Archive for July, 2009

Weekly (Green) Intel

By Christine Costa

1013 45 banner home weeklyintel4 Weekly (Green) Intel

This week’s intel is looking mighty green. All the news you missed on green home design and building in an easy list. Happy reading!

Could we really decrease energy use by 2020?

EcoHome interviews Todd Usher of Addison Homes

Cap and Trade will transform the real estate industry

Boost Brand Reputation with CR

Clayton Homes to build green multi-family dwellings

San Francisco to help homeowners upgrade to green

Top Green Home Buying Tips from Planet Green

Measuring Conservation at Home

By Green Experts Team

How to monitor savings – environmentally and financially – when conserving at home.

istock 000005882130xsmall Measuring Conservation at Home

In today’s green landscape advanced technology allows consumers to conserve both financial and natural resources at home.  Seeing a difference in your energy bill is one thing, but measuring the natural resources being conserved with the use of green products is less obvious.

We’ve taken a look at products that make savings by the numbers easier and answer the question:

How much money and how many natural resources does your product really save?

Some products communicate how much they save in the name of product model and feature.

  • Bricor and Kohler manufacture low flow products that help buyers cut back on water use.
  • Their shower heads are categorized by GPM – or how many gallons per minute of water they use.
  • Some Bricor models are even equipped with a pause button to hold water flow for shorter periods of time that it’s not used in the shower.
  • These companies will compare the GPM of their green products to traditional shower heads.

There is also a wide range of tools that homeowners can use to measure the output of different energy sources throughout their home.

  • SmartHome USA features a number of monitoring items that will read not only energy usage but also how much money that household item is costing the consumer.
  • These tools are great for before and after impact.
  • They can be used to measure traditional non-beneficial appliances and then newer efficient ones and the difference is obvious.
  • Among Black & Decker’s (IMRE’s client) line of energy saving products is the Thermal Leak Detector
  • With this measurement tool consumers can find the hidden cracks in their home that allow heating and cooling energy to escape
  • By detecting these energy leaking areas and closing them up, homeowners keep the energy inside and save on their monthly heating and cooling bill

Online, there are also leading groups and organizations that quantify the benefits of purchasing conservation tools. Here at Green and Save they explain the ROI on purchasing a composter by providing the amount of mulching and gardening supplies used yearly that the compost will replace.

Then of course there are conservation products that have measurement and benefits that are much more obvious to the average consumer.  For example when using a rain collection barrel there is a set amount of water that barrel is able to collect and every time a homeowner uses the water collected they know how much they are saving from their traditional water supply.

In order for a homeowner to get started on conservation they should first use a measurement tool to see where their house is producing the most negative output – whether that’s energy, water, or natural waste Once they find their household weaknesses they will have a better idea of how to reduce their impact and make the most efficient adjustments possible.

Disclosure: Black & Decker is a client of IMRE

Urban Living: Here to Stay?

By Home IQ Team

As reported in Architectural Record, foreclosures and weak home sales are just two effects that the recession is having on the home/real estate industry. Although we may hear about home sales and foreclosure rates most frequently in the news, there are other forces at play that should not be overlooked.

For instance, there is the fact that rural areas of the country are suffering more than urban areas as people continue to downsize from their multi-acre plots of land and 3,000 sq. ft. homes to more compact living quarters closer to the city.

According to Architectural Record, the Woodstock Institute reported that the Cook County suburbs just outside of Chicago saw almost twice the rate of new foreclosure filings as the city proper in the first quarter of 2009.

So what is really behind this shift? While the recession is obviously the driver that is forcing people to make a move, there must be other reasons why urban living is growing in popularity among once suburban residents. Additionally, the trend begs the question as to whether the current mindset is here to stay or if people will go back to “sprawl” when the economy improves.

From our perspective, the trend in urban migration is here to stay for a number of reasons, including:

  • More and more people are looking for ways to live greener lives, so it only makes sense for more Americans to downsize to smaller homes that are closer to their jobs, use less energy to heat/cool and steps away from mass transportation
  • Baby Boomers are reaching the age where they are looking for smaller homes that require less maintenance compared to homes with acres of land that demand constant up-keep
  • Younger Americans are spending more time getting advanced degrees and enjoying their “young professional status” while also waiting to settle down. That said, city living for the 20-30-somethings is very appealing and something that this group is not rushing to escape



picture 14 Urban Living: Here to Stay?

Photo Courtesy of Washingtonian.com

We would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to send us a quick email about the trend in urban migration and if you think its here to stay.


The C-Suite Expanded

By Home IQ Team

While titles vary from VP of Corporate Sustainability, like Wal-Mart’s Andy Rubin, to Dow Chemical’s Chief Sustainability Officer, their goals are similar:  Influence, enforce and manage sustainable practices in all areas of the company.  Sustainability officers at the C-Suite level are on the rise, and bringing with them the research and ammunition to affect significant change within their organizations… But not without significant challenges.

In a March 2008 white paper, Oracle Corporation lists the following challenges associated with organizing for sustainability:

  • Increasing transparency
  • Measuring results in an efficient, systematic manner
  • Determining tangible value and ROI
  • Incorporating into decision making and business processes
  • Measuring effectiveness
  • Maintaining momentum
  • Determining who owns each piece of footprint in a world with carbon caps and associated taxes

Interested in learning more about how to develop and maintain communications around your sustainability practice? Visit http://www.imrehb.com.

By Home IQ Team

According to our friends at Charles & Hudson, This Old House and The Money Pit have teamed up.

Charles & Hudson shares: “Kevin O’Connor, host of the Emmy-winning PBS television series This Old House, along with the show’s general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey and landscape contractor Roger Cook, will join The Money Pit radio hosts Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete on their show every week for a special This Old House segment. Beginning later this month, the content will air across the entire The Money Pit Media Radio Network of 200+ radio stations, on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio, as well as via the top rated The Money Pit Podcast and online at MoneyPit.com and at ThisOldHouse.com.”

For more information, feel free to visit this post.

Importance of Customer Service

By Home IQ Team

Customer Expectations Remain at an All-Time High

As a result of the internet-driven culture in which we live, today’s consumers are savvier than ever when it comes to the purchases that they make for their homes.

Whether they are in the market for a lawn mower, grill, patio furniture or kitchen appliances, blogs and websites dedicated to user-generated product reviews and customer testimonials make it easy for homeowners to compare products before they even enter a store.

Thanks to technology and all of the consumer-driven information that is available online, client expectations are at an all-time high. According to a recently published article on Forbes.com, “58% of respondents to Turning Customer Pain Into Competitive Gain’ now believe the internet and social media have changed the level of influence and expectations of their customers.” That said, customer service is critical to retaining a strong customer base and building brand loyalty during these tough economic times.

Not only does good customer service allow companies to strengthen relationships with current customers, but it also communicates a level of commitment to the end user that will be an attractive selling point when it comes to recruiting new consumers. After all, customers are more likely to reevaluate their brand favorites in today’s economy, especially if another company can effectively communicate their value proposition when it comes to products and customer experience.

 

picture 13 Importance of Customer Service

Photo Courtesy of warrantynet.com

It is also important to note that the purchasing habits of today’s consumers reflect a need for innovation, value, durability AND service. In other words, as marketers, it is essential for us to understand that consumers are demanding positive shopping experiences where the customer service is as noteworthy as the bells and whistles on the products that they are putting in their shopping carts.

To ensure that your brand is destined to enjoy a loyal following, it is essential to invest in the end-user and product development alike. By listening to your customers, you will not only learn about their wants, needs and purchasing habits, but you will also be able to identify the areas in which your company is failing to deliver.

By Home IQ Team

1013 45 banner home weeklyintel1 Weekly Intel: News You May Have Missed

Take a look at the links below to see what news and trends you may have missed this week.

Greening your backyard

Taking best green home practices to the college dorms


Eco-Friendly Home and Luxury go hand in hand


Danny Seo’s top three home appliances

By Green Experts Team
blog Marketing Messaging that Turns Trash to Treasure

Complements of Vetrazzo Countertops

Green home design goes beyond energy efficiency. Choosing items made from recycled content is another great option. Marketers of such products have mastered the art of messaging to make one person’s trash seem like everybody’s treasure.  From floor to ceiling and the space in between there are a variety of products on the market that not only exude style, but are also made from recycled materials. 

So how have manufactures of recycled home products so successfully appealed to consumers?

- First they’ve appealed to consumers who want to make a difference and join the green     cause

- Then they grow their audience by positioning their products as artistic, beautiful and luxurious

Here are a few products that have done a job of transforming trash into treasure:

Flooring: Recycled flooring options come in different textures, materials and style.  At Eco Friendly Flooring they have recycled metal tiles http://www.ecofriendlyflooring.com/metal.html that glisten and fit into any cool modern home.

Counter tops: It’s no longer just about granite.  Counter tops are made of different types of stone, glass and concrete mixes and composites.  When visitors first log onto the Vetrazzo site they see different vignettes showing the brand’s glass counter tops functioning as an element of beauty in everyday life. 

Fabric:  When it comes to recycled fabric it’s important to dispel any notions of uncomfortable texture. There are thousands of luxuriously soft, sustainable fabrics great for upholstery, window treatments, pillows, throws, etc. The type of materials they are spun from is endless – whether recycled polyester or post-consumer and post-industrial waste, these products are stylish AND sustainable. Peruse through this list of manufacturers and see for yourself.

Furniture: Of course the most obvious way to go if a consumer wants recycled furniture is to take already existing furniture and have it refinished or recovered.  But there are a number of ready made options available that incorporate recycled parts and materials.  These sofas at Green Your Décor include recycled AND organic elements. 

Fun: The more daring homeowner might like to bring a recycled design element into the home that is especially unique and a little more obvious.  A quick Google search will bring pages of listings offering items that were transformed to serve a new creative purpose.

Even though they are made from untraditional materials, all of these product manufacturers clearly communicate that they are still fashionable options that work with any décor – from the most traditional to the most modern. 

Consumers do want to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, but want it without sacrificing the living standards they’ve come to love.  Though they are made of “trash”, all of these products exude the feeling of high-end style and unique character – that’s what makes them so successful. 

By Home IQ Team

If you are looking to attend a conference this fall, consider checking out the Home Improvement Research Institute’s (HIRI) 28th annual fall conference which will be held in Chicago on October 14.

The daylong event, “The Recession, Short and Long Term Impacts,” will include presentations from The Futures Company, NPD Group, Zelman and Associates, Gfk/Roper, Compete, Caney Group and UBS.

In March, Home Intel attended HIRI’s spring conference, and we found it to be very informative with content that was extremely relevant given today’s economy.

For a look back at what we learned, you can reference the following articles:

By Home IQ Team

Over the past year, the home improvement industry has seen many shifts in consumer behavior as people across the country reevaluate their spending habits in light of the current economic climate. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest changes that the industry has seen involves more individuals tackling remodeling projects themselves with little to no help from a pro. In short, the “weekend warrior” mindset is on the rise and has been for quite some time.

While many would argue that there are certain projects that require the experience of a skilled tradesman, it only makes sense that the DIY population is growing by the day in these uncertain economic times.

As more “do-it-for-me” consumers convert to the land of “do-it-yourself,” it is not surprising that sites dedicated to helping people accomplish their home improvement projects are becoming more popular than ever.

For example, look at Howcast, a site that houses thousands of how-to videos that cover a wide range of topics from jump-starting a car, typing faster on a cell phone, cooking and diagnosing symptoms of swine flue.

As consumerreports.org reported earlier this week, Howcast even has a Home Improvement category that offers DIYers the advice they need to tackle the home improvement projects that may have once been contracted to a pro.

Given the fact that the site includes a social voting feature where users can rate the videos that they watch, the site is very user-friendly and lends itself to meeting the needs of even the busiest DIYers who just need a quick reference before completed their project.

Finally, users can also find more professional video clips from The Home Depot or ServiceMagic.com. Check out the below video as an example.



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