Smart Contract

The contract of the future could be a blockchain-verified digital document with embedded, executable code

Although blockchain is best known in connection with Bitcoin cryptocurrency, it’s an electronic system that can be applied in many ways. Some commentators use the analogy, “Blockchain is to currency as the Internet is to email,” and it seems likely that some of those blockchain applications are likely to disrupt businesses of all kinds, including remodeling. 

The compelling feature of blockchain is that it decentralizes management of transactions, allowing people and businesses to interact without the need for an intermediary. It’s also uniquely secure because record-keeping is distributed across a large number of anonymous individuals. Every “block” of records in the “chain” is sealed against edits in a way that refers to the previous block, and only blocks that match can be sealed (non-matching blocks are discarded). That means a hacker would have to break the encryption for not just one block but for every previous block in the chain. Thus, a smart contract recorded by a blockchain would be rock solid.

Other than cryptocurrency, examples of practical blockchain applications are long on promise and short on detail, and even so-called nontechnical descriptions are vague and way more math-based than my brief description. 

One example that caught my attention, however, is something called a smart contract, which consists of a digital document containing code that executes automatically when certain specified conditions are met. I haven’t yet found anyone who’s currently using one, but as it happens, I am personally engaged in a transaction where I think a smart contract administrated by a blockchain would be just the ticket.

Sal Alfano

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How Long Before 3D Printing Disrupts Construction?

AI SpaceFactory is one of a handful of ambitious startups now pushing forward with 3D printing technology to print buildings using some form of additive material, usually a cement-based mixture. The printers, mounted on robotic arms and gantries, trace the pattern of a building’s walls and squirt out material one thin layer at a time, based on the digital design files driving them, while pausing to create gaps where windows and doors are added later. When one layer is completed around the entire perimeter, the printer starts on the next one.

Claims of printing entire buildings in a day or less abound. Austin, Texas-based ICON, producer of a 33-foot-wide, 3,800-pound printer it calls the Vulcan II, printed a 350-square foot home on-site in 47 nonconsecutive hours for less than $10,000 in materials last year. Another firm, China’s WinSun, has used its factory-housed printer to spit out manufactured sections of buildings to be assembled on-site, including a five-story apartment building, and claims to have printed 10 houses in a single day. At the beginning of 2018, Boston Consulting Group counted fewer than 40 completed 3D-printed structures worldwide, a number that has continued to climb since.

With all the activity that’s happening in the space currently, proponents of 3D printing technology in construction are confident not only that the trend will continue but that its use is already more prevalent than commonly perceived.

by Joe Bousquin

First permitted 3D-printed home

First permitted 3D-printed home

Shifts in Home Design and Material Demand

Designs That Shift Building Material Demand

Rapidly changing new home designs have surprised building product company executives who have not been speaking directly with the home building community. The pronounced home builder shift to fewer rooms and more open space living has reduced finished wall space per sq ft by 8% over the last decade. These design trends also include great rooms and indoor/outdoor spaces with large retractable glass doors.

  • The beneficiaries. Several window companies as well as the makers of outdoor remodel products and engineered wood beams have benefited greatly from the shift.

  • Damaged industries. Some drywall, paint, and baseboard company executives apparently missed this shift, despite its coverage by the industry media. Our most disappointing anecdote was a meeting we had last year with the head of R&D at one of these firms who couldn’t even name one of the large production architect companies in the industry.

Building product improvements over time have reduced replacement demand, as products are lasting longer than they used to. Roofing is one of the best examples. Roofs now last 7–8 years longer than they did 20 years ago, yet roofing companies and their investors have been modeling replacement demand as if the superior product didn’t matter. There are many more examples of products that will last longer before needing replacement or repair, including flooring, lighting, and composite products.

Todd Tomalak

Modern Great Room

Modern Great Room

SERIOUSLY MINIMAL.

The Minus One is a breakthrough in conception, technology and design. An architectural lighting solution with a visible aperture of less than half an inch (10mm), the Minus produces a discrete lighting effect virtually glare free through proprietary lens technology. Powered by a single high-performance LED, the Minus One produces an output of over 1000 lumens from source and requires less than one inch (25mm) of ceiling recess, allowing for great flexibility in new and retrofit construction.

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Bathroom’s Most Wanted

Linen closets are the most-desired feature in a master bathroom for homebuyers, according to new survey data from the National Association of Home Builders.

Approximately 78 percent of homebuyer respondents in the NAHB’s 2019 What Home Buyers Really Want report say that a linen closet in the master bathroom is desirable or an essential feature. Having "both a shower stall and tub in the master bath," and having a double vanity were both home features that at least 70 percent of survey respondents said were desirable or a must-have. These two features each garnered 32 percent "must-have" scores, the highest in the study.

Never Short On Space

Home prices are high, inventories are shallow, and personal savings are rising, which is leading everyone to say 2019 is the year of remodeling. People are choosing to stay in their homes and elevate the space, rather than sell it and buy a new one.

Built-in storage is a reflection of that – today’s designs demand less clutter without sacrificing space. It’s a real challenge, because storage itself takes up room, and so to have one without the other would initially seem paradoxical. Done right, built-in features can bridge the gap between saving space and creating storage.

Pro Remodeler

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What Worries a Billionaire Today? Protecting Priceless Art From Flying Champagne Corks on Their Superyachts

A new course teaches crew members how to care for blue-chip art collections on the high seas.

How do you protect your blue-chip art on board a yacht? It’s a problem only the privileged few face, but it’s apparently a growing problem nonetheless.

The British billionaire collector Joe Lewis reportedly keep Francis Bacon’s Triptych (1974-77) aboard his yacht, docked in London, while the deputy prime minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is thought to keep several hundred works of art on his, according to Bloomberg

So what do they do when a wayward champagne cork flies or some seawater splashes aboard? That’s where art historian and conservator Pandora Mather-Lees comes in. Mather-Lees told the Guardian that she first set out to help billionaires properly store art on their boats after getting a call from a collector whose prized $110.5 millionJean-Michel Basquiat painting was damaged while on his yacht.

“His kids had thrown their cornflakes at it over breakfast because they thought it was scary,” she told the Guardian. “And the crew had made the damage worse by wiping them off the painting.”

In response, Mather-Lees started offering a specialized course (which costs €295 per day) for yacht crew members. Crews are often well-equipped to deal with an array nautical situations, but not art conservation. In the case of her client, the crew “had no idea [the Basquiat] was worth many millions,” she told the paper. “Now the rich are increasingly bringing their art collections on board their yachts and it’s vital that captains and crew know how to care for these pieces.”

Yachts don’t have to be hostile environments for art, however. “Something people always say to me is ‘why on earth would you carry art on yachts?’” National Maritime Museum conservator Helen Robertson told the Guardian. Modern superyachts are packed with technology and “can be very controllable. Systems for temperature and humidity can surpass those you would find in galleries.”

Henri Neuendorf, February 4, 2019

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Florence Knoll Bassett, Pioneer of American Office Design, Dies at 101

American designer Florence Knoll Bassett passed away on January 25, 2018 in Coral Cables, Florida. She was 101.

David E. Bright, spokesman for Knoll Inc., announced her passing. Knoll Bassett and her husband Hans Knoll ran the company for many years together, beginning in the 1940s. She had a large hand in the creative vision of Knoll, started the Knoll Planning Unit, and directed the design of the company’s iconic furniture, textiles, and graphics.

Knoll Bassett studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and collaborated with Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Girard, among others, during a pivotal time in the development of American Modern design.

“We’re like art dealers,” Knoll Bassett said of discovering new designers for Knoll. “We want fresh, original work. And we want it from anyone who can produce it.”

In 1961, Knoll Bassett became the first woman recipient of the Gold Medal for Industrial Design from AIA. In 2003, she received the highest award for artistic excellence in America, the National Medal of Arts.

By Kristie Garrell

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The Cocktail Napkin Sketch

Designers are creative beings who can easily find inspiration at any moment. A napkin sketch is an elemental expression of thought. Napkin sketches have been a go-to companion for those who find spur of the moment inspiration allowing for the exploration of thoughts and ideas with their hands. You can express primal feelings, a memory, even a philosophy. It’s a telling exercise about how people think, what is important to them, and the spirit of their thoughts.

Sketches also promote the sharing of ideas at a pure, conceptual level without becoming mired in detail and specifics. And this sketch represents my thoughts of a series of brightly stuccoed walls and canopy for a public garden. A pedestrian can walk between and around the walls and seek refuge from rain beneath the canopy.

Napkin Sketch

Napkin Sketch

Remodeling Spending Gains Falling Back to Average

By the end of 2019, remodeling spending in the U.S. is expected to slow down to a 5.1 percent annual growth rate, down 2.4 percent from 2018’s rate.

The data come from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University's (JCHS) latest release of Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA). Chris Herbert, JCHS managing director, said in a statement, “Slowing house price appreciation, flat home sales activity, and rising mortgage interest rates are deflating owners’ interest in making major investments in home improvements this year,” adding, “Continued slowdowns in home building, sales of building materials, and remodeling permits all point to a more challenging environment for home remodeling in 2019.”

“Despite the growing headwinds, improvement and repair spending is still set to expand this year to over $350 billion,” says Abbe Will, Associate Project Director in the Remodeling Futures Program at JCHS. “But after several years of stronger-than-average increases, the pace of growth in remodeling activity is expected to fall back to the market’s historical average annual gain of 5.2 percent.”

Industry Data + Research

Contemporary Shed Dormers on Colonial Home

Contemporary Shed Dormers on Colonial Home