It’s dirty work but…

first_img Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Howcan companies recruit and retain staff for the sort of jobs no-one else wants?We look at some of the solutions that firms have come up withEverynow and then, a company or organisation needs to employ a very special person.They may not be highly qualified, have remarkable skills or a great deal ofexperience, but they have a certain approach and attitude which marks them outfrom the crowd. They are, in short, someone who will do the job that no-oneelse will.Insome areas of employment, however, this is an everyday requirement. The serviceindustry has a whole host of jobs with a less than attractive image ñ an imagewhich more often than not is completely justified by the reality. Cleaning pestinfestations, dealing with sewage or hygiene waste, even working with death ispart of the daily routine for many people. How can these people be employedeffectively in a way which means they will perform well and remain within theorganisation, contributing their skills over the long term?Inmany cases the answer is that people employed in this kind of work are notproperly managed ñ and in some cases they are not managed at all. They work insmall firms, or even one man bands, motivated by their own enterprise or simplybecause they are working alongside family and friends.Inlarger organisations the potential to implement strategic approaches to peoplemanagement does exist. Financial remuneration is only part of the equationhere, and it must be said not a significant one. Workers in these roles rarelyenjoy high levels of pay and competition within the sector keeps those levelsfirmly in check. Itcan be difficult to create meaningful incentive schemes or to illustratepossible career development for those at the very bottom of the ladder. Yetsome employers offer good HR practices which recruit, retain and motivate theiremployees in spite of the working environment. The jobs and methods follow:Funeraldirectors and embalmersThefuneral director’s work usually begins with a phone call notifying them of thedeceased and can extend past the cremation or burial service as they offercontinuing support to mourners. On call 24 hours a day, they are responsiblefor arranging all parts of the funeral service including transport, cremationand burial as well as aspects of the remembrance service. According to DelmaYorath, funeral services controller for United Northwest Co-operative, funeraldirectors frequently have to make suggestions for aspects of the service whichthe mourners themselves may not consider. “Thereis a slow move away from the traditional funeral towards something that is morepersonal ñ particularly in the choice of music,” explains Yorath. For thisa funeral director receives, on average, between £200 and £250 per week.Aspectsof the work do require some technical expertise. Legally, embalming does notrequire a qualification but United Northwest Co-operative offers full trainingñ which takes over two years. More general training is provided for employeesacross the business, in part to integrate the business aspect of theorganisation alongside day-to-day work.Butcertain events can never be covered by a training scheme. Children’s funeralscan be particularly distressing, more so if the funeral director has children.Since the directors are part of the local community they serve they can find itdifficult to maintain the distance required for dealing with these cases. Forthis reason, directors are given the option of passing responsibility fordistressing services to a colleague if they require.”Weare looking for people with a broad base of skills,” says Yorath,”They are clerical people but need to have an empathetic nature. They needto be very organised and disciplined to make sure all the deadlines connectedwith the service are met.” However, according to Yorath, finding theseemployees is not a great problem. “Many of our people regard working inthis area as a vocation rather than a job,” she explains. That said, theorganisation has done well at breaking down the traditional view of who can bea funeral director. It has successfully advertised opportunities to youngerpeople and currently between 30 to 35 per cent of its 600 staff are female. “Generallywe can gauge whether employees will stay with us after they have been workingfor us for a while,” says Yorath. “If they stay with us for 12 monthswe have usually got them for life.”RefusecollectionRobEdmondson is operations controller, south of England, for Service Team. Amongits contracts, the company is responsible for delivering refuse collection andstreet cleansing services in areas ranging from Camden in London toRedruth in Cornwall. According to Edmondson, refuse workers are employed in avariety of specific positions ñ as street cleaners, drivers, loaders and inspecialist areas such as sorting and recycling.Concentratingon the street cleansing and refuse collection services, he admits the work islimited in scope and is certainly not for everyone. “They are out in allweathers, working eight hours a day and it is not glamourous,” he says.With drivers receiving around £350 a week, loaders and street cleansers between£225 and £300 a week it is difficult to see how pay can provide a greatincentive.ButService Team has created an incentive structure by offering vocationalqualifications. Edmondsonsays while most employees are brought in at refuse collection level, they areencouraged to train in other aspects of service delivery such as driving lightand heavy goods vehicles ñ qualifications which increase their earningpotential. In Camden, the company has successfully put four employees throughNVQ at Levels 1 and 2 in refuse operations and waste management.Thecompany took responsibility for refuse services in Hackney at a time when thestandard of street cleaning in the area was very low. It has succeeded inturning around this operation while retaining the previous refuse staff.”One of the key things was to put in a strong and coordinated managementteam,” explains Edmondson. “It was able to change the way work wasallocated to people and to look at the methodology. It has produced a stepchange in the standard of cleaning.”ServiceTeam has seen turnover rise from £60m to £150m in the past year and it has beenacquired by Cleanaway Europe. Its success stems in part from its ability togive employees a sense of pride in their work. Individual street operatives,for example, are given specific and regular areas to clean, furthering theirsense of responsibility and impact they can have. InNorfolk the company has even taken on a team of female bin collectors who areclearly proud of their role within the community. Lastly, as part of being anIIP organisation, every Service Team employee has the chance to discuss theirrole in the company with their manager twice a year.Pestcontrol and hygienePestcontrol and hygiene services must be one of the least attractive of alloccupations. On the pest control side, operatives are unable to predict how badthe working conditions will be. Whatever the infestation, cockroaches, rats,birds or fleas, workers are usually called upon to clean and remove the problemrather than taking on the more attractive task of preventing infestation in thefirst place.Inhygiene services, operatives are employed on tasks such as exchanging femininehygiene containers on site, or emptying these containers and dealing with thecontents. In general there is little chance of variety in this work withdrivers being dedicated only to collection and exchange and other techniciansdedicated to emptying the containers andprocessing the waste. An unattractive job can be made no better by staff  finding themselves looked down upon or evenmistreated by clients on site.Accordingto one spokesman from the industry, the work is typified by low wages ñemployees receive around £9,000 to £11,000 per year ñ high staff turnover and,in the area of waste removal, little in the way of incentives or training.”There is an argument that if salaries were increased then people wouldput up with this type of work for longer, but the problem is really the culturethat goes with the industry,” says the spokesman.However,in the area of pest control, Rentokil-Initial has succeeded in bucking thistrend. According to Rentokil-Initial spokesman, Jeff Roberts, it has fewproblems in recruiting or retaining employees, “Staff morale andmotivation is high,” he says ñ a direct result of the company’s commitmentto providing high levels of training. He also cites the benefit of working fora global business. With its size ñ about 1,000 workers in the UK and 95,000working in more than 40 countries across the world ñ employees can always begiven new challenges and real career development.SewagetreatmentSewageworkers carry out a mix of technical and physical work on sewage treatmentsites. On the one hand they are responsible for the adjustment of chemicaldosing equipment as well as checking the monitoring equipment which governs thewater treatment process. At the same time, maintenance work can involve lesssavoury hands-on work such as un-blocking liquid sewage filters. Alison Harker,HR professional in performance and resources at Anglian Water, explains thatwhile most outside applicants are appointed as process workers at around £13,000,the company does offer flexibility in starting salaries to reflect anindividual’s skill and experience.”Weoffer a pay range according to what they bring to us, so they can earn anythingfrom £13,828 to £18,217,” she explains. While she admits it is difficultto attract employees through print advertising, an important element of thisfirst move is to highlight the full benefits of the employment package such asa pension plan, private health care and relocation expenses. Harker says thecompany is not currently experiencing problems in resourcing staff although,like many other sectors of industry, it is suffering from a shortage inqualified electrical technicians.Duringinterview Anglian Water gives applicants a tour of the working environment whichensures they know exactly what the work entails and what they can expect.”You don’t want someone arriving on day one and realising they can’t standit,” says Harker, “and they’re usually pleasantly surprised by whatit is really like. It’s a matter of managing their expectations at everystage.”Annualpay is linked to analysis of performance as assessed by the employee’s manager.With a broad-band approach, a pay score is created depending on overallperformance, the competencies demonstrated by the employee throughout the year,their skills and results.Asbestossampling TheCasella Signs & Environment consultancy has between 80 and 90 consultantsnationwide who monitor levels of asbestos and advise on its safe removal. Whileit may not deal directly with extraction, the job can lead to work in hazardousenvironments, not simply through possible exposure to asbestos, but also inconnection with the sites where it is found ñ confined spaces, rooftops anddemolition sites. Pressure can come from other areas of the work such asdealing with construction industry contractors responsible for dealing with thematerial.Casellais one of the biggest providers of training connected with asbestos in thecountry. Its business director for training, Bill Sanderson, says recruitingconsultants can be difficult. “We look for people with a fairly goodacademic background in environment or science, but this kind of work isperceived as unpleasant and dangerous,” he explains. At the same time,staff must have great integrity, be practical and robust, and able to pursuethe right action no matter what the circumstances. With entry level salaries atabout £10,000, the position is often treated as a stepping stone to otherenvironmental work, perhaps in the area of contaminated land ñ and is thus partof a clear career path which can result in management salaries of£25,000-30,000.Whileemployees have opted into the profession, and no doubt feel a sense of vocationin their work, Sanderson admits motivating staff can be a problem, especiallyas some consultants may feel they have “done” asbestos after a fewyears of working in this area. To that extent, Casella is fortunate in that itssize means it can offer employees the chance to move around different areas ofenvironmental work according to their preferences.DebtcollectorsDebtcollectors work in organisations that range from a company’s finance controlsystem to a local council’s council tax collection department. There are also anumber of independent, dedicated debt collection companies and even factoringorganisations which deal with bad debts on behalf of companies and individuals.SimonGordon runs the Central Detective Agency which offers a range of personal andcompany-based security services including debt collection. CDA employs ahandful of operatives who share responsibility for general detection work aswell as serving demands and providing on-site attendance in order to collectdebts.Gordondescribes recruits as normally being “people with a legal background,agreeable disposition, with common sense and very good communicationskills.” While the legal knowledge side of the work is provided throughin-house training the practical aspect of serving and attending debtors canonly be learned through experience, usually beginning by working closely with atrained operative in the early stages of the job.Recruitmentis usually via personal knowledge or recommendation and with salaries atusually between £25,000 and £30,000 ñ for someone working across a variety ofprojects within an agency ñ the rewards can be attractive for the right person.At the same time, Gordon notes a few other factors crucial to recruiting andretaining employees into what may be considered unattractive posts, “Makesure the working place is as safe as possible,” he says, “and offerbonuses and incentives.” It’s dirty work but…On 6 Feb 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Workers abroad may force issue

first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Workers abroad may force issueOn 30 May 2001 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. UKemployers should be more responsible in the way they consult their workforceabout redundancies if they want to stave off tough European legislation,according to Trade and Industry minister Alan Johnson. Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, Johnson said pressure has built upto adopt the EU directive on information and consultation because UK workers intrans-national companies can see that colleagues in other parts of Europe areconsulted more fully. Johnson said, “If UK employers believe in a voluntary approach, somecompanies can do a bit better in the way they inform and consult theirworkers.” He said that the UK would continue to oppose the directive and stressed thatthe Government’s review of domestic consultation legislation is still inprogress. last_img read more

Community of learners

first_img Comments are closed. What does it take to get an open learning centre used andaccepted? Lex Multipart believes the local partnerships can hold the keyLex Multipart, a specialist service provider in outsourced logistics, hascome a long way since launching its open learning centre (OLC), a partnershipdeveloped with Preston College, in November 1998. The centre was set up primarily to train Lex Multipart staff, but it wasalso to provide learning opportunities to those outside the company. LexMultipart provided the building, services, fixtures and fittings and PrestonCollege provided the equipment and expertise of its own personnel to staff thefacility. Both parties benefited: Lex Multipart gained an on-site,state-of-the-art facility at its largest site, the distribution centre atChorley, Lancashire; Preston College gained a satellite centre in a previouslyuntapped target population. Preston College runs the OLC as an enterprise and can supplement its corebusiness by attracting additional government funding based on the number oflearners. On-site staff number two full-time trainers, including the centremanager, and three part-time staff. All report to the Preston Collegemanagement team. Adaptability For Lex Multipart, the success of the partnership with the college hasproved to be the adaptability of the centre. It meets the needs of the companyboth for flexible, computer-based learning for its employees and as a site forthe delivery of classroom-based training. It also gives the company the chanceto raise its profile with local people and businesses. Things have moved on apace since 1998, as the centre has developed andgained recognition. Originally equipped with 16 PCs set up to run withMicrosoft/Lotus products and to provide Internet access, the centre’s openingprompted awareness of the World Wide Web within the company. At that time, however, only three IT training packages were available.Programs run on the Internet for use by managers in the automotive sector wasthe key factor to recognition for web knowledge and application. The centrethen offered free Internet access for all employees, web literacy throughoutthe business grew, and it was accredited for the BBC Webwise campaign and ITFor All. Painless implementation When Lex Multipart converted to full-scale use of Microsoft desktopapplications last year, the project was implemented painlessly as training onthe applications had started in the previous year. The flexible approach toprogrammes allowed employees to access training with minimum disruption toworking times. Early in 1999, Preston College was accredited to run the European ComputerDriving Licence (ECDL) which became the centre’s main product. In addition,evening language classes were offered to employees and the public. Classes inFrench, German, Spanish and Japanese attracted large numbers, with some classesrunning to intermediate level. The Spanish students took their learning all theway to GCSE level. At the same time, the logistics team involved in the roll-out of thecompany’s operation in Metz, France, undertook intensive French studies.Leading on from this, Lex Multipart won the DTI’s large company categoryLanguages for Export Award 1999. The OLC has supported links with local companies, not least through thepartnership with Hitachi Automotive Products to run Japanese classes for itsemployees alongside the Lex Multipart Hyundai account management team toeducate them in both language and culture. The classes were successful,covering a mix of employees, including shop-floor workers, line management andsalespeople. Customer research carried out to support bids for external funding showedthat the centre was attracting learners who had been out of education for sometime, and those who would not go into a traditional college environment.Despite this, applications for grants from the University for Industry, theEuropean Social Fund Objective 3 and the DTI Partnership at Work wereunsuccessful. However, the non-dependence on public funding has proved to be astrength by creating a challenge to the OLC team to seek initiatives thatgenuinely contribute towards its success. Last year, the centre moved to larger premises with improved site access androom for the number of workstations to be increased to 22. Today’s centre is a modern and innovative development, reflecting LexMultipart’s commitment to learning and development and is available for use byall employees, customers and suppliers as well as the public. Now fullyaccredited by Learndirect, the centre takes advantage of the most modernapproaches to learning using a flexible combination of online materials,support literature and personal tutors. The benefit of this approach is thatusers can access learning at all times and in blocks to suit the demands oftheir job and lifestyle. New opportunities Technologies and government investment have created a range of learningopportunities that will take the centre beyond IT training opportunities.Technology also enables learners to enhance their studies from PCs withInternet access at home or at work. Products on offer include: – The full range of Learndirect courses: essential skills, IT, business andmanagement, business studies, Learning for Life modular courses – Preston College IT courses including: Start, RSA CLAIT, IBT2, ECDL – Taught courses tailored to company and individual needs A benchmarking exercise on learning and management development carried outin 1999 with Ryder, a competitor in the logistics sector, showed Lex Multipart’slearning opportunities – particularly the OLC – to be among the top in thesector. Never content to rest on our laurels, we have made presentations to parentcompany Lex Service on linking Learndirect with the Lex intranet to increaseopportunities. To maintain momentum, Lex Multipart and Preston College hold regularsteering committee meetings. The committee has several aims: to identify future opportunities for thecentre; to find ways to improve the already buoyant enrolment levels; to reviewthe continuous updating and development of courses; and to look at recognitionawards for existing learners. An example of such an initiative is the learnerof the month award, which reflects the range and level of achievement made byindividuals of all ages from a variety of backgrounds. Our latest initiative is bringing increased learning opportunities to ourdistribution centre workforce with the development of a team of “learnerrepresentatives”. – Lex Multipart group managing director, John Stephenson, will bespeaking at the Wolce conference seminar on 10 October on the effectiveimplementation of open learning. Learner reps promote opportunitiesA ground-breaking initiative in the development of its staff has become oneof Lex Multipart’s main success stories this year, namely the appointment ofthree “learner reps” within its autologistics division at the Chorleydistribution centre.Learning and development staff, operations management and trade unionrepresentatives worked closely together to develop a process to bring trainingto the fore within the distribution centre. The main aim was to open uplearning opportunities to the workforce, many of whom have been out of learningfor several years, while at the same time tapping into the superb facilitiesprovided through the on-site open learning centre.To get the ball rolling, trade union representatives attended a series ofthree Union Learning Fund conferences in London, backed by the TUC. The learnerreps attended Flag (Front Line Advice & Guidance) training in June andJuly, with advanced Flag training planned later in the year. The company, inpartnership with Preston College, held open days for employees who wanted toknow more about the centre and the products on offer, with many enrolling onthe day. Already more than 30 staff have successfully completed the Certificatein Health and Safety – First Principles, awarded by the Chartered Institute ofEnvironmental Health.The process is weighted towards the employee. The company funds OLC trainingcourses covering START, CLAIT, ECDL and/or Learndirect products and hascommitted to look at any other reasonable requests on their own merits. Itgrants time off wherever possible, so that training takes place half in thecompany’s time and half in the learner’s time. The suggested course duration isused to calculate the appropriate time off, which has to be agreed up front byline management and entered into the time and attendance records.Although still in its infancy, the process is working well. An OLC steeringcommittee meets once a month. Consisting of staff from learning anddevelopment, operations and learner reps, it monitors the process and agreeswhat works well. It will look at areas for improvement and ensure that allemployees are given equal opportunity to learn new skills or develop existingones. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Community of learnersOn 1 Sep 2001 in Auto-enrolment, Personnel Todaylast_img read more

HR specialisms: organisational development director

first_img Previous Article Next Article Last month a survey by the Roffey Park Institute found that line managersbelieve HR professionals lack foresight, credibility and influence. One of thefew positives within this damning verdict on the profession is that linemanagers see HR as making a positive contribution when it tackles issues suchas supporting cultural change, organisational cohesion, training anddevelopment, performance management, benchmarking and change management. Intriguingly, it is just these types of activities that are key to theposition of organisational development director (ODD), giving the role anincreasing prominence within HR, and within the rapidly changing businesscommunity asa whole. According to Professor Amin Rajan, chief executive of research consultancyCreate, the role of the ODD is rapidly converging with that of HR director.”HR is increasingly acquiring functions that go outside the traditionalfield of HR,” he says. And, when you look at some of the central responsibilities of an ODD, itquickly becomes apparent that there is a substantial overlap between it andwhere the proactive, strategic-thinking HR director should be coming from. TheODD role encompasses changing the culture of an organisation, changing itsoperating models, changing its performance and management structures and itssystems, says Rajan. “If you look at the ODD role in isolation it is about building up theresilience and inner strength of an organisation. It is about refashioningcorporate culture,” he adds. Within a large, slow-moving organisation suchas, say, a bank or oil conglomerate, this might mean reshaping cultures from apaternalistic to a performance-driven approach, changing mindsets, rewardsystems and the recruitment culture. A long-term strategic view of where the organisation should be going overthe next three to five years will inevitably be critical to managing suchchanges, argues Linda Holbeche, director of research at Roffey Park. How do the managers manage? What kind of skills does the organisation need?What sort of development programmes are there and, vitally, what sort ofleadership is there in place? These are all the sorts of questions a good ODDwill be addressing, says Holbeche. “It will always be helpful for an ODD to really understand business ingeneral and their business in particular. They will normally have practicalexperience and will have been involved in different change efforts, either onthe receiving end or leading it,” she says. Most ODDs will come into organisations from a consultancy role. Most willhave had significant line management experience or they will, increasingly,come from the HR career ladder, suggests Rajan. No specific qualifications are required to make a successful ODD, butpersonal attributes such as an unusual degree of tact and persuasion are anecessity. It is also vital to be able to demonstrate credibility and a wealthof experience. Culture change can work in both directions, and influencingupwards may be a key part of the job. Successful culture change needs tact and sympathy and an awareness thatmistakes, as long as they are learnt from, are normally a good thing, ratherthan something to be punished, says Holbeche. “It is about working with line managers to create a coaching anddevelopment culture. It is about helping individuals to become moreself-reliant,” she explains. Organisational development might mean leading a one-off big change projector it might be more organic, moving individual units on to a more innovativefooting or working to spread change through an organisation, Holbeche argues. An ODD will not normally be a board-level appointment, because the functionis still largely seen as a specialist rather than a generalist one, but it canact as a useful springboard to that sort of role. While pay rates willinevitably differ depending on the size and complexity of the organisation,anything that is seen to add value to a company will be rewarded generously. For a FTSE-100 company, a good ODD might expect a package of around £150,000plus benefits, estimates Rajan. However, Holbeche calculates a packagesomewhere between £50,000 and £70,000. One of the pitfalls of being a specialist, however, is the danger of beingpigeonholed – being seen as someone who is good at only managing endlessrestructuring rather than driving the business forward in other ways, she adds.”The link to failure is more evident in the ODD role than it is in ageneralist HR role. It is difficult to prove success,” she says. “Youhave got to have enough of a reputation to give you the time to make the newstructures work.” ODDs should want to make a difference to their organisation and not want tobe stuck in a purely transactional function. They should be able to look beyondthe operational, suggests Holbeche. “It is the ultimate strategic role. Itis about creating little bonfires all over the place that will all burn in thesame direction.” Adds Rajan: “It is fundamentally about making things work. It is aboutthe art of the possible.” Case study Barry Dyer, director of organisational development, BupaEvolution rather than revolution is the watchword for BarryDyer, director of organisational development at private health insurer Bupa.Since joining the firm 18 months ago, Dyer has been playing a central role indeveloping and linking the objectives and functions of all the various businessunits as well as promoting executive, management and staff development.Dyer joined Bupa from insurer CGNU, where he was director oforganisational learning and part of the HR team overseeing the merger of thethen Commercial Union with Norwich Union. An ability to engage with peopleacross the business is a key attribute to bringing about change, he says.”You have to develop a relationship based on trust, sopeople will confide in you about issues of concern. Without that, you cannotbegin to tackle those issues,” he says. It is also a good idea to presentyourself as a role model, showing how adaptive you can be to change, hesuggests.”We are not trying to churn everything up. It is aboutchange as an evolutionary relationship, continually building a culture from thesame reference points. There is a danger that change is something people see asstarting from scratch.”The insurer ensures the various projects and initiatives itruns have the same branding to give staff a sense of identity. Dyer is alsoproud of the work he has done in building the staff ‘climate survey’. Though inplace for some years, this is a survey through the various HR teams that hasprovided invaluable feedback on performance.”What I enjoy is the fact that you are working across thewhole organisation. You have insights into every aspect of the business and anopportunity to get involved in a diverse range of issues. What I dislike is theflip side of that. When you are looking at something in the broadest sense, themovement you achieve can seem so small as to be disheartening.”He adds, “The key is to always be looking at things from astrategic perspective. It is not just looking at the what and how you aredoing, but the why, the ripple effect.” HR specialisms: organisational development directorOn 12 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more

Tribunal numbers tumble as early resolutions rise

first_imgTribunal numbers tumble as early resolutions riseOn 4 Mar 2003 in Early conciliation, Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. The number of disgruntled workers going through employment tribunals hasfallen by 18 per cent, according to the latest figures. The Office of Tribunals said the number of staff lodging an application tostart tribunal proceedings fell from 128,000 in 2001 to 105,000 last year. It attributed the fall to improved conciliation and negotiation methods, andan increase in the amount of cases resolved at an early stage by employers. However, research commissioned by law firm Peninsula to coincide with theresults warns that a raft of legislation including flexible working, discriminationand equal pay questionnaires, could send future numbers soaring. The study also included a poll of more than 800 employers, which shows that83 per cent think more effort should be made to resolve disputes before theyreach tribunal. In addition, more than eight out of 10 organisations feel it’s currently tooeasy for staff to take employers to tribunal, while three-quarters said the UKemployment litigation process has got out of hand. Peninsula’s managing director Peter Done said employers must ensure theright HR measures are in place and focus on developing systems to resolvedisputes before going to tribunal. “Although we have seen a slight dip in tribunal applications, I fear itmay only be short-lived,” he said. “We have a raft of new workerrights being introduced which will begin to feed into the tribunal system bythe end of the year.” By Ross Wighamwww.employmenttribunals.gov.uklast_img read more

Watching the Watchers | People Stuff

first_img Previous Article Next Article “I’m going to confess, right up front.  This blog post is a shameless plug for my new ebook on social media, written with that very nice Tim Scott, better known on Twitter as”Read full article Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Watching the Watchers | People StuffShared from missc on 30 Apr 2015 in Personnel Todaylast_img

Off the grid: Developers eye “virtual power plants” for properties

first_img Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Rendering of Sonnen’s ecoLinx home battery (Sonnen)A growing number of developers in the U.S. are investing in integrated solar power and battery systems for their buildings.Advances in energy storage technology and falling prices for batteries mean these “virtual power plants” are becoming viable for a variety of buildings and uses, according to the New York Times. The technology would also create more energy independence, coming at a time when severe weather — like last month’s deep freeze in Texas that cut power to millions — has wreaked havoc on residents.Developer Wasatch Group installed storage batteries in each of its 600 units at the firm’s “net zero” Soleil Lofts project in Herriman, Utah. The systems store energy created by solar arrays on the property, making the complex one of the better examples of using integrated power.ADVERTISEMENTCollectively they can provide 12.6 megawatt hours of backup power for the building, and currently offset the costs of powering common areas, according to the report. Wasatch also signed a deal with Rocky Mountain Power that allows the energy company to tap the batteries at Soleil Lofts for power. Residents save around 30 to 40 percent on their energy bills, the Times noted, citing Wasatch.Other developers are also exploring storage systems. Meritage Homes has demonstration projects across the U.S. to explore green tech. Related Companies installed a 4.8-megawatt battery at the Gateway Center retail complex in Brooklyn that’s used by energy company Enel X.In New York City over the last few years, there have been several thousand solar panel installations in Brooklyn alone.Some governments have pushed for more energy storage projects. In 2019, New York State created up to $55 million in incentives for commercial and residential storage projects on Long Island.[NYT] — Dennis Lynch Tags Share via Shortlink Climate ChangeHousing MarketResidential Real Estatelast_img read more

Homebuilder sentiment falls as lumber costs soar

first_img Tags Regional sentiment largely followed the national index. All regions saw a month-over-month decline in March, except for the southern region, where the reading was flat.NAHB chairman Chuck Fowke attributed the drop in sentiment to increased costs, particularly for softwood lumber. Some in the housing industry are calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to take action to address the soaring cost of lumber.Thirty-seven organizations recently signed onto a letter addressed to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, asking her office to “examine the lumber supply chain, identify the causes for high prices and supply constraints, and seek immediate remedies that will increase production,” Bloomberg News reported.Contact Erin Hudson Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink CoronavirusHousing MarketResidential Real Estate Email Address* Share via Shortlink Full Name* (iStock)The arrival of spring — and with it, homebuying season — isn’t improving the outlook of homebuilders.The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index dropped to 82, seasonally adjusted, compared to February’s reading of 84. The index tracks homebuilder confidence in current and future single-family home sales and traffic of potential homebuyers on a monthly basis.The fall comes after last month’s gain broke the index’s two-month streak of month-over-month declines. The organization’s chief economist Robert Dietz said it’s part of a downward trend that began after November’s peak, as home prices have skyrocketed and inventory hit historic lows.ADVERTISEMENTHomebuilder sentiment toward current single-family home sales dropped to 87, compared to February’s reading of 90, while traffic from prospective buyers remained flat. Expectations of single-family home sales six months from now increased to 83 from 80 the prior month. All of the components were up year-over-year.Read moreVicious cycle creates “huge supply crunch,” pushing home prices upHomebuilder sentiment falls for second month in a rowSpending on home construction jumps 21% in December Message*last_img read more

Mortgage applications dip for second straight week

first_img Share via Shortlink Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Contact Sasha Jones Housing MarketMortgagesResidential Real Estate Tags Message* Full Name* (Getty)A perfect storm of problems for home buyers — lack of inventory, high prices and bidding wars — may finally be putting pressure on mortgage applications.An index tracking those applications decreased 2.2 percent, seasonally adjusted, from one week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. It’s the second week in a row that applications dipped. Mortgage rates, meanwhile, have been rising steadily for seven consecutive weeks.“Many prospective homebuyers this spring are feeling the effects of higher rates and rapidlyaccelerating home prices,” Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a statement. “The housing market is in desperate need of more inventory to cool price growth and preserve affordability.”ADVERTISEMENTSimilarly, the refinance index decreased 3 percent from the previous week and was 32 percent lower than the same week one year ago. Refinancings made up nearly 61 percent of total applications. The average refinancing loan size was $275,000, a dip from last week’s $284,200.“Higher mortgage rates continue to shut down refinance activity, as the pool of borrowerswho can benefit from a refinance further shrinks,” Kan added.The average purchase loan size dropped to $401,400, from $409,300. Loan sizes had been steadily decreasing until last week, when that figure rose by nearly 4 percent.The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 3.33 percent from 3.36 percent. Jumbo loans also saw a dip, from 3.40 percent to 3.34 percent.MBA’s survey covers 75 percent of the residential mortgage market and has been conducted weekly since 1990.Read moreMortgage applications slow but no end in sight to buying boomUS home price growth hits 15-year highHome prices across globe hit records, prompting worries of bubble Email Address*last_img read more