National Association of Home Builders survey on homes in 2015: smaller, more green

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently published findings of a survey about what “builders, designers, architects, manufacturers, and marketing specialists” think homes will be like in 2015. Two results from this survey were reported elsewhere:

The McMansions of the boom era are quickly losing their style.The NAHB reports that the builders they “surveyed expect homes to average 2,152 square feet in 2015, 10 percent smaller than the average size of single-family homes started in the first three quarters of 2010. To save on square footage, the living room is high on the endangered list – 52 percent of builders expect it to be merged with other spaces in the home by 2015 and 30 percent said it will vanish entirely.”

Also a heavy influence on the housing front are green and eco-friendly features. The NAHB reports that “in addition to floor plan changes, 68 percent of builders surveyed say that homes in 2015 will also include more green features and technology, including low-E windows; engineered wood beams, joists or tresses; water-efficient features such as dual-flush toilets or low-flow faucets; and an Energy Star rating for the whole house.”

These two changes by 2015 were the leaders by far: 74% said smaller single-family homes were most probable or probable and 68% said it was most probable or probable that “green” features would increase in homes. This news is not too surprising: the square footage of the average new American home dropped recently and more eco-friendly homes are on the way (read about LEED certified homes here). What is interesting is that these conclusions are from members of the home building industry who likely are responding to what they think the market desires.

(Going back to the original NAHB report, something else caught my eye. Here is a short description of the methodology behind this survey:

NAHB’s The New Home in 2015 survey was sent electronically to 3,019 builders, designers, architects, manufacturers, and marketing specialists. The sample was stratified by region of the country (to be proportional to housing starts in each of the four Census regions) and, among builders, by their number of units started.

A total of 238 responses were received, of which 30 percent came from single-family builders, 19 percent from architects, 26 percent from designers, 7 percent from manufacturers, and 18 percent from “other” building industry professionals.

On one hand, the stratification of the survey is good to try to get results proportional to builders and areas of the country where building starts are taking place. On the other hand, the response rate to this electronic survey is 7.9%. With such a low response rate, how do we know that these findings are representative of the home building industry at large?)

Picking the 10 coolest American small towns…by Internet poll?

BudgetTravel.com has highlighted “the coolest small towns in America.” This looked interesting so I clicked on a link to check out the story – and then found that the 10 places were selected by Internet poll. While these may be interesting communities, this does not seem to be a scientific way to go about compiling this list. On the other hand, it may drive more traffic to BudgetTravel as smaller communities and their residents and fans travel to the website to nominate and then vote on the communities.

Also, what qualifies to be nominated as a “cool small town” is interesting:

First, your town must have a population under 10,000—we’re talking small towns, not big cities. It’s also got to be on the upswing, a place that’s beginning to draw attention—and new residents—because of the quality of life, arts and restaurant scene, or proximity to nature. And cool doesn’t mean quaint. We want towns with an edge, so think avant-garde galleries, not country stores.

I wonder how they weed out the “uncool” small towns…

The poor cleaniness of home kitchens

Occasionally, one can find stories about how dirty homes can be. Here is more evidence, this time regarding unclean kitchens:

The small study from California’s Los Angeles County found that only 61 percent of home kitchens would get an A or B if put through the rigors of a restaurant inspection. At least 14 percent would fail — not even getting a C.

In comparison, nearly all Los Angeles County restaurants — 98 percent — get A or B scores each year.

On its own, these are interesting results: restaurant kitchens are generally more clean than home kitchens. But there is more to this story: how exactly researchers found out about the kitchens.

The study, released Thursday, is believed to be one of the first to offer a sizable assessment of food safety in private homes. But the researchers admit the way it was done is hardly perfect.

The results are based not on actual inspections, but on an Internet quiz taken by about 13,000 adults .

So it’s hard to use it to compare the conditions in home kitchens to those in restaurants, which involve trained inspectors giving objective assessments of dirt, pests, and food storage and handling practices.

What’s more, experts don’t believe the study is representative of all households, because people who are more interested and conscientious about food safety are more likely to take the quiz.

A more comprehensive look would probably find that an even smaller percentage of home kitchens would do well in a restaurant inspection, he suggested.

On one hand, this sounds like innovative research that is the first to provide a broad overview of the cleanliness of American kitchens. On the other hand, the way the data was collected suggests one should be wary about making definitive conclusions.

The online quiz is also reliant on self-reporting.