Consider Pet-Friendly Projects

Remodeling with pets in mind is one more way savvy remodelers can set themselves apart from the competition, increase client satisfaction and add a few more dollars to the bottom line.

“We’re seeing a trend in the D.C. area of more homeowners modifying their homes to accommodate the comfort of their beloved pets and to create greater conveniences for their families,” said Larry Weinberg, CEO of BOWA, a remodeling firm that markets itself as a home transformation company.

“A survey by the American Animal Hospital Association found that 84 percent of pet owners say their pets make their home life healthier, so considering pets’ needs and the demands that go along with them, our clients are building special spaces for their furry friends that lead to more contained and convenient options for families.” With careful planning, there are many remodeling features that can be explored to ensure homes are more accommodating for pets and homeowners alike, says Weinberg. They include:

  • Dog showers with low-level, hand-held sprayers are often located in mud rooms or garages. These spaces, often tiled and custom-painted to suit a pet’s personality, make bathing or rinsing off muddy paws easy.
  • Feeding stations can be built into a kitchen or mud room. Wall build-outs accommodate feeding bowls and can include adequate space for the storage of food and other pet-related items, such as toys and medications. Some spaces even feature an installed water line that automatically refills the water bowl as needed.
  • Litter boxes can be discreetly located in custom cabinetry with whimsical, cat-shaped cutout entryways to help contain a kitty’s litter box area.
  • Pet doors have become elaborate with options including French doors, screen door panels, and infrared and magnetic key options.
  • Hideaways and sleeping areas can be built into laundry or foyer areas, creating peaceful and private spaces for pets to retreat.
  • Windows are being designed to be located lower to flooring so pets have excellent outdoor views, complete with personalized pet seats for four-legged friends to enjoy.

Energy Efficiency

More Workforce Training Needed

A study by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) examines the workforce needs of the energy efficiency services sector (EESS), and finds that the speed with which employment will grow will depend in part on how effectively the nation deploys training and education programs for the energy efficiency workforce.

“There is a shortage of formal training programs in energy efficiency, and an extremely high demand right now, thanks to the infusion of funding for energy efficiency from the growth in ratepayer-funded utility programs and federal and state budgets devoted to efficiency, for example, in programs funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” says Charles H. Goldman, a scientist in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division of Berkeley Lab.

Building and construction trades constitute about 65 to 70 percent of the overall workforce in the EESS, the report states, and there is a notable lack of awareness that the EESS is poised for significant growth — especially in states that do not have long-running ratepayer-funded programs.

Consumer Sentiment

Homeownership Dream Still Strong

A survey gauging attitudes toward housing finds that two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) still prefer owning a home, despite the challenging economic environment and the housing downturn. The Fannie Mae National Housing Survey, conducted between December 2009 and January 2010, polled homeowners and renters to assess their confidence in homeownership as an investment, the current state of their household finances, views on the U.S. housing finance system and overall confidence in the economy.

“Despite the recent downturn in the housing sector, Americans continue to value homeownership and think about their homes in ways that go much deeper than the financial investment,” said Mike Williams, president and CEO, Fannie Mae. “The public also strongly believes in the importance of upholding the financial commitment involved in buying and owning a home, even during these challenging times when home values have fallen.”

The survey revealed that homeowners and renters alike are taking a more cautious approach to homeownership. Nearly a quarter of renters polled (23 percent) say they will buy a home later than once planned. In addition, Americans with traditional, fixed-rate mortgages with predictable payments are significantly more satisfied than those with other types of mortgages. Respondents cited nonfinancial reasons such as safety (43 percent) and quality of local schools (33 percent) as driving factors in wanting to own a home, ahead of financial considerations.

A majority of consumers (60 percent) believe that buying a home today is harder than it was for their parents, and nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) think it will be even more difficult for their children. Most respondents (88 percent) also believe that walking away from an underwater mortgage is not acceptable, but those who know someone who has defaulted are more than twice as likely to have seriously considered stopping payments on their mortgage.

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