SPECIAL REPORT: Change Will Ride Industry into Next Wave of Prosperity

By Anuradha Kher, Online News Editor San Francisco–The Pacific Coast Builders Show 2008 (PCBC) opened here on June 25 with developers, contractors and architects coming together to find solutions to the problems currently facing the real estate industry.Whether it was former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s keynote speech, which emphasized the need for seeking out new opportunities, or author Malcolm Gladwell’s session on how judgment will play a crucial part in the industry turning itself around, the underlying message to troubled developers was that they need to change. “Now is the time you need to seize those opportunities,” said Fiorina. “Innovation is the only way a company can stay on top of their game. Forget about your financial statements–they are like looking in the rear view mirror. You need to look at customer satisfaction and the rate of innovation. That is how you should be assessing where your company is going, where it needs to go.”Gladwell advised companies to make sound judgments in this challenging time by taking away some of the information to which they have access. “Choose a few important variables and make decisions based on them,” he said.Several speakers at other sessions talked about how it can no longer be “business as usual.””Gas prices will change where people want to live, how they want to live,” said Carina Hathaway, vice president, sales and marketing of Brookfield Homes. “People are now choosing homes on the basis of their needs and not wants.”The other most obvious buzzword at the conference was green building, chosen as the topic of discussion of at least half a dozen sessions. From Green Building for Dummies to How to build Green Affordable Housing, there was no dearth of information for those looking to get a “green” education.”Buildings represent 48 percent of our total energy consumption, of which 20 percent is contributed by residential buildings,” said Abe Cubano, buildings research engineer, Consol. “Green is not only sustainable, it is also profitable and it is now on a scale where it can be built for everyone.”Cubano also pointed out that smaller utility bills enable people to be able to pay their mortgages more comfortably. “This is especially relevant in affordable housing,” he said.A builder needs to build smart, fast and right, Marlin Alvis, builder, Alvis Projects said. “Planning is everything, and consider building with modular components,” he said.How developers can jump the hurdles on the way to going green: •       Arm yourself with convincing data •       Pre-plan check meetings with building officials •       Request assistance from senior building department staff and if necessary, go higher •       Educate people on the fact that green buildings do not cost more •       Find a contractor who is willing and enthusiastic about building green