Arthur Rutenberg, the 80-year-old chairman of Arthur Rutenberg Homes, has been going strong since 1953 when he started building $10,000 two-bedroom homes in Clearwater, Fla. A co-founder of US Home, now part of Lennar Corp., Rutenberg pioneered franchising in the building industry. Today, his company works with 31 independently owned builders in 35 Florida counties and in Georgia and South Carolina. A design visionary as well, Rutenberg is credited with introducing the split-bedroom floor plan, separating the master bedroom from all other bedrooms. He also developed the open Florida floor plan that centralizes the kitchen. Rutenberg still has a hand in the company’s operations, approving every new floor plan developed by the in-house design department. Builder talked to Rutenberg about the industry’s future.
Q: What can builders learn from the past to take with them into the future?
A: Be more conservative in loading up on land and specs during the next boom. Every boom is followed by a corresponding correction, and the stronger the boom the harder the fall when the music stops.
Q: Where will the next generation prefer to live: urban, suburban, new urbanist, or planned communities?
A: As long as they can be supported by new roads and schools, traditional families will continue to move to the suburbs. Urban living for singles and couples without children gets more attractive in proportion to the lifestyle opportunities builders offer.
Q: How will houses change in the future?
A: Homes will continue to be larger over time, even though the current short-term trend will be smaller. Technology will be increasingly important, although slowly. In my first homes in 1953, the only appliance was a water heater. High-tech was keying the front door and carport entry door alike. The green movement has legs but needs to be cost-effective to sell well. Traditional and classic designs will continue to grab people.