By Iris Richmond.

Condo Relief

The passage of defect legislation in California brings welcome change to the state's construction-dispute laws, long the affliction of the condo market. The new law, dubbed the "fix it" plan, mandates the builder's right to repair a construction defect before a lawsuit can be filed. If the outcome of a repair proves unfavorable to the homeowner, claims may still be filed, but only for the cost of the repair. The new law took effect August 31. California built 56,000 condos and townhomes last year, an 84-percent decline over the past seven years, reports the California Building Industry Association in Sacremento.

The key reforms of the law:

  • Give builders absolute right to repair
  • Set higher construction standards for newly built homes
  • Assign maintenance duties to homeowners and repair duties to home builders
  • Ensure opportunities to resolve disputes as a way to curtail lawsuits
  • Clearly define a construction defect.
  • Correction

    We inadvertently misstated the name of an interior design and merchandising firm in Pacific Palisades, Calif., in our August 2002 issue (" Design Dialogue"). The company's correct name is Color Design Art. Its Web site is We regret the error.

    Light Show

    Builders may find it's time to change their models' light bulbs. For about a dollar more than a standard bulb, GE Lighting offers Reveal, specially made to filter out yellow rays and produce cleaner, whiter light. It makes deacute;cor and colors look more vivid, says the company, and is Energy Star approved. GE has launched an "online lighting auditor" to help consumers and businesses find ways to reduce total energy bills. Three audit versions ? one each for businesses, homes, and schools ? are available at

    Industry Movers and Shakers

    Scott Stowell, Southern California regional president, Standard Pacific Homes Standard Pacific Homes has promoted Scott Stowell to the newly established position of Southern California regional president. The former Orange County division president has been with the company, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., for 18 years. Todd Palmer, former president of the San Diego division, succeeds Stowell, and Brian Utsler, former vice president of land acquisition for the San Diego division, becomes division manager. James O'Leary joins Beazer Homes USA as executive vice president of corporate development, a new title added to the management team. Prior to working at Beazer, based in Atlanta, O'Leary served as chairman and CEO of LCA Group, a lighting division of U.S. Industries in Iselin, N.J., and a spin-off of the British conglomerate Hanson PLC.

    WL Homes has named Robin Koenemann vice president of operations for its Luxury Group division, which builds under the John Laing Homes name. Koenemann, a veteran home builder with 20 years of experience, spent the past 10 years working for Capital Pacific Homes, like WL Homes, based in Newport Beach, Calif.

    Colony Homes has appointed Kenneth Alan Corbitt Charlotte division president. Corbitt first joined the company, based in Woodstock, Ga., in 1989 as an estimator, and most recently served as operations manager for the builder's Atlanta division.

    Personnel changes? E-mail iris richmond at:

    Sweet Connections

    About 42 percent of U.S. households ? some 25 million of them ? are inclined to buy a "connected" home to enhance their quality of life, according to the Internet Home Alliance. Data on this group of consumers have been sliced and diced in new research by the cross-industry, nonprofit alliance, whose members, all involved in the home technology market, include Best Buy, Cisco Systems, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Invensys, Panasonic, Sears, Sun Microsystems, and Whirlpool.

    Among the alliance's findings:

  • The demographic sweet spot, or "Nuclei" households, tend to be headed by two working professionals who earn a combined $75,000 or more and have bachelor's degrees or higher and at least two children, one of whom is between 14 and 18 years of age.
  • Nuclei value the connected home mainly for its potential to allow more family time by streamlining routine tasks.
  • More than half of the group said a series of interconnected kitchen appliances that could deliver a complete meal was "very appealing."
  • Concerns about online security are the key barrier to buying a connected home.
  • Nuclei would pay $3,000 on average to set up a connected home
  • . The alliance's white paper, "U.S. Connected Home Market Study," is available for $500 at ? Roberta Maynard

    Schools Get Smarter

    TurnKey Schools of America works with developers and builders to negotiate with school districts and then build what it calls SmartSchools in new California communities ("Builder ABCs"). The schools' smart features include strategic classroom lighting, 50 percent more electrical outlets, and high-speed Internet access in every classroom. Based in Temecula, Calif., TurnKey has worked with The Forecast Group and recently broke ground on a school in Chapman Heights, a master planned community in Yucaipa, Calif. Community Southwest, the project's Phoenix-based developer, opted to contract with TurnKey because a marque school, weighed against the impact fees, is the better deal, says Community Southwest vice president Jonathan Weldy. Visit for more details.

    Spigot Strategy

    Delta Faucet's goal is to generate 25 percent of all its sales from new products ? an increase of more than 10 percent, says Joe Hudock, brand marketing manager. To make it happen, construction has begun on a 27,000-square-foot finishing facility in Greensburg, Ind. The plant will provide space for Delta's staff to devote itself to the development of new products. The facility should be completed by next April. Additionally, the Indianapolis-based company is building a 250,000-square-foot central distribution center at its manufacturing plant in Jackson, Tenn. Scheduled to be up and running by May, the center is meant to increase shipping efficiency, Delta says.

    Champion Shuts Shops

    Champion Enterprises has taken action sooner rather than later to ensure its viability during the manufactured housing industry's prolonged downturn. Fifteen percent of the Auburn Hills, Mich., company's home building facilities and 35 percent of its retail sales centers are being either closed or consolidated. Employee reductions, including 20 corporate layoffs, have totaled roughly 1,500 people, or 15 percent of Champion's work force. This drops the company's store count to 117 locations and the total closed since June 2000 to 196, or 63 percent. BB&T Capital Markets equity analyst John Diffendal describes the cuts as "right and justifiable," in Champion's effort to stem expected losses. Published in BIG BUILDER Magazine, October 2002