tables in public buildings with the bill requiring installation in unisex restrooms, as well as both women’s and men’s restrooms.

Wisconsin is not alone in such proposed legislation. Massachusetts is looking at a bill, too. There, state Sen. Becca Rausch recently asked colleagues to pass a law similar to the one proposed in Wisconsin.

“As a new dad, this legislation hits close to home for me,” Brostoff said in a statement. “When I take my son with me outside of the house, I am consistently struck by how few businesses have changing stations available for parents. What’s even more notable is that, in a lot of cases, the businesses that do have diaper-changing tables only have them in women’s restrooms.”

Similar bills have passed in Arizona, Utah, California, Illinois, and New Mexico.

In 2017, California passed a similar bill. In that bill, at least one diaper changing station available to men and women throughout California. That legislation, Assembly Bill 1127, was created by state Majority Leader Ian Calderon, requiring diaper changing stations are installed in men’s and women’s restrooms in publicly owned state and local buildings and private businesses. It also required that buildings owned by the state; local agencies; and public venues, such as grocery stores and restaurants, have at least one changing table available to both men and women.

The law also applies to new construction and any restroom renovations that exceed $10,000.

In 2016, the federal government took steps when President Barack Obama passed the “Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act,” requiring male and female restrooms in public federal buildings to have baby changing tables.

There were two primary goals for passing the federal law: providing sanitary and safe conditions for children who are otherwise changed on countertops, floors, or other locations; and ensuring parity in changing facilities for men and women.

According to language in the federal law, exceptions include non-public restrooms; restrooms with signage directing users to a changing table on the same floor; buildings that require new construction because space is “unfeasible” to install a station; and buildings where alterations are prohibited.

Washington, D.C. is toying with the idea of a similar bill, called the Equal Access to Changing Tables Amendment Act. According to The Washington Post, the proposed legislation ensures that every floor of all publicly accessible city buildings will have diaper-changing accommodations for use by anyone. In the private sector, newly constructed businesses, spaces for public use and any existing businesses undergoing renovations of more than $10,000 would also have to make the change.

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