Buddy System Benton Harbor, Mich.–based appliance giant Whirlpool Corp., which manufactures the Whirlpool and KitchenAid brands, has completed its $1.7 billion acquisition of Maytag Corp., the Iowa-based company whose brands include Maytag, Jenn-Air, Amana, and Jade. It remains to be seen what effect the merger will have on the appliances category, but Whirlpool says that the union will create substantial benefits for consumers and trade customers. The company plans to provide more-detailed information about its Maytag plans later this year.—N.F. Maynard

LEED by Example The U.S. Green Building Council is looking to take its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards to the next level. An expanded rating system for whole neighborhoods is set to launch in 2008, integrating principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building. Developed in partnership with the Congress for New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the LEED for Neighborhood Developments (LEED-ND) rating system will focus on issues such as energy efficiency, water conservation, walkability, and vehicle reduction. A pilot rating system is currently under way.—J. Sullivan

BIG DEALS Modular Mover Champion Enterprises, a manufactured home production leader, announced March 31 that it acquired Worthington, Minn.–based Highland Manufacturing Co. in a deal valued at $23 million in cash. Highland produces manufactured and modular homes and is expected to gross $32 million in 2006 sales. The purchase should help Champion further its expansion into the modular market.—M. Mariani

Water Study A new study by the EPA and six water districts in the West and three in the South seeks to find out how much water new homes consume. The $530,000 study will look at water usage by collecting data from billing records, surveys, and meter measurement of usage signifying faucet, clothes washer, toilet, and other household uses. The EPA will invest $350,000, with the other agencies contributing $20,000 each. The study will take place over 33 months.—S. Zurier


One Coat In April, Pulte Homes inked a five-year supply agreement with Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams, which will now be Pulte's exclusive supplier of paint products. Despite the very specific preferences that paint contractors can have for certain brands, Sherwin-Williams—the largest paint company in the United States, with 3,000-plus locations and 1,800 field reps—has struck national purchasing agreements with several large builders. Mark Henderson, its director of national strategic accounts, tells BUILDER that Pulte wants its contractors to use higher-quality paint, which Pulte believes could help maintain its J.D. Power and Associates customer satisfaction scores nationwide.—J. Caulfield

Lab Work California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, has broken ground on a new Center for Construction Excellence. The 58,000-square-foot complex, slated for completion in mid-2008, will include a one-of-a-kind materials demonstration lab for interdisciplinary training in building components. Other labs will focus on such areas as fundamentals of construction management and residential construction. The center is part of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.—P. Curry

Boom and Bust Almost one-third of the nation's 361 metropolitan areas have seen declines in their white populations this decade as minorities bring ethnic and racial diversity to vast sections of the United States, USA Today reports. Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are going where the jobs are. As a result, they are driving population increases in the fastest-growing areas, including Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas. Meanwhile, white populations declined in 111 metro areas, including New York and San Francisco.—N.F.M.

Accessible to All Moline, Ill.–based architect Charles Schwab has self-published a home plans book with an eye toward universal design. Recognizing the needs of people with disabilities and an aging population, the 102 floor plans address such issues as space needs, home automation, and air quality. Visit www.universaldesignonline.com for details.—J.S.