Countertop Demand to Grow

Demand for residential kitchen and bathroom countertops is forecast to increase 1.3 percent annually to 540 million sq. ft. in 2011, stimulated by the remodeling segment of the market, according to a study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

The remodeling segment accounted for 70 percent of volume sales in 2006, according to the study, and residential kitchen and bath renovation expenditures are projected to remain positive through 2011. At the same time, completions of new single unit housing, the largest market for new countertops, are forecast to decline through 2011. Sales of kitchen countertops will continue to outpace bathroom countertops.

While demand is forecast to increase, the growth rate is expected decelerate from the pace of the 2001 to 2006 period, primarily due to weakness in the new single unit home market. In the renovation market, kitchen and bathroom remodeling expenditures will increase, but, again, at a decelerated pace from the 2001 to 2006 period. Continued consumer preferences for larger kitchens and more bathrooms will promote growth.

Countertops made from engineered and natural stone will experience the strongest gains through 2011, the study finds. Demand for engineered stone will benefit from its ability to combine the minimal porosity of solid surface with the heat and scratch resistance of quartz. Demand for natural stone will be aided by consumer interest in the luxury and style that granite and other stones offer. As the price of these materials declines, middle-income consumers will be able to afford them, further stimulating demand.

Outdoor Living

Homeowners Keen on Outdoor ‘Rooms’

No longer content with just the outdoor kitchen, homeowners will add entire great rooms outdoors this year, according to a survey of members of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The informal poll asked leading landscape architects about the top residential and commercial trends for 2008. On the residential side, outdoor kitchens and fire pits continue to be popular requests. However, more and more homeowners are asking for outdoor “great rooms” incorporating the living room, dining room, and kitchen for outdoor entertaining.

“Homeowners are reconnecting with their outdoor space, often in creative and imaginative ways,” said Perry Howard, FASLA, president of ASLA. “It’s no surprise that people want to take elements that work so well inside their home and recreate them outside.”

Additionally, landscape architects anticipate a revival of the garden. Lawn maintenance costs — especially irrigation — will lead homeowners to consider water-saving features and less of the traditional grass lawn. Instead, gardens will increase in prominence while incorporating more native and drought-resistant plants. These same features can also make a home’s landscape significantly more sustainable, according to the ASLA.

Green Building Costs

Dramatically Lower Than Believed

Key players in real estate and construction misjudge the costs and benefits of “green” buildings, creating a major barrier to more energy efficiency in the building sector, a new study by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) reports.

Respondents to a 1,400-person global survey estimated the additional cost of building green at 17 percent above conventional construction, more than triple the true cost difference of about 5 percent. At the same time, survey respondents put greenhouse gas emissions by buildings at 19 percent of world total, while the actual number of 40 percent is double this.

The findings are disclosed in a new report titled Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business Realities and Opportunities, which summarizes the first phase of the WBCSD’s project. The project is co-chaired by Lafarge and United Technologies Corporation.

“The global construction boom in the developing world has created a tremendous opportunity to build differently and dramatically decrease otherwise energy demands,” said United Technologies Corp. chairman and chief executive George David.

“Existing technologies combined with common-sense design can increase energy efficiency by 35 percent and reduce heating costs by 80 percent for the average building in industrialized markets,” David said.

“Life cycle analysis shows that 80 to 85 percent of the total energy consumption and CO2 emissions of a building comes from occupancy through heating, cooling, ventilation, and hot water use,” he said.