Category Archives: Sable in the News

Sable Homes professionals are featured in the news discussing timely industry topics.

Bigger is better for new home buyers in West Michigan

Bigger is better for new home buyers in West Michigan

By Jim Harger | jharger@mlive.com 
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on May 24, 2015 at 8:25 AM

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, MI – When Jason and Jackie LaFontaine looked at floor plans for their new home, they concluded bigger was better.

Their new four-bedroom home, on which they will break ground in Eastbrook Homes’ Stoneshire development later this month, will have a larger kitchen and pantry, a home office for Jason, a formal dining room, a hearth room and “kids retreat” on the second floor.

Compared to the house they bought from Eastbrook Homes four years ago, the LaFontaine’s new house will be about 500 square feet larger at 3,400 square feet.

“Being second time builders, we wanted to be sure this was going to be our ‘forever’ home,” Jackie LaFontaine said.

“Being second time builders, we wanted to be sure this was going to be our ‘forever’ home.” New home buyer Jackie LaFontaine

Their new home has all the features they wished they had put in their first house, she said.

With 1-year-old and 4-year-old daughters, the LaFontaines also want to make room for the possibility of a third child in the future, she said. Their new home also is closer to the Forest Hills school buildings where she works as a speech pathologist.

Larger Homes
Bigger Houses The average size of a home in Kent County has grown by about 500 square feet over the past decade. That’s about the size of a king-sized master suite in a new luxury home – or about 2 1/2 “tiny houses.”miltk

The LaFontaines are typical of many new homebuyers in West Michigan. With the economy back on track and interest rates low, the average new house is getting bigger and more expensive.

According to Builder Track Reports, which follows the West Michigan home building industry, the average size of a new home in Kent County last year was 2,538 square feet, about 500 square feet larger than the average size of a new home in Kent County 10 years ago.

That’s about the size of a king-sized master suite with a full bathroom and walk-in closet in a luxury home.

Homes in Ottawa County showed similar growth, with the average size being 2,412 square feet in 2014 compared to 1,944 square feet in 2009, according to Builder Track statistics. In Muskegon County, the average new home was 2,114 square feet in 2014 compared to 1,758 square feet in 2010.

While the average size of a home is getting bigger, so is its cost. According to Builder Track, 61 percent of the houses under construction in the first quarter of 2015 had a construction value of more than $200,000.

In 2014, 53 percent of Kent County’s new homes were valued at more than $200,000 while in 2011, only 36.5 percent topped the $200,000 price tag, according to Builder Tracks.

Despite the rising costs, homebuilding is booming again in West Michigan after stumbling through the Great Recession.

In Kent County, contractors reported 206 housing starts in the first quarter despite a lingering winter. Last year, Kent County home builders reported 1,088 housing starts, a 7.7 percent increase over 2013.

Bob Sorensen, vice president of sales and marketing for Eastbrook Homes, said homes are getting larger because consumer confidence is improving and interest rates have remained low.

New homes also are getting more luxurious, with high end finishes like granite countertops and larger bathrooms, Sorensen said. Finished lower levels with “man caves” also are growing in popularity, he said.

Mike McGivney, vice president of sales and marketing for Allen Edwin Homes, said low interest rates are giving their customers an additional $25,000 to $50,000 in buying power.

“A lot of that translates into the square footage they can add to their homes,” McGivney said. That additional buying power also is an incentive to build a new house rather than remodel an existing home, he said.

Aaron Schoonover, a regional sales director for Allen Edwin Homes, said the larger homes they are building in the 150-site Stonegate development in Byron Township are designed to be flexible to meet the changing needs of their owners.

The two-story homes in Stonegate, which start at $240,000 and can cost up to $416,640, feature an assortment of upgrades that include “smart space” rooms that be converted into informal sitting areas or home offices.

Kitchens have grown to include larger islands and mudroom areas now have lockers, Schoonover said. While the square footage has grown, so has the overall volume with nine-foot ceilings on the main floors and lower levels.

John Bitely, president and CEO of Sable Homes, said the growing footprint of new houses in West Michigan also is a reflection of township zoning ordinances, which require larger lot sizes to keep the quality of new housing high.

Homeowners who can afford larger lots also are able to afford larger houses, said Bitely, whose company has focused on building mid-level homes. “It’s a legal type of exclusionary zoning.”

“I don’t know of any builder that’s building entry-level homes. You can’t make it work if you’ve got a lot that prices out to $30,000 to $40,000,” Bitely said.

West Michigan’s appetite for bigger houses is not being shared on a national level.

RealtyTrac, a national real estate survey firm, reported the average size of a home was 1,799 square feet in 2014, down from its high point of 1,863 square feet in 2012. The average size picked slightly, to 1,803 square feet, in 2015, RealtyTrac said.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him at jharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.

Homebuilder promotes new way to build barrier-free houses on concrete slabs

Homebuilder promotes new way to build barrier-free houses on concrete slabs

By Jim Harger | jharger@mlive.com 
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on May 12, 2015 at 5:58 AM

 

SPARTA, MI – Homebuilder John Bitely says his company has come up with a new way to build a barrier-free house on a concrete slab that’s less expensive than a typical Michigan home with a basement or crawl space underneath.

The new technology uses a thick foam-type border dug into the ground to protect the slab from frost damage, said Bitely, president of Sable Homes LLC. His company’s “Freedom Foundation” saves about $15,000 over the cost of building a house that’s elevated over a basement or crawl space, he said.

“In West Michigan, barrier-free living has not been readily available at an affordable price,” said Bitely, who is currently building a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house in Sparta that will sell for less than $160,000.

Although slab foundations are used in 80 percent of the homes built in the U.S., Bitely said they are not used in northern states because of frost damage that can occur in colder northern climates.

Most builders dig concrete footings down at least 36 inches to get below the frost line with their foundations, Bitely said.

Buyers looking for an affordable one-story home can opt for a modular home that is built off the ground and usually requires steps or a steep ramp for accessibility.

Bitely, who is building the barrier-free home in a neighborhood he has developed on the former site of Sparta High School, said his foundation system offers a more accessible home that’s of higher quality than a typical modular home.

“Using ‘Freedom Foundation’ will save time and money for builders, and makes a shallow foundation install much easier,” said Bitely. “Using these resources, we’re able to provide this style of home at much more affordable costs than ever before.”

Bitely said the foam barriers around his footings provide adequate protection against frost damage without the costs associated with deep concrete footings.

“We feel it is important to offer a safe environment for those who are elderly or disabled. Our new ‘Freedom Foundation’ technology will allow individuals to live safely at lower costs than with traditional building materials.”

David Bulkowski, executive director of Disability Advocates of Kent County, endorsed the barrier-free design in a news release produced by Sable Homes.

“One of the most significant needs for persons with disabilities is affordable housing that is accessible and integrated into exciting neighborhoods,” Bulkowski said. “It’s great that Sable Homes has developed the Freedom Foundation technology to greatly expand the opportunity to purchase the house of their dreams for persons with disabilities.

“With some budgets, home buyers requiring accessible homes are limited to modular homes, or worse, homes that do not fully meet their needs, due strictly to foundation costs,” Bulkowski said in a statement.

Jim Harger covers business for MLive/Grand Rapids Press. Email him atjharger@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google+.

Sable Homes new technology opens the doors to affordable and accessible home ownership

Sable Homes new technology opens the doors to affordable and accessible home ownership

JOHN RUMERY
THURSDAY, APRIL 02, 2015

Rockford-based Sable Homes is producing a new type of home in Michigan that provides barrier-free living for individuals who are physically handicapped or seniors at a more economical price.

The homes feature a new technology which allows homes in the northern states to be built on a slab foundation. Although these foundations are used in most southern U.S. states that do not have basements, they are not insulated well enough to be used in northern states with annual frost.

The technology, Freedom Foundation, is essentially a thick, foam barrier which surrounds the slab foundation, insulating it and protecting the cement from frost.

Joanne Feutz, occupational therapist at Disabilities Advocates of Kent County, is delighted with the design but she says these homes follow the precept of“universal design” and they are really for anyone, not just someone with a disability. From her perspective, this type of home fills a big need in the market. “A lot of builders will build a custom home but no one is building homes that are designed to be accessible and affordable,” she says. Feutz says the homes “are beautiful” and are perfect for individuals needing barrier-free living.

Sable is working on organizing an installation team which can assist other builders in setting up these foundations to produce similar model homes to help support this community of buyers.

Sable Homes is one of the few builders that works with Veterans Administration and Rural Development for construction loans for new homes.

To learn more about Sable Homes you can visit their site here.

Technology erases some mobility barriers

Technology erases some mobility barriers

Sable Homes’ process benefits those with physical impairments.

March 27, 2015

The secret to creating hundreds of easily accessible homes for those with mobility impairments was right under John Bitely’s nose all along.

For years, Bitely, president and owner of Rockford-based residential development firm Sable Homes, had been looking for a way to create affordable housing that could be easily accessed by those in West Michigan with mobility impairments, particularly those with disabilities, aging senior citizens and wounded veterans.

His searching eventually led him back to a technology he’s been using since before the Great Recession: foam insulation billets he now calls the “Freedom Foundation.”

“In West Michigan, barrier-free living has not been readily available at an affordable price,” he said. “We feel it is important to offer a safe environment for those who are elderly or disabled. Our new Freedom Foundation technology will allow individuals to live safely at lower costs than with traditional building materials.”

Bitely and his team had originally used the specialized foam to compete with the modular-home industry almost seven years ago.

“One of the frustrating things we’ve seen is we’d been watching what people pay for modular homes,” he said. “They’d drive them in, take the wheels off, slap them on the ground and they were paying an outrageous amount of money for what we thought was a less than adequate product.”

That’s where the foam insulation came in. The foam, which comes from Atlas EPS in Bryon Center, is generally used in Michigan and other northern states to allow homes to be built on a slab foundation while still being well-insulated. The thick, foam barrier surrounds the foundation, insulating it and protecting the cement from frost.

“The first home we built with this project was probably about six years ago. This goes back to when we wanted to compete with the modular (market)… We’ve got this product out and it’s stood the test of time. What is new is how we’re tying this into a market segment that’s underserved,” Bitely said.

“(We asked), ‘Why don’t we just make this out of that type of product?’ In so doing, we developed this piece of foam, which in turn ends up being the form and the base foundation of the house.”

So how does this new Freedom Foundation foam help people with disabilities? It helps because now Sable is using it to build ranch houses with zero steps. Almost all modular homes and traditional homes involve some kind of steps, either inside or by the doors, Bitely said, and that can be trouble for someone in a wheelchair or using a walker. But now Sable is building homes flat enough to the point that raised steps or ramps are no longer required.

Another nice feature about these homes is they can also cost less, Bitely said.

“We have a model home that we built. It’s just under about 1,400 square feet. It’s a ranch style: three bedrooms, two baths. It has an oversize, three-stall garage,” he said. “We will sell that here in Sparta for under $160,000 with the lot,” he said.

Different disabilities require different solutions, and Sable is also customizing its Freedom Foundation homes based on the individual buyer’s needs. One home was created with special door levers and a microwave built into the kitchen island for a woman in a wheelchair with limited hand use, Bitely said.

That’s good news for a number of underserved markets, he said.

“We’re using this technology not only in the world of disability, but also aging … for those who are retiring and they don’t want to ever move from their home, and they know as they get older steps are a problem or they’re going to need a wheelchair. This can eliminate all of those barriers.”

One of the most important affordable housing needs for people with disabilities is that the homes be both accessible and integrated into good neighborhoods. These houses are more likely to be built in areas connected to transportation, including the bus transit system, Bitely said.

“With some budgets, home buyers requiring accessible homes are limited to modular homes, or worse, homes that do not fully meet their needs, due strictly to foundation costs,” said David Bulkowski, executive director of Disability Advocates of Kent County.

“The Freedom Foundation will provide barrier-free living at a more affordable price point for many, many families.”

One individual who appreciates Sable’s new mission on a personal level is Bri Keeshan, owner of a home that features a Freedom Foundation.

“Having a home that is designed to meet my needs impacts my daily life in many ways,” Keeshan said. “Ever since my car accident in 2009, all I’ve ever wanted was to live ‘normally,’ and win my freedom back. Although things aren’t exactly the way they used to be, having this home has put me, and my life, in the right direction.”

Builders discuss lack of skilled workers before House committee

Builders discuss lack of skilled workers before House committee

Youth Employment Standards Act hinders minors from working construction jobs.

By Mike Nichols

Could the lack of available skilled labor currently facing West Michigan’s construction industry be partially solved with a legislation change?

Members of the Home Builders Association of Michigan testified earlier this month before the State House. In a hearing held Feb. 5, they urged the House Workforce Development Committee to enact legislation to help increase the number of people entering the skilled trades.

The hearing comes on the heels of HBAM having completed its annual member survey of about 4,500 members. The survey found most HBAM homebuilders have a positive outlook for 2015, with about 90 percent of survey responders saying they expect business to go better this year than last year. But the issue of finding talent was still a major concern, with about 71 percent of HBAM’s members agreeing the biggest issue facing the industry is a workforce shortage, according to HBAM.

“Homebuilders in Michigan lost 60,000 jobs to the Great Recession. Literally, when the housing industry went south, so too did many of our workers,” said Dawn Crandall, public affairs director for HBAM.

“Fortunately, the industry is coming back, and there are good paying careers ready to be had. We will be working closely with Michigan policymakers and educators this year to increase the number of high school graduates seeking careers in the home-building industry.”

One of the members who testified Feb. 5 was John Bitely, owner of Rockford-based Sable Homes and co-chair of the Home Builders Association of Grand Rapids’ Next Generation Committee.

“The lack of workers going into the skilled trades is the biggest factor impacting the growth of Michigan’s home building industry,” he said. “The shortage of labor is resulting in construction delays and increased labor costs, and it’s dragging on our state.”

There are a couple of Michigan laws that make it unnecessarily “cumbersome” to hire younger workers, Bitely said.

He cited the Youth Employment Standards Act 90 of 1978, which essentially states that anyone under the age of 18 “may not work in any occupation deemed to be hazardous, which includes work on construction sites,” without parent, school and employer signed work permits, he said.

“(The) Youth Employment Standards Act 90 of 1978 defines a minor who is less than 18 years of age, including but not limited to employees, volunteers, independent contractors and performing artists,” according to Michigan.gov. “Minors under 18 years of age must obtain a work permit or have their school complete a training agreement before starting work. Work permits can be obtained from the school the minor attends or the school district where the minor will be employed. If the minor changes jobs, a new work permit is required for the new employer. A work permit may be revoked for poor academic performance. A work permit is required even if the minor does not attend school.”

The Act’s work permit process does more to hinder high-school students and the construction industry than it does to protect students, Bitely said.

“There are lots of high school students who could gain valuable work experience in the building industry over the summer, but the current law forces them into flipping burgers,” he said.

“With that in place, as a residential builder, I cannot hire ‘Johnny B. Tough’ to come carry lumber on my site or come seed the lawn because it’s a construction site. … The common joke I use is Pizza Hut. They will not let you cut the pizza unless you’re 18 years old. A lot of people don’t know that.”

Laws like this hurt the middle class, Bitely said, adding that such laws are a complete deviation from how many of the industry’s current leaders got their start.

“If you go back in years past, a bunch of us started our summer job with ‘Uncle Joe’ or ‘Neighbor Fred,’ and we got in his truck and helped out at a construction job,” he said.

“I cannot put a 16-year-old youth on a sawhorse and teach him how to use it. That’s considered too dangerous. But (they can) at Kent Career Technical Center in a shop class. Why can’t we do it in the field?”

Bitely said he was encouraged by the committee’s response, saying they seemed genuinely interested in working on the issue. He hopes they’ll act in time for his upcoming trade skills event for students, which is being held April 28 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

The event — Career Quest — will highlight about 25 potential trades for the 2,000 West Michigan students expected to attend, ranging from 7th-12th grade.

Career Quest is being co-hosted by Michigan Works! and the Construction Workforce Development Alliance.

Bitely’s plans to combat the construction industry’s lack of labor goes back to 2013, when local leaders in the industry realized many workers had either aged out or left during the recession, and new talent wasn’t being trained.

Unless the problem is addressed soon, it could begin to slow the growth the area’s been enjoying lately, he said. That would become problematic for everyone.

“It’s going to stagnate us a little bit or greatly diminish the amount of growth and recovery that’s available. I don’t know any residential builder in West Michigan that isn’t ready to hire people or a design firm ready to hire. They cannot find people to fill the positions,” he said.

“(We want to be) telling young people, ‘There’s jobs for you and hope for you. I don’t want to be negative about college, but you can make a good living with us without student debt.’”

How Lower Mortgage Insurance Premiums will Affect West Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) — The housing industry has been steadily improving in West Michigan, and on Thursday, President Obama announced plans that could boost it even more by shaving the FHA mortgage insurance premium.

The President announced Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance premiums will be lowered by half a percentage point, from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent which means more Americans can afford to become homeowners.

Karin Kay from Sable Homes joined WZZM 13′s Meredith Terhaar to share what this means for West Michigan.

Sable Homes sees major construction spurt

Our president John Bitely was interviewed by Mike Nichols of the Grand Rapids Business Journal to discuss Sable Homes’ recent growth spurt and how we got to where we are today.

Sable Homes sees major construction spurt

Mike Nichols – Grand Rapids Business Journal

There are bad problems to have and there are good problems to have.

John Bitely currently has what he believes are a number of very good problems. He can attribute those “problems” to being the owner of Sable Homes, a Rockford-based residential development firm that has been seeing phenomenal growth in recent years.

2013 was a breakthrough year for Sable, a year in which the company built and sold more homes than ever before, Bitely said. In the years before and during the Great Recession, the firm sold about 25 to 30 houses a year, he said, a number the firm was comfortable with maintaining.

In recent years, however, that average has changed dramatically.

“We finally broke the 100-homes market last year. Last year, we sold 100 homes and we built about 10 percent more than that,” Bitely said. “If we wouldn’t have gotten buggered up by municipalities, we were on a pace to build 140 this year. As we get things ironed out, we’ll get there.”

Professional Builder Magazine recently ranked Sable No. 285 on its annual House Giants list, which includes 293 of the nation’s largest builders.

Sable has the potential to grow its home sales and builds by about 20 to 30 percent for the next three to five years, Bitely said. The growth is good, but it’s one of those “good problems,” he said.

“Most companies, if you’re growing more than 20 to 30 percent per year, those are numbers that make people pretty nervous,” he said.

Sable’s growth found its roots in the intense “grow or die” environment of the Great Recession. When the housing market was hit hard, the firm found it needed to expand its market area to keep its head above water.

“If we go back before the crash, we were selling 25 to 30 homes a year. … We were a big frog in a mud puddle,” Bitely said. “We traveled further to do (jobs), but after we had already begun travelling, we stayed in those areas.”

Need drove Bitely to create a system that became a production. Housing is like manufacturing in the fact that it is systematic and needs to be controlled, he said. Although the firm originally kept to the northern region of Greater Grand Rapids, it began to do business as far south as Wayland and as far north as Cedar Springs, he said.

“(The Great Recession) forced us to be a larger company today than we ever intended to be, because we had to expand into the markets to survive,” he said. “Well, when it turned around we were already there working and we had put these systems in place to reinvent ourselves into a larger company.”

Bitely believed if he could figure out how to build and sell houses under the adjusted prices, Sable Homes would survive the recession. Sable pushed hard to keep its volumes up through the downturn, and when the weight of economic turmoil were lifted, the firm found itself sprinting ahead.

“We paid our price to survive. … What wound up happening is we gobbled up market share as other people left the business,” he said.

“The homes we were delivering two to four years ago are going to go down in our history as the ‘Vanilla Age.’ There weren’t a lot of options. It was housing, and people could only afford to house themselves — and we built a lot of plain vanilla. But vanilla ice cream is still better than no ice cream. Now we’re building Moose Tracks and Cookies ’n Cream.”

The unexpected sudden growth of Sable Homes created a number of good problems, Bitely said. The Great Recession changed everything in the real estate industry, and the issues facing Sable are issues construction companies nationwide are attempting to address, he said.

“The problems we’re dealing with today are very different than the problems we dealt with three years ago,” he said. “They’re good problems, but still problems.”

The first major issue is a labor shortage, Bitely said. The industry currently needs more carpenters, cement layers, dry wall installers, roofers, electricians and other types of tradesmen, he said. Many of these jobs are trade jobs that are traditionally a younger person’s job. Often, subcontractors will hire teenagers to help out during the summer, and many of them eventually become part of the trade, he said. By the time they are in their late 30s or early 40s, they’re no longer “running and gunning” out on the job, but are in management or running a crew, he said.

However, during the recession, subcontractors weren’t as likely to hire teenagers as extra help, Bitely said, and some of the men in their late 30s and 40s — men who had families relying on them — wanted to get out of construction and into safer industries. That created a vacuum that is now a labor shortage.

“With the crash, we didn’t train people for six years, so we don’t have 18- to 20-year-olds in the cycle, and now we have no 40-year-olds because they got out,” he said. “A lot of people were jaded. We’ve got a lot of that because that last crash was so bad. Traditionally in West Michigan, we don’t get hit as hard (by national economic ups and downs), but this time, we led into the recession.”

The industry now has to train new workers and spark interest in the trades, Bitely said, adding that since there’s such a pent-up demand for work, he strongly believes it’ll be a long time before work runs out.

Sable is one of the firms looking to get key people hired right now, he said.

“We’re at max expansion right now. Businesses can only grow so much a year without having maxed out at the amount we can grow right now,” he said. “Our growth is controlled by how fast we can grow, be successful and not overextend it. I’ve got enough, but I’m not overstaffed and I’m still looking for key people.”

Another major issue is with the municipalities, he said. It takes about two years to get through all the procedures of land development in Michigan, he said, which means the current shortage of housing will not be cured any time soon because demand will continue to outstrip supply, leading consumers to face an uptick in prices.

“(There’s too many) systematic regulations that require a box to be checked and not enough people to check the boxes,” he said. “And they can’t hire enough people to check the boxes because of their budgetary restraints.”

As for the future, Bitely said he’s undecided about how much longer he will continue to run his business. In the next five years, he’s considering either selling Sable Homes or handing it off to his daughter, who is currently studying sustainable business at Aquinas College and works as Sable’s assistant general manager.

One thing is he certain about, however, is that residential construction is back in West Michigan and will be for a long time.

“We’re going to get by and we’re going to be strong. It’s going to be great industry to be in for a number of years,” he said. “There’s lots of work for those of us already here. We’re going to be busy for a while.”

First families move into new homes in Sparta’s Central Square VIllage

It’s exciting to see how fast we were able to move families into our new development in Sparta.

First families move into new homes in Sparta’s Central Square VIllage

Jeff Cunningham – Mlive

Center Town Square is expected to have its first residents this weekend as families begin to move into the first new housing development built in Sparta in more than a decade.

The driveways, porches and landscaping are not yet finished on the two split-level  homes located near the east end of Alma Street. ButSable Homes marketing consultant Karin Kay said the families that bought the first homes in the new subdivision just wanted to get in as soon as they could.

The homes range in size from about 1,000 to 1,900 square feet and in price from $120,000 to $170,000, depending on whether or not the lower level of the homes are finished.

Sable Homes of Rockford is currently working are transforming the former Central Park into a 20-home subdivision. Work began on four homes last fall, but the harsh winter has prevented contractors from finishing the outside work. “The contractors will get that done as soon as the weather allows,” Kay said.

Last summer Sparta Village officials reached an agreement with Sable Homes to build the subdivision on what was city property. The site had been home to Central School until 2009 when the school was torn down and the 4.46 acres of property was purchased by the village for a park.

From the beginning village officials said they wanted to see the property redeveloped for housing as there is little housing stock available in the village, let alone new housing that is near the village center. “These homes are less than a five-minute walk from the parks and downtown,” Kay said.

Village Supervisor Martin Super said he is pleased with the development. “I understand that they have sold four more lots,” he said. “What is good about this development for the village is that it is an ‘infill’ development that the village didn’t have to extend village services to.” Super estimated last fall the development will bring the village $36,000 a year in new property taxes and another $14,000 a year in new water and sewer revenues when the project is complete, perhaps as soon as the end of 2014.

Sparta’s continued industrial growth, which has brought hundreds of new jobs to the village in the last three years, has increased the demand for “starter homes” and affordable housing in the village. “The growth in manufacturing here in Sparta has driven everything we have done in the last few years,” he said.

 

Latest new home building technologies featured in 2014 Spring Parade of Homes

Wonderful story by Mlive’s Jim Harger regarding the new home building technologies. Our healthier-home initiative was a discussion topic in the article here:

Latest new home building technologies featured in 2014 Spring Parade of Homes

Jim Harger – Mlive

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Two West Michigan companies are using the 2014 Parade of Homes to show off the latest in new homebuilding technologies.

Pleotint LLC of Jenison is using a lakefront home by Celebrity Builders to demonstrate its “Suntuitive” windows designed to block unwanted solar heat gain.

Sable Homes is showcasing health-conscious technologies at two homes it has on display in Ada Township and Caledonia Township.

The Grand Rapids Spring Parade of Homes is open for touring on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 9 pm through Saturday, June 7. This year’s parade features 78 homes in 19 different West Michigan communities.

Pleotint’s “Suntuitive” windows are designed to “optimize indoor comfort and views, and to block unwanted solar heat gain,” according to Rob Vis, co-owner of Celebrity Builders. The home can be found at 8769 Cedar Lake Dr., near Jenison.

“In addition to being highly energy-efficient, this home was designed for carefree, comfortable living,” Vis said. “The lake is to the west, and the sun’s heat is almost unbearable on summer afternoons.

“In addition to being produced by a local company, the unique, self-tinting glass adapts throughout the day without any controls or having to close the blinds as often,” Vis said.

Celebrity Builders installed low-e insulating windows with Suntuitive glass on the home’s west- and south-facing elevations to reduce cooling, heating, and lighting-related energy costs, while blocking damaging ultraviolet light and glare, the company said.

“The homeowners say the best part is that they can watch their kids play on the beach or the boat, while they have a perfect view from the cool house,” Vis said.

At the Sable Parade homes in Ada and Caledonia, the builders used Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) free paints and toxin free flooring glues on the interior of its homes. These advanced materials have been proven to reduce airborne toxins as the house and its materials age, the company said in a press release.

Sable Homes also used a high-tech VOC absorbing gypsum board drywall to reduce VOC levels in the air. They installed WhisperGreen fans for clean air exchange and ventilation.

The basements of the Sable homes were built with a “Superior Walls Xi Foundation System” insulation to keep basements, dry and warm while increasing the energy rating.

Both of Sable Homes’ entries into the Parade of Homes earned a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) 5+ star rating – the highest achievable rating on the HERS system.

The Sable Homes can be found at 7979 Sable Valley Court, Ada, and at 9445 Scotsmoor Dr., Caledonia.