The Minnesota homebuilding market was strong in 2016 and shows no plans to slow down this year as it continues to meet buyers' needs. 

For the past four months, homebuilding activity continues to break 10-year old permit number records in Minnesota. Total permits are up nearly 30 percent from this same period in 2016, while units are up nearly 50 percent compared to last year, according to the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC). The boost can be credited to both single-family and multifamily construction showing production growth, with single-family units up 27 percent compared to 2016 and multifamily units are up 88 percent. BATC notes that 2016 was the best year for the area’s home construction in a decade, so this progress in 2017 is positive.

“We’ve heard great reports of high traffic during our Spring Parade of Homes and that more homebuyers are looking to find their dream home in the community they love,” says Bob Michels, BATC 2017 president. “A healthy housing market includes a variety of options to meet the needs of homebuyers. With resale home inventory tight, we expect to see new construction continue to pick up the pace to meet the demand for housing.”


An international roster of builders and designers are working to bring necessary lodging to two health centers in Tanzania. 

The United Republic of Tanzania has some of the highest rates of cervical and breast cancer in the world, yet even after the anticipated completion of a cancer hospital at Bugando Medical Centre (BMC) in Mwanza, the nation’s second-largest city, the specialized services needed to treat them will be available at only two hospitals in this country of 49 million people. In Dar es Salaam, Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) treats close to 10,000 women each year for cervical and breast cancer, 60 percent of whom live outside the capital.

Despite the services available now at OCRI and soon at BMC, many women diagnosed with cancer do not seek care, or drop out once they have started. Most will die at home. The reason? They simply live too far from the hospitals, and have no safe and affordable place to live between sessions of their cancer treatment.


Boston has found a way to increase its amount of new housing in an innovative and cost-efficient manner. 

Many cities are not only short on housing, but developers aren’t anxious to make major, costly investments, especially when a quick return on investment isn’t exactly guaranteed. Boston is working to help solve these two issues and more with the creation of a new urban housing unit, an innovation from Mod-Tech Homes LLC.

Working with Boston-based designer Addison Godine, Marshfield, Mass.-based Mod-Tech Homes produced an urban housing unit that is available to developers and investors looking to provide housing units along Massachusetts’ transit regions. The custom-designed 13.5-feet-by-33-feet, 380-square-foot prototype was part of Mayor Marty Walsh’s Housing Innovation Lab (HIL) that was showcased at Boston’s City Hall Plaza before embarking on a three-month tour, which saw the apartment “on wheels” transported throughout various Boston neighborhoods. It is part of the mayor’s initiative to build 53,000 new housing units in Boston by the year 2030.


The skills gap creates challenges for construction firms, but opportunities for workers. By Terry McDonough

Even as construction spending is on the rise in the U.S., the construction industry, like many others, is facing a significant challenge: a growing industry skills gap.

In fact, the challenge facing the construction industry might be even more acute than the skills gaps confronting others. The ripple effect of the construction industry skills gap includes altering the way some firms do business, as well as project delays and price increases for many of the businesses and consumers relying upon them.

A 2015 survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found that 86 percent of nearly 1,400 firms surveyed were having difficulty filling available positions. The survey found that carpenters, sheet metal installers, concrete workers, project managers and supervisors were particularly hard to find.

The AGC survey also found that the labor shortages are changing the way some construction industry employers do business, leading some to raise wages or rely more heavily on subcontractors or temporary labor firms. A particularly troubling finding was that some construction industry companies felt the labor shortages had the potential to put worker safety at risk.


Upstate New York is booming, and builders are finding opportunities in a wide range of projects. By Staci Davidson

The New York State housing market set sales records in 2016, increasing by at least 10 percent over 2015. The state’s realtors’ association attributes this to a strong economy, high demand and low mortgage rates. The housing market in New York City always gets a lot of attention, but builders in Upstate New York are also doing all they can to keep up with demand while maintaining high-quality standards. Many in the state are working to maintain that demand by expanding the first-time homebuyer incentive.

There is progress throughout New York in the construction of single-family homes, custom homes, multifamily developments and mixed-use properties. For example, in late 2016, the $24.4 million Ebenezer Square apartments opened in West Seneca. The mixed-use development replaces a long vacant big box store and offers 25 affordable apartments integrated with a 75-unit licensed residential program serving individuals with behavioral health concerns. 

"These strategic investments help support some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers by ensuring they have access to a safe and decent place to call home," Governor Cuomo said. "This project brings together affordable housing alongside supportive residential programs, creating a truly integrated community that will foster recovery and independence."



Trumark Communities’ Wallis Ranch is being recognized for the high-quality design and construction of the masterplanned community. 

The San Francisco Bay Area continues to be a hot housing market, and Trumark Communities is dedicated to responding to that demand with high-quality homes and communities. In fact, the company’s Wallis Ranch was named "Master Planned Community of the Year" by the 2017 National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) Annual Sales & Marketing Awards presented by NAHB's National Sales and Marketing Council. Honoring the best in new home sales, marketing and design, The NationalsSM are part of the NAHB's annual International Builders' Show. In addition to being recognized as Master Planned Community of the Year, Wallis Ranch was honored with the designation of Best Microsite/Website for a Community.

"We are extremely proud of this important distinction from such a prestigious industry organization. It's a true testament to the work of everyone involved in bringing Wallis Ranch to life – from the design and construction teams to sales personnel and our extraordinary builders," says Peter Kiesecker, COO of Trumark Communities. "We are confident that there will be no other community quite like Wallis Ranch and we're excited to have already begun welcoming our first residents to their new home."

Located in Dublin, Calif., Wallis Ranch is comprised of seven of the nation's most esteemed builders by master developer Trumark Communities. With sales in full swing, Wallis Ranch will introduce 806 new homes upon full buildout. Most recently, Trumark Communities debuted Dublin's first resort-inspired community gathering place at Wallis Ranch called the Kindred House, which boasts more than 17,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor amenity spaces dedicated to relaxation, fitness, meetings, dining and entertainment, as well as 16 model homes available for tour.

Builder and Developer magazine also recently named Wallis Ranch as the "Community of the Year" for 2016, noting its impressive amenities, design features and location.

The 184-acre Wallis Ranch master planned development includes eight distinct neighborhoods featuring single-family detached homes, townhomes and executive homes ranging from 1,700 to 4,100 square feet. Upon full buildout, Wallis Ranch will deliver 806 new homes to a region that has seen a significant boost in housing demand as a result of the thriving San Francisco Bay market located less than 40 miles away.

Trumark Communities has dedicated more than half of the master plan's acreage to green space programing, including parks, open space and a water-quality basin to create a tranquil enclave that appeals to Bay Area residents' active lifestyles. Wallis Ranch will also include a three-acre common area featuring a fitness center, pool, spa and BBQ area, surrounded by more than one mile of trail systems. With the California drought top of mind, Trumark is incorporating drought-tolerant landscaping that will use all reclaimed water throughout the community.


Brookfield Residential partnered with Amazon to create a next-generation smart home. 

Fairfax, Va.-based Brookfield Residential is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the communities in which it operates through innovative, stylish and contemporary designs. One of the company’s recent innovations is to create a smart home powered by the Amazon Alexa personal assistant system.

The Brookfield Residential Smart Home, built in close collaboration with Amazon, integrates voice-enabled automation, incorporating the best-selling Alexa platform. Created by the team in the homebuilder’s Washington, D.C., division, the smart home is open daily for tours in the Avendale community in Northern Virginia. Home shoppers can see for themselves how this technology can make life easier and more convenient.

“This is how we’re all going to live,” says Robert Hubbell, Brookfield division president. “There’s no reason to wait. We couldn’t be more thrilled to offer voice-enabled automation to our homebuyers at many of our new communities.”

A walk through the Brookfield Residential Smart Home reveals a variety of extremely useful technologies triggered by the spoken word. With just their voices, homeowners can:

  • Check the security camera
  • Lock the door
  • Turn on lights
  • Raise the shades
  • Water the lawn
  • Pre-heat the oven
  • Change the thermostat
  • Play their favorite music

Brookfield also created custom capabilities, where a single command triggers multiple actions. In the owner’s bathroom suite, for example, the command “Alexa, Turn on Relax” prompts The Smart Home to lower the shades, dim the overhead lights, illuminate a star panel on the ceiling and play soothing spa music. The Smart Home also allows homeowners to schedule reminders and works in tandem with other Wi-fi-enabled appliances.

Brookfield Residential’s D.C. division has earned a reputation for innovating through a series of forward-thinking concept homes and technology-driven initiatives.

“This is the most technologically advanced home that we’ve ever built,” Hubbell says. “But this is only the beginning.”

Brookfield Residential Properties Inc., opened its Washington, D.C., division in 1984. Offering an array of home styles, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and active-adult residences, Brookfield Residential understands how families live today. The homebuilder is dedicated to creating communities near great schools and amenities, and building homes with current designs. 


Efforts from University of Michigan students and a local design/build contractor are bringing a green home prototype to life. 

Many homeowners are interested in living simply and having a sustainably built home, but to truly achieve those goals, many homes need to be custom built. That often comes at a high price, but the Michigan Solar House (MiSo) aims to create an environmentally friendly prototype capable of being mass-produced and customized for owners.

The Michigan Solar House is an innovative 660-square foot, solar-powered home collaboratively designed and built by an interdisciplinary team of architecture students and faculty from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at The University of Michigan for the 2005 Solar Decathlon, in Washington, D.C.

Employing passive energy methods with the aim of net zero-energy consumption, the structure is fed by solar power and heating. Conceptually, like an automobile, MiSo was envisioned as a residential module that could be universal, autonomous and easily transported around the globe.

Ann Arbor-based Meadowlark Design + Build, an award-winning residential design/build construction company, is restoring MiSo to a permanent residence for its new owners, Lisa and Matt Gunneson, who bought the iconic home at auction. In late January, Meadowlark assisted in moving the MiSo to the Gunneson's property in Evart, Mich.

During the past 10 years, the house has been used as an exhibit at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Mich. The house went to auction in October 2016, and the Gunnesons placed the winning bid. 

"We have an emotional connection to the MiSo, as Matt and I had our first date at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, and were married there in 2015," says Lisa Gunneson, a natural health therapist and educator. "When we heard the solar home was up for auction, we put in a bid because we really want to live a simple, self-sufficient kind of life."

The Meadowlark team is now working to provide for a net-zero impact home. The Gunnesons hope to be living in the house by spring.

"This is a one-of-a-kind home, and our expertise in sustainable construction will help ensure the Gunnesons transport and restore the home exactly to their specifications," says Doug Selby, CEO of Meadowlark Design + Build. "It's also a labor of love, as two of our staff members, Jen Hinesman and Melissa Kennedy, were part of the University of Michigan team that created the MiSo back in 2005."

Moving to a net-zero home would normally be a challenging process, but this structure is unique in that it was purposely built to be sustainable in a variety of environments. The house is modular in nature, making it somewhat portable. It's the original “tiny house” concept without the need for any additional power inputs to be fully operational.

The house captures solar energy from both photovoltaic and solar-thermal systems, and converts it to hot water for the radiant floors and electricity, which powers all energy-dependent elements including appliances, lighting and pumps. The frame is made of aluminum to help cool the home in the summer.

Check out our latest Edition!

Subscribe for free

staci blog mhb

Contact Us

Modern Home Builder Magazine
150 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60601


Click here for a full list of contacts.

Latest Edition

Spread The Love

Back To Top