Blogs > Sara Gutterman > June 2012

Design for the Decade

While much smaller than previous years, the Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in San Francisco has had a vibrant vibe this week. Yesterday, I attended the keynote luncheon, which featured a panel discussion between Peter Orser, President of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company; Steven J. Hilton, Chairman & CEO of Meritage Home; and Sheryl Palmer, President & CEO of Taylor Morrison about design trends for the next decade. While the three leaders clearly had differing growth strategies, they each confirmed their optimism about the future of the building industry.

According to the panelists, the main design trends that will influence the production building market as the industry grows out of the recession include:

1) Demographics will drive design, with the active adult community leading the charge. Multifamily designs are also influencing certain markets, with first-generation American families—who have a tendency to keep their family close—demanding multiple master suites, living, and cooking areas.
2) Energy efficiency will continue to differentiate new from existing homes as consumers remain on a quest for cost savings on monthly energy bills. All three builders agree that energy ratings, scores, and ‘miles per gallon’-type labels will become more prevalent as the drive for net-zero energy buildings intensifies.
3) Personalization of new homes will expand, providing a new way for builders to create a competitive advantage. The builders agreed that, while major customization options like moving walls will remain limited, they will offer homebuyers greater choice in areas such as product selection and flexible spaces.
4) New homes won’t get much bigger—in most markets. The three builders agreed that many homebuyers are focused on quality rather than quantity, and that many markets are downsizing. However, they panelists did affirm that in some markets (such as Texas), there is actually an increased demand for large square footage.
5) New homes will get greener—eventually. Unsurprisingly, the builders affirmed that energy continues to be the leading green topic on homeowners’ minds, followed closely by indoor air quality and then water. Orser astutely commented that ‘being green is about what kind of builder you are’, and that homeowners equate green business practices with a high level of corporate ethics.
6) New homes will grow smarter. All three builders confirmed that they will be implementing whole home automation and controls that enable products to interact with each other as well as with the utility, reducing resource use and taking human error out of operating a home.
7) Location will drive design, with contemporary designs becoming more prevalent across the country.
8) Buyers will still look for comfort, convenience, and safety. At the end of the day, builders can’t get too far away from what consumers perceive to be the greatest attributes of homeownership.

The three builders also agreed that the American Dream of homeownership has not diminished, but that people want it later in life.

What do you think about these design trends? Write to me at, follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @greenbuildermag and @VISIONHouseGBM for regular updates and breaking news.



Posted: 6/28/2012 12:29:21 PM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

From Revelation to Revolution

As I reflect on the world around me, I observe extreme polarities. I am awed by the incredible feats of science, medicine, and technology that miraculously address the challenges of our time. I am elated by nations that are galvanized by the desire to create a better future, as well as random acts of kindness performed by people everywhere.

I am distraught by the environmental catastrophes, unstoppable greed, paralysis of governments, and ferocious hatred of terrorists who kill blindly in the name of God. I am saddened by the neglect of our children and the disregard for small creatures of the earth. I am distraught by the people who have become crippled by complacency and fettered by fear.

While I remain highly optimistic about the future, I can’t deny that our global community is dealing with environmental issues in a manner that seems more like a high-stakes game of Russian roulette rather than a deliberate, integrated strategy. From the inept responses to the natural disasters that have afflicted us, to the political warfare that has been waged over comprehensive energy and climate strategies, we just can’t seem to get it right.

Oberlin College professor David Orr writes, “Imagine a tribunal of all species sitting in judgment over Homo sapiens charged to rule on our fitness to remain on Earth based on our behavior over the past ten thousand years. How we would we judged? Other than the votes of the cockroaches, crows, and any number of viruses, the motion to evict us would win by a large margin.”

In a world where even the concept of hope has become politicized, how can the average person implement real change? How can we break through an outdated, ineffective mold that was created decades ago but no longer is applicable for our industry, our economy, or our natural world? How do we turn change from something scary into something aspirational and achievable? And perhaps most importantly, how do we create a language that allows us to effectively communicate not just to those who are aligned with us, but also to those who hold different truths?

At times, it feels easier to stick our head in the sand rather than take action. But inaction is simply not an acceptable answer. Dissention is the key to change—it paves the way to innovation, transformation, and renovation. To break through our paralysis, we must overcome our fear of change, even though leadership often comes at a high price.

We all strive to live meaningfully. But that’s not enough anymore. A truly sustainable life involves more—it requires the revelation that we are a part of a natural community for which we hold an undeniable responsibility. How we live, what we produce and consume, and how we treat the creatures and ecosystems around us are not negligible choices. Rather, they determine the condition of our world.

Have ideas about how we can jump into a sustainable future? Write to me at, follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @greenbuildermag and @VISIONHouseGBM for regular updates and breaking news.

Posted: 6/14/2012 12:03:33 PM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

How Can You Resist?

Green Chix: Cute Name, Serious Commitment. That’s what we call the social media initiative that Green Builder® Media has created in conjunction with some of our best business partners. Clearly targeted at women, Green Chix empowers people with information about sustainable living so that they can make enlightened, environmentally responsible decisions and influence their families, friends, and communities to do the same. After all, the incremental improvements that we make every day can lead to exponential results!

Confident, smart and inspired, Green Chix are teachers, activists, business leaders, mothers and philosophers, infused with the power of nature to bring about positive change to a world in turmoil. Our goal is to inspire ideas and facilitate conversations that lead to long-term, positive, sustainable transformation.

Each month, a different Green Chix “mentor” focuses on a specific topic, such as water or living small, and provides suggestions for sustainable lifestyle choices.

This month, our friends at New Ground PR and Marketing are tackling the topic of sustainable food and beverage options. Since we truly are what we eat, this is one topic that I find simply irresistible.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan said that, “the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world. Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds.”

I look forward not only to learning more this month about farm-to-table and farm-to-glass ways to green my summer spreads (be sure to check out the Green Chix blog about organic vodkas that will make your bar offerings more environmentally friendly), but also about how organic, local, slow, and intentionally prepared food and drink can affect the way I interact with the world around me.

Eager to learn more about our favorite environmentally friendly food and drink choices? Check the Green Chix Facebook page and blog throughout the month for a mouth-watering journey!

What are your favorite green foods and beverages? Write to me at, follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @greenbuildermag and @VISIONHouseGBM for regular updates and breaking news.

Posted: 6/7/2012 12:36:48 PM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

About Me


Sara is the Co-Founder and CEO of Green Builder Media.  An experienced entrepreneur, investor, and sustainability consultant, Sara specializes in developing companies that are simultaneously sustainable and profitable.  Sara is a former venture capitalist and has participated in a portion of the life cycle (from funding to exit) of over 20 companies.  Sara graduated Cum Laude from Dartmouth College and holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and finance from the University of Colorado.




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