National Association of Home Builders
a conversation with Jerry Howard, CEO of this influential trade organization.
By Cris pyle
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOME BUILDERS represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities in the U.S. Home building is still very much a hands-on, labor intensive endeavor and critical to the infrastructure and needs of the nation.
2020 has made us all think more about home and what it means to each of us. From 24/7 family time to double — or even triple — duty as office and school, our homes and our lives within their walls have never been more important.
I recently sat down with Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), to discuss his views on the state of the industry and initiatives his members are prioritizing. One of his first thoughts was quite compelling. “Our homes have transitioned to more than just shelter. They are havens of security in a time of uncertainty.”
Jerry Howard, CEO of NAHB
“The NAHB supports home builders, remodelers, and other housing industry professionals, at both the national level and through a federation of 700 state and local home builder associations, so they can work to give all Americans access to safe, decent and affordable housing.”
A bright spot in a troubled economy, Jerry pointed out that the NAHB is reporting that U.S. new home sales are at their highest level in 14 years, exceeding an annual rate of one million in the latest report.
Jerry weighed in on the general view of builders and his members, “Residential construction has really taken the lead in lifting the nation out of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Builder confidence is at an all-time high, fueled by renewed buyer traffic from record-low interest rates and a suburban shift away from high-density areas.”
As our homes continue to be our refuge, Jerry believes that many recent technology trends focused on sustainability, green building and wellness will only continue to grow.
“Our homes have transitioned to more than just shelter. They are havens of security in a time of uncertainty.”
He told me that incorporating sustainability and high performance into construction and development techniques, materials, and designs can minimize a home’s impact on the environment and are a practical response to a wide range of issues like rising energy costs and improving air quality, but also to meet buyers’ increasing requests. “Homes built today are much more energy efficient than homes built before 2000. Over the course of time, as older stock is replaced by newer homes, we’re going to see a tremendous difference in terms of energy use and home technology function.”
I asked Jerry who he thought was influencing the decision-making process towards more aspects of the performance home. “Younger buyers are driving many of these requests, including improvements like high-performance windows and energy-efficient appliances and lighting, water-efficient or water-conserving appliances and fixtures, low-maintenance landscaping, the use of sustainably harvested lumber and other products and allergen-free or recycled building materials.”
On the other end of the age spectrum, living-in-place is driving a greater-than-ever need for technology in the high-performance home. Jerry talked about how his members are also incorporating smart technologies into homes for owners to age in place, which is becoming more desirable for many families amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Universal design and aging-in-place will change the way we interact with our homes. We have seen a significant change in people’s expectations as they age. Most folks want to age, gracefully, in the home and community where they have lived much of their adult life. Aging-in-place techniques let the home evolve to meet their needs as they age. And more and more, builders are using universal design techniques that make homes more user friendly for people of all ages and abilities.”
In the U.S., builders and technology designers have historically been the trades most likely to work together. According to the 2019 CEDIA (Consumer Electronics Design and Integration Association) Size and Scope of the U.S. Integrated Residential Technology Industry study, residential integration firms, on average, receive 42 project bid requests from builders and remodelers, versus 10 from architects and nine from interior designers.
Jerry feels strongly about the need for collaboration between NAHB members and technology designers. “One thing that builders fear is making an investment that brings no return, or putting a lot of time, money and effort into a technology that is obsolete before the home is on the market. A technology designer is more likely to have a sense of evolving technologies, their costs and consumer demand. They can help a builder make decisions about the technologies that are right – and cost-effective – for their market.”
Cris Pyle has over 15 years of experience in the residential technology industry, leading marketing teams on the manufacturer and association sides.