Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Reserve Bank of India's decision to revise repo rate and cash reserve ratio is expected to bite the realty industry, which is already burning under a slowdown and price correction.
Loans for housing will get dearer and interest sensitive sectors like real estate will be hit hard, said Mallinath Madineni of Arthaeon Financial Services.
"We expect banking and real estate stocks to under-perform in the near term," Madineni added.
Punjab National Bank on Wednesday raised its prime lending rate by 100 basis points or one percentage point to 14 per cent from August 1. Other public and private sector banks are expected to follow suit.
Nahar group chairman Sukhraj Nahar said an increase in the cost of borrowing would in turn raise the cost of a real estate project.
"The cost of borrowing goes up not only for builders but for all ancillary and input industries as well, leading to a higher price tag for the real estate product," Nahar told IANS in Mumbai.
He said the rate hikes would eventually hurt the balance sheets.
Sunil Malhotra, vice-president (finance) at real estate firm Omaxe Ltd, said the flow of money to the sector would be tighter than before.
"Developers will now have to look towards other sources of funds, which could be on higher rates," he added.
Agreed an analyst with a leading Mumbai-based brokering firm, who wished to be unnamed. "Developers will now have to look to other sources of funds like foreign direct investments and so on," he said.
Parsvnath Developers chairman Pradeep Jain said the cost of funds for the company's upcoming power projects would go up significantly.
"This will in turn be passed on to the buyer," he said.
Echoing a similar sentiment, Punjab National Bank chairman and managing director KC Chakrabarty said the pressure seems inevitable. "Bankers would pass on the burden to customers."
A 0.5 per cent increase in home loan rates - which appears most likely - will increase the tenure of a Rs 3 million, 20-year loan by nearly three years.
Real estate demand in major Indian cities has been hit this year as urban middle class buyers, fretting over a five-year high in property prices, have stayed away from investing in property as interest rates climbed rapidly.
"Demand has slackened 10-15 per cent since the beginning of the year," Sarang Wadhawan, head of HDIL, India's third largest developer, said last week.
However, a few real estate agents said the rate hike could cause a possible softening of property prices, even in markets such as Mumbai.
"Developers are sitting on unsold stocks of completed apartments. But potential buyers are sitting still in anticipation that prices will come down," said a real estate agent in Mumbai declining to be named.
(via Hindusthan Times)
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Educated in a monastery, poet, author and journalist P J Kavanagh’s early thoughts of becoming a monk were thwarted because he 'liked girls too much'. The Catholic influence though remains (he once appeared in Father Ted).
Stalled, in the middle of a rented room,
The couple who own it quarrelling in the yard
Outside, about which shade of Snowcem
They should use. (From the bed I'd heard
Her say she liked me in my dressing-gown
And heard her husband's grunt of irritation.
Some ladies like sad men who are alone.)
But I am stalled, and sad is not the word.
Go out I cannot, nor can I stay in,
Becalmed mid carpet, breathless, on the road
To nowhere and the road has petered out.
This was twenty years ago, and bad as that.
I must have moved at last, for I knelt down,
Which I had not done before, nor thought I should.
It would not be exact to say I prayed;
What for? The one I wanted there was dead.
All I could do was kneel and so I did.
At once I entered dark so vast and warm
I wondered it could fit inside the room
When I looked round. The road I had to walk down
Was still there. From that moment it was mean
Beyond my strength to doubt what I had seen:
A heat at the heart of dark, so plainly shown,
A bowl, of two cupped hands, in which a pain
That filled a room could be engulfed and drown
And yet, for the truth is in the bowl, remain.
Today I thought it time to write this down,
Beyond decoration, humble, in plain rhyme,
As clear as I could, and as truthful, which I have done.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
In their bid to score over their rivals, many developers are now going abroad to hire noted architects who can design their new projects. Not withstanding the fact that currently the realty sector is seeing downward trend, still some of the noted design companies from other countries are opening their Indian offices to cater the real estate market.
The likes of Godrej Properties, Unitech, Omaxe, Hiranandani and many more are hiring foreign architect firms. As recently as last year, Godrej hired DP Architects of Singapore to design their 50-storey residential project in Mahalaxmi area of Mumbai. US-based Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum Inc (HOK), has already worked with Indian builders such as Unitech, Hiranandani and many other big firms. Will Roes, programme manager of HOK India says that they bring a global perspective and diverse expertise to a project.
It is true that hiring foreign designers and planners have many advantages. But, the negative side of hiring them is that in some cases they do not understand the complexities of doing business in India, including tax laws and also cultural consideration , feels Devinder Gupta of realty advisory Century 21 India.
In an interview, Niranjan Hiranandani, the managing director of the Hiranandani group says that there is a big difference in approach between Indian and foreign firms that undertake design jobs. He feels that international firms are more empathetic to developers’ needs and aspirations. “
They find a solution which is required for a particular site, location and land. They are also more in tune with the land use demand ,” says Hiranandani. “They are more open to new ideas. On the other hand, Indian firms have a trial and error approach to design and planning. They also try to impose their ideas on the developers.”
It has also designed offices for IT giants like Wipro, Satyam and Microsoft. Devinder Gupta informs that legendry Unitech group has taken the services of great golfer Greg Norman to design the lush green golf course for their prestigious Unitech Grande project in Greater Noida. Clearly, the Indian realty firms are taking the services of foreign firms and experts to make their projects attractive.
Meanwhile, some Indian architects feel that global firms are definitely good when it comes to designing projects. But, they are critical of some of the mismatch. On many occasions, the initial designs done by them don’t make any sense. Finally, Indian architects have to enter the scene to undo the damage. CMD of Omaxe group, Rohtas Goyal says that with money starting to flow into Indian realty sector, it has become necessary to bring global architectural practices and expertise.
Moreover, customers fancy projects designed by overseas firms. From the developers’ point of view, it becomes a good marketing and sales proposition. It may be mentioned here that Omaxe has recently hired Indian Davis cup Star Leander Paes company to help them design the tennis courts in their residential projects. Those who follow the realty market of India feel that as competition hots up and properties get bigger, developers going to hire global architects to design their projects will become more frequent.
Moreover, builders are entrusting the design work for commercial projects and master planning of a mixed use developments to foreign firms.
It is also learnt that several developers choose foreign architects only for their large projects. "It is affordable to hire an international firm to master planning if there is a big volume of work. Time is never an issue with them. They keep their words," says Anil Sharma of Amrapali group.
Meanwhile, there are some people in realty sector who feel that foreign firms will continue to win projects here, but they will be hired for a limited purpose. They would design the master plans of the projects, while the execution part would continue to be taken care by the Indian firms.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Anyone who thinks that white doesn't "count" as a color hasn't spent much time exploring the possibilities of using white on white decor. And anyone who thinks there is only one shade of white hasn't been in a paint store lately, where you can find hundreds - literally, hundreds - of shades.
So what tips can we give you about white on white décor?
First, recognize that whites come in a wide range of shades and tones. There is a bright, flat white that you find often on walls, and a bright, glossy white that is often used for trim to contrast against a bright or dark wall color.
There are eggshells and creams and off-whites.
The best way to get a handle on white on white décor is by simply going to the paint store and getting a fistful of white paint swatches. Bring these home and tape them to the wall, and you'll see how wide the range of whites there really is. Try looking at the swatches under different lights, from a bright overhead light to natural window light, to a faint light coming in the window at light. You'll see not only how many different whites there are, but also how they change depending on the light.
Here, let's look first at this all-white bedroom. This is an example of using one shade of bright white. Note how flat everything appears here; you can barely make out the line between the wall and the ceiling. The only color in this room is the doorknob and the edge of the dresser, and the room looks anything but inviting.
What could we do with a room like this? Even without painting the walls, an off-white spread on the bed would help, and then piling on pillows in various whites would also change the whole look.
The trick with using a lot of white on white décor in a room is to make sure you have a variety of tones, shades, and textures. A room with a a woven white rag rug, white ceramic lamps with handmade paper shades and slipper chair in brocade eggshell with a throw pillow in raw silk cream gives a room enough variety so that it looks elegant, not stark.
Take a look at this living room, which is done mostly in whites. The draperies have plenty of heft to them, creating folds which add interest. They contrast nicely with the smooth white rug, and the detailing on the mantel adds interest as well. The tones of this white on white decor blend nicely together, and yet they are slightly different from one another.
Having an all-white room also allows you to really make a statement with the color you do have in the room. Here, the potted tree and the piano are real eye-catchers. Any time you want to draw attention to something with color, such as a work of art or a special chair, just create an all-white room around it, and it will really stand out.
Of course, white living rooms must be reserved for people who can take meticulous care of keeping everything clean. Even with advances in stain-resistant fabrics and cleaning solutions, white furnishings will indeed show the strain of living with children and pets.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
The question "Could we do better?" motivated New York-based SHoP Architects to take on one such project, the high-tech Sector 61 node of Gurgaon, India.
"We feel like if you can set a good example there, with all the building that's about to occur, you can have a much bigger impact than designing some LEED Platinum building here in New York," says SHoP co-founder Gregg Pasquarelli.
Sector 61 is one among a series of commissions in which internationally known designers are creating whole neighborhoods and cities to capture and direct Asia's sudden urbanization. Other examples include the Shanghai satellite city Dongtan, designed by Arup, and the competition for a 1.6 million-square-foot eco-quarter in Singapore, recently won by Foster + Partners.
"The millions descending on Shanghai or Seoul depopulate the countryside and exceed the city's capacity, with only one or two cities funneling the shift," explains Diana Balmori, principal of the New York–based landscape and urban design firm Balmori Associates. "So the effort is to deploy this growth to some place, give this new city a reason to exist, and bring population to it."
Balmori's in-house studio Balmorilab also is participating in that effort. Its design for Public Administration Town (PAT) comprises one district within the larger ring plan for Multi-Functional Administrative City, located in South Korea halfway between the capital Seoul and Busan, on the south coast. President Roh Moo-hyun is establishing the city in order to transplant several government offices from the capital. Balmorilab, with Haeahn Architecture and H Associates, won the open competition to design PAT and several of its key buildings.
Although PAT is the ostensible downtown of Multi-Functional Administrative City, Balmorilab has given it a keenly anti-iconic character. Buildings, totaling approximately 9.7 million square feet, will be open to public movement and nestle into the existing topography to create a continuous roofscape. The flat plane, dotted with plants as well as photovoltaics, also expresses PAT's commitment to sustainability; other green features include graywater recycling, titanium dioxide paving, and methane production from organic waste. "The city that uses living systems, rather than industrial-era systems, offers a better quality of life from day one," Balmori says. Construction will start next summer, and the project should be largely completed within two years.
Sector 61, in Gurgaon, India, will also break ground next year. This former agricultural village is transforming into a dense corridor of high-tech office campuses and apartment buildings as growth spills over from New Delhi. The multi-use, privately developed parcel will accommodate 73,000 people. SHoP is designing all of its 100 buildings. Pasquarelli says the plan will stress sustainable strategies including solar orientation and pedestrian movement instead of the deployment of green technologies. "The cost of construction in India is so much less that to purchase Western technologies throws the entire budget out of whack," he explains, adding that good planning can reduce carbon footprint more than technological supplements.
Whether Asia's future cities go green thanks to technology or to more passive principles, the newest generation of planners acknowledge that predecessors such as Arup and William McDonough, FAIA—who is expected to make an announcement soon about his Chinese eco-cities projects—have established a green standard for their own work. What observers should expect from the next wave, says Balmori associate and landscape design director Mark Thomann, is "a formal approach to sustainability that's really expressing itself."
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Credit crunch and economic uncertainty have taken their toll on the global property market, with transaction volumes falling by 46 per cent in the first quarter, according to a property report.
Property sales figures for April and preliminary results for May show sales in Asia have started to weaken and drop in sales in the
Cap rates in
Acquisition of land and development rights in
Office properties in Europe are a distant second with just under $20bn of transactions, followed by offices in the
Developable land in
Nearly $56bn of major commercial property sales were completed throughout Europe, Africa and the
Additionally, property sales in
Virtually all property types and most countries within
Retail and hotel transactions experienced the sharpest drops, each down around 60 per cent. Sales of office buildings,
Despite the slowdown in 2008,
In the retail sector, Italy's volume increased by 78 per cent in the first four months of 2008 over the same period in 2007, thanks to ING and Government of Singapore's Investment Corp joint purchase of the Roma Est Shopping Centre for $594m. Several emerging markets have posted significant gains recently. Office transactions increased in
The region, which includes
The gains in the first quarter mask a gradual slowing in activity that has become evident. In 2007 the average monthly volume was about $19bn; in the first four months of 2008 it was about $14bn. Volume reported in March represented a 25 per cent decline from a year ago and April's totals were even weaker. Less than $10bn of property sales were reported in April throughout
Global market factors are certainly contributing to the slowing market, but new regulations on land deals instituted by
There are still several dazzling growth stories in the first quarter of 2008. Property acquisitions in
Despite the recent fall in land sales, total volume in
On the contrary, the sales volume in
The total volume in
Developed countries have seen property transactions fall by 25 per cent this year while acquisitions in the emerging markets are up a healthy 68 per cent. Emerging countries accounted for $102bn of property sales, representing 45 per cent of total volume in
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Who would think the banks would land the job of sorting out the world's climate change problems?
But strange as it may seem, there are many who believe that only the world's financial institutions can help us now.
Since the arrival of the European Union's Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the 'Kyoto Market', backed by the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), some of the world's biggest banks have been stepping up their activities in carbon finance.
They say it is to ensure these two carbon trading markets actually do what they are supposed to do. And that is to reduce emissions and to spur the global move towards renewable energy.
Their detractors, however, are concerned that all carbon trading will ultimately do is make the banks a lot of money.
Under the ETS system, around 12,000 polluting installations across the EU have been "capped" with greenhouse gas quotas based on the host countries' Kyoto obligations. The ones that exceed their cap must buy "carbon permits" from other companies that operate below their own quota.
Under the CDM scheme, companies in the developed world that have exceeded their cap can pay off their carbon debt by investing in CDM-approved eco projects in developing countries using "carbon credits" -- one credit equaling one tonne of avoided C02 equivalent gases that would have otherwise been pumped into the atmosphere.
A new commodity?
Proponents of carbon trading -- or "cap and trade" as it is sometimes called -- say it will offer incentives to companies setting out on the road to sustainability, and will hit polluting companies where it hurts most - their wallets.
Supporters also say that more sophisticated financial products developed by the banks will spur the demand for carbon credits, putting even more of a squeeze on companies not getting on the sustainable bandwagon.
But it could also hurt consumers too.
If demand for carbon credits go sky high, so will their prices. When the companies forced to buy carbon credits are energy companies, the costs they incur could ultimately get passed down the line, which would then mean higher fuel bills.
According to Abyd Karmali, the London-based global head of carbon emissions for Merrill Lynch, however, that is just par for the course. He believes financial pressure could be the only thing to get the world switching to a more sustainable way of life -- and that applies to companies and individuals alike.
"We have to find a way to price CO2," Karmali says.
"These sectors are grappling in an environment where there is now a price on C02. So it is providing them an opportunity to reduce emissions. They are passing costs on to the consumer, but what we are now seeing in Europe is an increasing demand for energy efficient products.
"And this is how the carbon market is supposed to work."
When more people and companies get their heads around energy efficiency and sustainable living, price volatility will ease off, he says.
"In the short term there will be price volatility and political backlash, but the long term trend is fairly clear: undertaking reductions now is significantly cheaper than inaction," says Karmali.
"And that over time there will be a reduction in the price volatility as behavior changes."
Is it a "zero-sum" game?
Critics of carbon trading have often referred to it as a "zero-sum" game, as any C02 saving gained from the investment is effectively neutralized by the fact that the purchaser has avoided having to decrease its own C02 emissions.
"The real question is whether carbon trading in the end will have any impact on greenhouse gas emissions," says David St Maur Sheil, director and co-founder of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA) in Hong Kong.
"Some say that in a way it is developing into something that is very effective as a market but not having the proportionate amount of impact."
What hasn't helped matters recently have been revelations of companies gaining CDM financing for renewable energy projects they were planning to undertake anyway, undermining the very principle of how carbon credits get issued.
"The whole point of carbon trading is to make investments that wouldn't ordinarily have taken place," says Sheil.
"In some cases it has been shown that companies have intended to make this investment anyway, which throws into question how the system can be manipulated."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Misconception: All paints are basically the same, so buy the cheapest
Truth: Don’t fall for this one. All paints have the same types of ingredients, but the quality and performance of those ingredients vary significantly. Better-quality paints have better resins and more of them, so the paint adheres better and lasts longer. They have higher-quality pigments that cover better and are less likely to fade. And they have additives that help you brush them out faster and smoother. All in all, the ingredients in higher-quality paints cost more, and you won’t find them in the cheaper paints.
Misconception: Oil primers are better than latex primers on bare wood
Truth: In general, both oil and latex primers work well on bare wood. But in some cases one works better than the other. An oil primer will work better than latex on new wood that has a “mill glaze,” that is, a polished surface caused by the planer during the smoothing process. You can usually spot the shine if you examine the wood closely (see above). Or sprinkle a little water on the surface. If it beads up rather than sinks in, choose an oil primer, since the wood will usually absorb it better than it does latex. If you want to use latex, first sand to dull the shine.
A latex primer will work better than oil to “spot prime” knots and pitch pockets (dried). Choose a special “stain blocking” type for this purpose. Once the spot priming dries, prime the entire surface with an oil or latex primer.
Misconception: Outdoors, oil stains are better than latex stains because they last longer
Truth: It depends on the surface. Oil stains generally penetrate wood better than latex stains and perform best on rough surfaces like rough-sawn wood and cedar shingles, which will soak up a lot of stain. Semitransparent oil stains excel here because you can apply several coats and achieve good wood protection without hiding the natural texture and grain. You can expect the stain to last from four to seven years. They’re easier to renew, too. You can simply power wash to clean and recoat.
However, latex stains (especially solid ones) excel on smooth wood surfaces. They won’t erode as quickly as oil stains.You can expect a solid latex stain on smooth, vertical wood to last four to six years. Keep in mind that no stain will last more than two to three years on horizontal surfaces that are exposed to the sun and rain.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Despite the promise of returns from escalation in real estate prices in the tier-II & tier-III cities across the country, investors were re-evaluating real estate as an asset class owing to rising risk profiles, speakers at a seminar here warned.
Rahul Varma, director of Bengal Shristi Infrastructure Development, a public-private joint venture developing integrated townships in tier-II south Bengal towns like Asansol, Durgapur and Ranigunj, said teal estate prices had gone from Rs 1100 per square feet to Rs 2700 per square feet in Durgapur in the last two years and looked likely to touch Rs 3000 per square feet next year.
Despite this trend, developers were targeting actual users as a target category as this was the more sustainable demand category in the long run, said Sumit Dabriwala, managing director of Calcutta Metropolitan Group.
As far as occupancy rates in residential complexes in tier-II cities was concerned, around 70 per cent were actual users, while 30 per cent were possibly investors. Dabriwala admitted that the proportion of investors in a particular project varied according to the marketing strategy of the developer.
Pradeep Sureka of the PS Group, and president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Association, said only a buyer investing in multiple residential units at the same time could be considered an investor, and the proportion of such investors in tier-II real estate projects was miniscule.
Land was cheaper in tier-II and tier-III cities but rising construction costs could push up prices further in coming years, he warned. Rising interest rates and inflationary pressure were perhaps causing investors to re-evaluate real estate as an investment option, Dabriwala explained. With nearly half of India's population expected to live in urban areas by 2045, tier-II cities could see massive growth, Sureka said.
India currently had 12 tier-I cities, 20 tier-II clusters and 83 tier-III cities, said Sushil Mohta of Merlin Group.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
A new coat of paint or stain can make a room feel fresh again, but it often has the opposite effect on the air quality in your home. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paints, stains and other architectural coatings produce about 9 percent of the volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from consumer and commercial products, making them the second-largest source of VOC emissions after automobiles.
VOCs are carbon compounds that evaporate at room temperature and react in sunlight to help form ground-level ozone, an integral component of photochemical smog. VOCs can cause respiratory, skin and eye irritation; headaches; nausea; muscle weakness; and more serious ailments and diseases, according to the EPA. Formaldehyde, a VOC commonly found in paint, is a probable carcinogen. The EPA has found that indoor concentrations of VOCs are regularly up to ten times as high as outdoor concentrations, and can climb up to a thousand times as high as outdoor concentrations when you are applying paint.
This overview covers the environmental and health impacts associated with most types of paint on the market. A good coat of paint should last years, so your choice is significant for your home, your health and the environment.
VOCs AND BEYOND
When considering the VOC content of any product, keep in mind that EPA and state and local rules are intended to reduce emissions of VOCs that cause smog, not to improve indoor air quality. These rules allow paints labeled “zero-VOC” or “no-VOC” to contain up to five grams of VOCs per liter (g/L) in addition to VOCs that have been exempted from the rules. The paint standard developed by the nonprofit organization Green Seal sets more comprehensive environmental requirements, but is considered easy to meet by manufacturers. Low- and no-VOC paints may also contain other compounds that affect air quality. While some of these are known and can be avoided, others are not. Manufacturers are not required to disclose all the chemicals used in their products; some ingredients are deemed proprietary information or are used in such small quantities that they do not have to be reported.
Beyond VOCs, many paints are made with toxic substances and chemicals that come from nonrenewable resources or are energy-intensive or polluting to produce, so even no-VOC paints and stains can affect the environment.
COMPOSITION OF PAINT
Paint has three main components: Pigment gives it color; the binder or resin makes the pigment stick when the paint is applied and forms a solid layer of paint; and the carrier or solvent keeps the paint in liquid form and evaporates once the paint is exposed to air. Other additives are sometimes used to thicken paint (such as chalk, which is nontoxic) or give it characteristics such as mold resistance (which requires toxic materials).
Pigment contributes to a paint’s emissions in a small but significant way. Much of the latex and oil paint sold in stores comes as white base paint, and colorants (composed of pigments in liquid form, soaps and sometimes solvents) are added to create the desired color at the time of purchase. Because pigments add some amount of VOCs and sometimes toxins to the base paint, actual VOC emissions will almost always be higher than those quoted on the base paint. The deeper the hue, the more pigment needed, and therefore the more VOCs the colored paint contains. If you must paint in deep, dark shades, consider purchasing paint from a no- or low-VOC line that includes no- or low-VOC pigments.
Toxic substances used in a pigment should be listed on its Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Avoid cadmium, chromium, mercury and other heavy metals. Titanium dioxide, which gives white latex and oil paints their base color and accounts for about 25 percent of these paints by weight, is very energy intensive to produce, so paint containing it creates a certain amount of energy-related pollution before accounting for the binder and carrier.
We differentiate between types of paint based on their binders since the binders tend to dictate a paint’s characteristics and applications. Both the binder and the carrier, however, can contribute to a paint’s overall environmental and health impact.
LATEX PAINTS (acrylic and vinyl acetate binders)
Because they use water as the carrier rather than petroleum-based solvents, latex paints have lower VOC levels than oil-based paints. While they don’t cover stains as well as their oil-based counterparts, low- and no-VOC latex paints perform well for most household applications, and high-quality latex paint can be as durable as an oil paint. Latex paint actually contains no latex, so it won’t affect people with latex allergies.
Latex paint cleans up easily with water, so you don’t need harsh VOC-emitting solvents to work with it. It can also be “recycled” by combining leftovers; oil paints cannot be recycled in this way.
Using recycled latex paint avoids the manufacturing impact, but recycled paint may not be made of low-VOC paint, so it is best suited to well-ventilated areas like the interior of a garage or shed. Standards for recycled low-VOC paints are being developed. The Product Stewardship Institute hosts this list of recycled paint manufacturers.
We recommend using paints that are free of fungicides and biocides like formaldehyde. Although latex paints are biocide free to begin with, almost all manufacturers add synthetic biocides, or “can preservative,” to extend shelf life. Manufacturers are not required to list biocides on a paint’s MSDS because they are added in such small amounts, but some paints are labeled biocide- or fungicide-free. If you do not see this on the label and want to avoid biocides, call the manufacturer to determine if biocides are included in the formulation.
One hundred percent acrylic paint is more water resistant than vinyl acetate paint and is good for kitchen, bath and exterior applications. Vinyl acetate paint is adequate for most indoor applications and is less expensive. Look for solids content of over 30 percent to hide stains, cover in fewer coats, and cover more surface area per gallon. This information should appear on the paint’s label or Technical Data Sheet (TDS).
See GreenHomeGuide’s Latex Paint Directory for low- and no-VOC paints reviewed and approved by our subject editors.
Friday, July 18, 2008
This hotel, the world's first underwater luxury resort, brings new meaning to the "ocean-view room." Situated 66 feet below the surface of the Persian Gulf, Hydropolis will feature 220 guest suites. Reinforced by concrete and steel, its Plexiglas walls and bubble-shaped dome ceilings offer sights of fish and other sea creatures. It is scheduled to open in late 2007.
The Hydropolis is a self-acclaimed 10-star, underwater hotel which was under construction in Dubai. However, as of February 2007, Hydropolis' launch has been relaunched, due to cost issues and concerns over the project's impact on marine life, the project has faced major delays.
Hyrdropolis is envisioned as a fantasy hotel beneath the waves. This submarine hotel is inspired by the Jules Verne tale 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It will be an underwater oasis where visitors can marvel at the architecture surrounding them, and the sea beyond.
The project is divided into three sections. The "land station" is the complex where visitors are first greeted. It is a large building with a roof that dips and rolls like the crest of a wave. From there, people enter a tunnel to begin their journey to the hotel, itself. The tunnel is 1,700 feet long and carries a train beneath both the land and the sea.
The destination, of course, is the hotel itself. Mimicking natural forms, it is shaped like a collection of bubbles and curves designed to provide maximum resistance against the everyday pressures of the sea water as well as the occasional typhoon that may stray into this area. It has already been compared to both a jellyfish and a sea turtle. It features a pair of observation domes which allow an expansive view of the water and the creatures that live in it. They are large enough to emerge above the waves, and one is planned with a retractable roof allowing people to be surrounded by the ocean while looking directly into the sky.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tomorrow's homes may be made of glass and steel -- or they may resemble the shelters built by our prehistoric ancestors. Architects and engineers are taking a new look at ancient building techniques.
Imagine a magical building material. It's cheap, perhaps even free. It's plentiful everywhere, worldwide. It's strong enough to hold up under extreme weather conditions. It's inexpensive to heat and cool. And it's so easy to use that workers can learn the necessary skills in a few hours.
This miraculous substance isn't only cheap as dirt, it is dirt, and it's winning new respect from architects, engineers, and designers. One look at the Great Wall of China will tell you how durable earthen construction can be. And, concerns for the environment and energy conservation make ordinary dirt look downright appealing.
What does an earth house look like? Perhaps it will resemble the 400-year-old Taos Pueblo. Or, tomorrow's earth homes may take on surprising new forms.
Types of Earth ConstructionAn earth house can be made in a variety of ways: underground .
No one can argue with the environmental benefits of using mud and straw. But the ecological building movement does have critics. In an interview with The Independent, Patrick Hannay, from the Welsh School of Architecture, attacked the straw bale structures at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. "There would appear to be little aesthetic leadership here," Hannay said.
But, you be the judge. Does "responsible architecture" have to be unsightly? Can a cob, straw bale or earth sheltered home be attractive and comfortable? Would you like to live in one?
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Before you hire a painting contractor, there are some things you should take into consideration:
* How long has the contractor been in business? There can be a high turnover rate in the painting industry. Be sure to hire someone who has been operating for at least two to three years.
* Are employees experienced painters? Make sure the company hires skilled workers. Ask what training or qualifications they have.
* Does the contractor have insurance? It is absolutely critical that they have the necessary insurance. A reputable, licensed painting contractor will have coverage. Remember, it protects him and any workers he may have on site, as well as you.
* What kind of preparation work does the painting contractor do? A cheaper job will skimp on the prep work to cut corners. A good contractor will take the time to do everything the way it should be done. The workmanship will show in the end, good or bad.
* Can they provide a list of references? Once you have the references in hand, call them.
* Can the painting contractor make recommendations on what materials will work best for your project? A professional keeps up-to-date on the latest products and techniques, makes suggestions for colors and finishes, and is knowledgeable about the latest trends. Experience counts.
* Make sure they put everything in writing. A professional provides customers with written contracts and specifications.
* Will they offer a maintenance program? Some will, it's worth asking.
* How much do they charge? Getting the lowest price should not be your first consideration. You want to get someone with skill, experience, insurance, awareness of safety issues and good workers. That will not likely be the guy with the lowest bid. It doesn't need to be the highest bid either. Just be sure not to hire on price alone. Look at the whole picture. Painters operate on very tight profit margins. Some homeowners hire college students and are happy with the work. If the price seems too good to be true, however, it probably is.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
It's not necessarily the billion-euro development, star-architect-designed gallery or shiny new ferris wheel that makes locals feel good about their town. Monocle believes that the measure of a city is more about everyday wonders - pavements, well-designed schools, punctual transport - rather than one-off, grand projects. Here's our list of the top 25 urban elements that make the city.
It's not necessarily the billion-euro development, star-architect-designed gallery or shiny new ferris wheel that makes locals feel good about their town. Monocle believes that the measure of a city is more about everyday wonders - pavements, well-designed schools, punctual transport - rather than one-off, grand projets. Here's our list of the top 25 urban elements that make the city.
1) Airport road
It's remarkable how many cities pay so little attention to the key arteries leading to and from their major transport hubs.
As first impressions count for everything, getting this right goes a long way towards making residents feel happy they're home and potential investors pull out their checkbooks.
2) Street clocks
Sometimes you don't have a piece of Swiss watchmaking strapped to your wrist. On these occasions, time-keeping is made so much easier if there are well-maintained street clocks.
3) Bike lockers,
4) Outdoor cinemas
The Athenians know how to do cinema, but eschew velvet seats, popcorn and surround sound for the simple sophistication of gravel under foot, the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine, cold Mythos, sunflower seeds and moonlight. On sweltering summer nights, book your canvas director's chairs in one of
5) Trams Various cities,
There's something quite magical about watching trams in
6) Well-designed apartments
The high-rise gets the Swiss treatment. In
7) Urban landscaping
Whether it's for skating, cycling, jogging or simply taking a stroll at dusk we always hunt out a bustling riverfront.
8) Child's play
Japanese convenience-store Lawson is diversifying with new brands Natural Lawson, Lawson 100 and Lawson Plus. The latest is Happy Lawson in
9) Summer houses
The rise of all-inclusive package tours in the 1970s almost killed off the garden allotments that are a fixture in cities across
10) Green space projects
Until recently, few people thought of the High Line, an abandoned subway track snaking through the West Side of Manhattan 9 meters above the ground, as anything other than ruins. Now the 2.4km of track is set to become an elevated park, spanning
Monday, July 14, 2008
On the other hand, waterborne paints not designed for coating steel, such as exterior house paints, can lead to rusting known as flash rust. However, industrial waterborne acrylics have been used successfully on steel and other metal surfaces for 40 years in both field and factory settings.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Typically you'll use a roller for large flat wall areas and a paint brush for "cutting in." Cutting in is a term used to describe painting the corners at walls and ceilings and around baseboards and door/window trim. The wall areas not cut-in would then be painted with a roller or paint brush. The paint brush is typically used to cut-in because it gives you the most control.
* If you are right handed, cut in the wall at the ceiling corners from left to right. If left handed, paint right to left. This will give you visual control over how well the paint is flowing.
* Press the brush against the wall just enough to flex the bristles and use the narrow edge of the paint brush when cutting in.
* Convention has it that if the cut-in corner has two colors (wall / ceiling for example), then the lighter color paint would extend into the darker color area slightly and the darker color would be cut -in and painted on top of the lighter color. This way you don't have to worry about the lighter color not covering and reading the darker color underneath.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Do you know what one of the top 5 leading health risks are in the US according to the EPA? Try indoor air. That's right, the air in your house. And one of the leading causes of that problem are the paints, varnishes and solvents we use containing VOC's. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound and has been a key component of the composition of oil based paint and can be a problem even in traditional latex based paints.
Exposure to VOC's in paint can trigger asthma attacks, eye irritation and respiratory problems, nausea and dizziness among other symptoms. Prolonged exposure has been linked to kidney and liver disease and even cancer.
Given the health concerns of consumers and new government regulations, alternative paints have been coming on the market over the past few years and now present a well rounded, economical choice over VOC intensive paints. Voluntary standards for VOC content in alternative paint products have been established by Green Seal®, an independent non-profit who sets standards for environmentally responsible or "green" products. The Green Seal certification for Standard GS-11 is based on VOC content, the absence of chemicals, durability and performance among other criteria.
The different types of healthy alternative paints include:
- Low Odor or Low VOC Paint
- Zero VOC Paint
- Non-Toxic or Natural Paint
Thursday, July 10, 2008
We can read books and magazines, watch TV shows, read online articles, and visit decorating showhouses to find all sorts of wonderful advice on things to do to get a beautifully decorated room.
But it's hard to learn ahead of time what things to avoid before you even start a decorating project.
Here is our list of the top things NOT to do, not now, not ever!
- Don't Let Someone Make Choices for You
Your home is your personal space. Don't let someone else tell you what you should do. If you need help, ask for suggestions. But when the time comes to make decisions, they should be yours. It's your home and you should feel comfortable with the choices.
Don't Paint First
You can buy paint in every color under the sun. In fact, you can have paint mixed in any imaginable color you might want. Choose fabric, carpet, and upholstery first.
Don't Choose Paint From a Paint Chip
A small chip of a paint sample might look great in the fluorescent light in the paint store. But a whole wall of it might be overpowering. When you've decided on a color, purchase a quart of the color and paint a small section to see how the color looks in the room with natural light. If you don't want to mess up the walls, paint a piece of cardboard and tape it on the walls in the room where you plan to use the color.
Don't Decide on Colors in a Store
Never buy fabric, flooring, or paint on your first visit. Ask for samples of paint and carpet and swatches of fabric so you can see what they look like in your home. Check them out in natural light and in the evening with lamps.
Don't Settle for Blah If You Love Bold
A gallon of red paint doesn't cost any more than a gallon of white. You get my point! If you love color, find a way to use your favorite colors in your home. Choose colors that express your personality and coordinate with things you love.
Don't Make Your Favorite Color the Main Color
If you love red, you don't have to choose it for your walls. Instead, choose a more subtle shade to provide a background that will let items in your favorite color really "pop."
Don't Ignore the Psychology of Color
Don't think that you can create a relaxing sanctuary in a room with red walls. Blue and green are more calming and relaxing. Choose red and orange for play rooms or family rooms where the action is. Select a color scheme to create the atmosphere you want in the room.
Don't Forget Color Undertones
Not all blue is blue. Not all whites are the same white. Look beyond the main color to see if the hue is light or dark, crisp or dull. Choose coordinating colors with the same intensity.
Don't Force a Color Scheme
Don't "make" things match. Just because you have a red print sofa doesn't mean that it will coordinate with any red stripe draperies. Choose your color family, identify the major pieces, decide what you have that will have a place in the room, and then recover, repaint, and coordinate all the elements. Find another place for or get rid of anything that doesn't fit your plan.
Don't Ignore the Focal Point of Your Room
Not every room has a focal point, but if yours does, make it important. Arrange the artwork and furniture around this important element.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Government buildings are generally dull and drab and are not associated with aesthetics and architectural splendour. However, in recent times, at least the Karnataka Government has taken interest in the aesthetical aspects of its buildings. One such building constructed in recent times is the Vikas Soudha (adjacent to and not to be confused with Vidhana Soudha.) Another splendid example is the rainbow-inspired building on Bannerghatta Road - Jal Bhavan, corporate office of the Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board.
The building has been designed by architect Anil Bhaskaran, MD of Initiative for Design Excellence in Architecture (IDEA), who has designed innovative and high profile projects like the Infosys Mangala Complex and Sri Ramana Maharshi Ashram in Thirumagondanahalli in Anekal taluk. Jal Bhavan is said to be the first eight-floor, arched building in the world built at a cost of Rs 8.3 crore on a 22,000 sq ft site.
It uses new building techniques such as raft foundation. Normally Government buildings are associated with delays and cost escalation, but Jal Bhavan was completed in a record 11 months.
Raft foundation construction is typically used overseas and is slowly migrating to India. In this technique of building the walls become load bearing, since there are no foundation posts. The technique is useful in less than optimum soil conditions (rice paddy) or areas where a lot of fill dirt has been used. The reason is that the foundation now floats on the surface. With the foundation columns there can be stress cracks or worse, in poor soil conditions. The normal foundation column method is normally fine given average soil conditions.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
The housing boom, which spread across many of the world's finest luxury destinations, is finally tailing off. Still, prices in London, Monaco, Manhattan, and in famous European beach resorts and ski resorts continued to climb last year, as the pool of wealthy buyers from places like China, India, and Russia grew. Price growth is slowing even in Russia with its growing population of oil millionaires.
A 35% increase last year in home prices in prime locations of Moscow might sound impressive. But prices had jumped about 75% in 2006.
In the following slides, the price per square foot is an average for prime residential properties in selected luxury locations around the world. The annual price change compares the fourth quarter of 2007 with the fourth quarter of 2006.
Price: $2,325 per sq. ft.
What you get for $1.5 million: 1 bedroom
Annual price change: 6% Prices for vacation homes in this resort in the Alps have been pushed up by skiing enthusiasts, particularly from Britain. A one-year moratorium, which banned foreign property purchases, was lifted last year.
Price: $6,191 per sq. ft.
What you get for $1.5 million: Small studio apartment
Annual price change: A housing boom began in Central London in September, 2005, and continued through 2007, as wealthy buyers flowed in from around the world. The annualized growth for prime real estate is slowing this year and is expected to weaken further. But the super-luxury segment remains incredibly strong.
Sales for £10 million-plus homes in Belgravia, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, and Mayfair increased by 190% in the six months ending January, 2008, compared with the same period a year earlier. The annual price change compares the fourth quarter of 2007 with the fourth quarter of 2006.
Price: $5,888 per sq. ft.
What you get for $1.5 million: Studio apartment
Annual price change: 25% It's not just the casinos, beautiful people, and staggering views of the Mediterranean that have made Monaco a popular home for the world’s wealthiest buyers. The real appeal is that its residents don't pay income tax.
Price: $2,692 per sq. ft.
What you get for $1.5 million: 1 bedroom
Annual price change: 14% Although there's no beach, the harbor of this resort village on the Italian Riviera is packed with yachts owned by the world's rich and famous. The village is about 20 miles from the Genoa airport.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Time was when there was only the occasional eruption of concrete. Today, India's skyline is a work in progress. But while the towering new skyscrapers, sprawling IT parks, glitzy airports and swanky townships reflect desi aspirations, the blueprint, more often than not, is foreign.
Be it a slum redevelopment project in congested Mumbai or Kolkata's new museum of modern art, the global imprint on the country's fast-changing urban landscape is evident. Made in India but designed by a clutch of foreign architects looking to cash in on the country's real estate boom. For Edinburgh-based RMJM, the company behind the distinctive Scottish Parliament, a foray into India four years ago has translated into business of £1 billion. That, the company says, is unprecedented for a UK architecture firm doing business in India. "There's a cue here for UK business — we need to be in India in a very big way," says RMJM CEO Peter Morrison. RMJM, which currently has 38 projects under way in India, is now looking to establish a permanent base in Mumbai.
Many others have taken the cue. Celebrated British architect Lord Norman Foster, who shaped London's skyline with buildings such as the Gherkin and designed the Reichstag in Berlin, has entered India in a tie-up with a Mumbai real estate firm, the Neptune group. Other big UK names in India are Laing O'Rourke, Davis Langdon and Mott MacDonald. Not just UK, firms from Canada (Arcop) to Australia (Omiros One) have designs on India.
But does India really need foreign architects or is it just about getting a brand on the brochure? Most builders agree it's as much about star power as it is about international quality. After all, well-heeled buyers respond to designers with international reputations as much as they respond to a luxury label like Gucci or Prada. "When people purchase an expensive apartment, a famous architect is extra validation they're making a good choice," says Kunal Banerji of Ansal API which signed up US firm Chelsea West to design Manhattan-style condos at its Aquapolis project in Ghaziabad.
The Mahindra group's real estate arm Mahindra Lifespaces, which has roped in US-based architect and design firm HOK (of Dubai marina fame), says their reasons go much beyond the brand. "The selection of an international architect or planner is driven by the unique needs of the project. For instance, the 325-acre Mahindra World City project is one of the largest such developments under implementation and to that extent the width and depth of on-ground implementation experience is currently available only with international firms who have conceived and implemented such projects in different parts of the world," says Anita Arjundas, COO of Mahindra Lifespaces.
Size does matter and with Indian developers going beyond stand-alone commercial blocks and residences to converting huge swathes of land into townships and IT parks, a 'foreign hand' does come in handy. "Foreign firms can visualise and handle massive scale. Also, their designs are very innovative. They create landmarks and not just buildings," says Shantanu Malik, DGM-Architect, Unitech Ltd.
It's a win-win for Indian architects as well. "Working with foreign firms gives us exposure to international standards. There is a lot to learn from their use of detailing and modern materials," adds Malik.