Building Matters


Happy July 4th!

Published on: July 4, 2016


Three Developments Set to Change the D.C. Landscape

Published on: Apr. 29, 2016


We are always keeping an eye on the interesting building developments around the country, and especially in our own backyard. The architectural history of Washington, D.C. is well-documented: From buildings that are the cornerstone of our country – like the White House and Capitol building – to the secluded roots of the Jazz Age – like Bohemian Caverns and the Lincoln Theater – and even several regrettable designs from the Seventies, each building and neighborhood marks a different generation. In 2016, the city seems poised for the next generation of developments to enter the landscape.

Dakota Crossing

On the hills of Fort Lincoln – D.C.’s Northeastern-most neighborhood – there have already been a number of townhouses constructed, but national retailers like PetSmart, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Costco and Lowe’s are quickly joining in the flourish. Pressed against Eastern Avenue, the border of D.C. and Maryland, and major highways in and out of the city, Dakota Crossing should prove to be a destination for District and Maryland residents alike. The influx of bigger national retailers and housing developments likely makes the neighborhood more appealing for the smaller regional shops and restaurants for which D.C. is so well known.

The Wharf

Tucked against the banks of the Potomac River, The Wharf in Southwest D.C. is one of the many neighborhood revitalization projects currently active in the city. Although The Wharf will tout its own appeals of dining and scenery, it also promises to be a catch-all for many of the other District must-sees. The Wharf will be conveniently situated equidistant between the Tidal Basin and monuments, as well as museums along the National Mall, the Capitol building and the prospective D.C. United soccer stadium. The Wharf promises to be a summer staple, especially as new businesses and hotels move to the neighborhood.

Virginia Avenue

In February, The Washingtonian published a proposal to remove the elevated portion of the I-395 Southeast Expressway – which splits the neighborhood south of the Capitol building and the Potomac River waterfront. The plan proposes replacing I-395 car traffic with an extended boulevard. The plan would also reduce car traffic by introducing an expanded streetcar system, bike paths and – most importantly – housing. At a glance, such a proposal is daunting, but the beauty of the sightlines created without the eyesore of the elevated highway is appealing. Though some have shied away from more streetcars, other cities’ past experiences speak to this proposal. Boston, for example, had a similar highway system – the Central Artery – that was moved underground during the Big Dig to make room for the Rose Kennedy Greenway. That greenway now ranks among the top attractions in the city. Adding another stretch of greenery to D.C.’s blend of neighborhoods and waterfront could prove equally attractive.

Photography: John Haslam on and is licensed by Creative Commons

Remembering Zaha Hadid

Published on: Apr. 22, 2016


When Zaha Hadid passed away at her Miami home this past March, she took with her an influential and progressive vision for the scope of modern architecture. Her cascading designs gave projects – from stadiums to museums, and even a fire station – the futuristic look of a cosmic utopia with a modern fluidity between human design and the surrounding landscape.

Her personal politics were bristling at times – and often brought as much negative scrutiny as her artistry provoked acclaim – but her agency brought international impact, nonetheless. The Baghdad-born Hadid founded her own architecture firm by the same name in 1980. Centered in London, Hadid designed buildings in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. It was her design of the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati that earned the distinction of “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the Cold War,” by the New York Times.

Though gone, her influence remains. David Adjaye, a British contemporary of Hadid, called her work “a new language form.” Said Adjaye: “She drew on her own force of spirit, distinct vision and indomitable character, all of which were present in her buildings.” Adjaye’s own design project, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, will open in Washington, DC this Fall. Carrying on her legacy, Zaha Hadid Architects will retain Hadid’s name, while trying to also retain her influence – a decidedly more difficult task. Visionary ideas are our driving inspiration at Griffin, so we mourn when such creativity is lost.

Photo Credit: Knight Foundation on and is licensed by Creative Commons

Recent Promotions and New Hires at Griffin & Company

Published on: March 8, 2016


There’s never a dull moment at a PR agency! We’ve hit the ground running here at Griffin & Company with a variety of tradeshows, webinars and other exciting projects under our belt. While we’re only a couple of months into 2016, this year is shaping up to be a busy one!

Of course, we couldn’t do any of this without our mighty Griffin team! We’ve been growing and improving with a mix of internal promotions and external hires.

vAfter joining Griffin in 2014 as Content Manager, Jessica Rosenberg has been promoted to Director of Content. In this role, Rosenberg is responsible for the development and management of all major client content delivered by Griffin. She is also responsible for managing all Content Department team members and client budgets.

Tatiana Daniel is another team member who has been promoted. Daniel started at Griffin in 2013 as the Media Relations Intern and has previously served as Account Coordinator and Account Specialist. In her position as Account Manager, Daniel provides strategic account direction and assistance with media relations, content and marketing communications activities, and handles day-to-day client relations.

Hannah VanSickle is a new addition at Griffin & Company as Creative Services Specialist. In her role, VanSickle is responsible for managing all client creative services including content layout and design, infographics, videography, photography, web design and all brand guidelines. Prior to joining Griffin, VanSickle served as a design intern at Studio Gannett, where she was a designer for USA Today.

We’re proud to have such a strong team full of diverse talent. Not only does everyone contribute a unique skill set, but also personalities that make the office a fun and energetic place to work!

Happy Presidents' Day!

Published on: February 15, 2016


Happy Holidays from Griffin & Company!

2015 has been a wonderful year for Griffin & Company! It is a pleasure to work with such great team members and clients. We are truly grateful for the success we have had and look forward to the new and exciting challenges that 2016 will bring. Happy New Year and cheers to 2016!

Happy Thanksgiving

Published on: Nov. 26, 2015


Get to know Griffin: Meet Erica White, Media Relations Specialist

Published on: Nov. 16, 2015

Miami, Florida

What do you really do?
As Media Relations Specialist, I really enjoy hitting a homerun for clients. I’m responsible for client media relations support, which includes media research, maintaining media files and contacts and reaching out to national trade, consumer, online and broadcast media. Other responsibilities include assistance with content marketing, press release writing and distribution, promotional copywriting, earned media monitoring, preparation of monthly and quarterly earned media analytics and keeping social media channels current.

What do you bring to the table for Griffin & Company clients?
I majored in media and communications studies in college and interned for more than a year at an advertising agency in the public relations department. My experience in advertising gives me a different perspective of how media works, since I’m able to look at it through advertising eyes, rather than solely public relations. I think it’s helpful to have an idea of what the other side of the client’s media team is prioritizing to be able to deliver the best results.

What is your favorite spot in Washington, DC?
My favorite spot in DC is anywhere that serves good food. My top three restaurants right now are Bodega in Georgetown, Smith Public Trust in Brookland and Silo in the Mount Vernon area. As far as landmarks, the Jefferson Memorial wins every time.

Where will we find you on a Saturday?
Saturdays you’ll find me barbequing on my rooftop or binge watching Netflix and ordering in all afternoon with my best friends, who happen to be my roommates and neighbors. I’ve been fostering a dog for a couple of months, so anything dog-friendly -- like parks, hiking and street festivals -- are usually good places to find me as well.

What is your favorite thing about working at Griffin & Company?
My favorite thing about Griffin is most definitely the people I’ve met. They’ve not only become close friends, but have helped me grow in my career. The team atmosphere is very positive, where everyone helps everyone out and not only cares about their work, but their well-being.

Happy Veteran's Day

Published on: Nov. 11, 2015


Google’s New Algorithm – Is Your Website In Jeopardy?

Published on: Jun. 17, 2015

What does it really take to get placed on the coveted first page of Google’s search results? Mobile Friendliness.

The majority of Internet searches each year are made via Google and, for the first time ever, the majority of those searches are made on mobile devices. Google recently responded to this shift, alerting web gurus that it’s putting more weight on the mobile friendliness of websites. Google’s new criterion is the latest addition to its secret algorithm (containing 200-plus factors) used to decipher high-quality and low-quality websites.

So, what does this mean for site owners and managers and content creators? Your website will be downgraded in search results if it:

  • Displays links that are hard to click on
  • Forces users to scroll horizontally to view all content
  • Uses text that is illegible without zoom
  • Runs on software that is not common on mobile devices, e.g. Flash

The good news? It’s not all or nothing. A website with high-quality content isn’t going to end up on Page 11 or below lower-quality websites just because it’s not mobile-friendly. It does up the ante, though. Highly-ranked (and thus, highly-trafficked) websites will now be those that offer original, informative content and are easily accessible and readable on the go.

To check your website’s mobile-friendliness ranking, click here.

Who (or What) is Driving the Industry?

Published on: May 21, 2015


Compact living is growing in popularity, so much so that there’s now a TV show devoted to it. Owning less space doesn’t necessarily require sacrifice, however. Those who have already taken the plunge into the tiny house real estate market are proving that designing the form to maximize the function is not only possible but, in some cases, preferable.

Living Pods. Modular, fold-out furniture and home amenities have emerged to cater to the minimalist and wanderlust-type downsizers.

  • Cocoon 1 by Micasa Lab is a plastic pod that contains built-in furniture, a kitchen and a power pack that can provide either 40 hours of light or 20 hours of light plus 30 minutes of cooking.
  • The Boxetti Collection by Rolands Landsbergs is a series of fold-out, slide-out modules. It includes a bedroom box, a living room box, an office and a kitchen.

Skinny Houses. Built to be less than 10 feet wide, Skinny Houses have provided a unique way for city dwellers to stake a claim as cities grow increasingly dense and expensive.

Spite Houses. Frank Lloyd Wright once said: “A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.” Wright would have appreciated the up-and-coming Spite Houses– homes built according to the site they sit on.

  • The owner of the Hollensbury Spite House wanted to prevent people from using the alley that separated his two row homes in Alexandria, Virginia, so he built the 7-foot-wide, 25-foot-deep dwelling in between.
  • A small strip of land was left untouched when a street was constructed in Northern California. The location was too good to pass up for the owner of the Alameda Spite House, a 10-foot-wide home that was built on the lot.
  • A fisherman in Eureka, California, wanted convenient access to the water. Sitting on the canal, the 384-square-foot cabin has boat storage beneath it and a sleeping loft over the kitchen.

Micro Apartments. There are more unmarried people in the U.S. today than there are married. There’s a growing demand for affordable studios and one-, two-person households as a result and builders in New York City are responding. Fifty-five apartments, ranging from 260 to 360 square feet in size, are currently under construction in the Big Apple.

“Is the land or the people dictating home building?” is becoming the new “What came first – the chicken or the egg?” question. We may never know the relationship between the two but we do know that the industry will have to continue to adapt accordingly.

Photography: Jeremy Levine on and is licensed by Creative Commons

“Earth Day is Every Day”

Published on: Apr. 30, 2015

April 30_Earth Day Infographic

The first Earth Day was in 1970. On every April 22 since then, people around the world celebrate their commitment to building an eco-friendly environment and sustainable future. Over one billion people in 190 countries joined in the celebrations this year.

  • Kuwait. The Chemical Engineering Society of Kuwait hosted a beach clean-up event, focusing on the importance of proper recycling. Students participated in a contest that required making art projects out of waste.
  • Rwanda. The Rwanda Environmental Conservation Organization held a national conference that invited stakeholders to express their views on the country’s sustainability efforts and be a part of the urban development discussion to make Rwandan cities greener.
  • Albania. Citizens gathered at the Aarhus Information Center in Vlore, Albania to sign a green petition to increase the green spaces in town.
  • India. Community organizations held a book fair to raise awareness about waste issues in the country. Citizens were encouraged to bring used books to be recycled and learn about the important of waste management.
  • Italy. In a speech at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis encouraged global citizens to “reflect on the spiritual and moral imperative of all people to care for the Earth and all its creatures.”
  • United States. A free concert took place on the National Mall featuring artists such as Usher, No Doubt and Mary J. Blige that inspired citizens to “take action to protect our planet and its people.”

Our calendars bestow Earth Day to April 22 but, as the Earth Day Network says, Earth Day is Every Day. The fight for a better future cannot be fought only every 364 days. Building a cleaner, more sustainable environment necessitates a long-term, year-round commitment. Thankfully, here in the U.S., we are well underway.

  • San Francisco was the first U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags, as part of its effort to divert 75 percent of landfill waste by 2010.
  • Chicago created a permanent greenbelt around the metropolitan area. More than 2.5 million square feet of city roofs now support plant life (thanks to the Chicago Green Roof Program) and nearly half a million trees have been planted throughout the city.
  • Seattle developed an incentive program that encourages residents to install solar panels on their homes for energy conservation.
  • In Cambridge, Massachusetts, all new constructions or major renovations must meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The city’s Compost That Stuff program collects and processes organic waste from residences, restaurants, bars and hotels.
  • Eugene, Oregon developed the Emerald Express, a hybrid public transit system.
  • Part of Boston’s “Green by 2015” goal is to replace traditional taxi cabs with hybrid vehicles, recycle trash to power homes, install more solar panels and use more electric motorbikes for transportation.

“What can I do to protect our environment,” you ask? Recycle. Plant a tree. Adopt habits that reduce your home’s energy consumption, like turning off the lights when leaving a room and unplugging appliances when not in use. Organize a community clean up. The possibilities are endless.

The Skinny on Skinny Houses

Published on: Apr. 8, 2015


Here’s a quick test to see if you’re in a skinny house right now: Stretch out your arms to either side of your body. Are you touching both sides of your house? No? Then you’re not in a skinny house.

Skinny houses are vertical homes: multiple, small floors stacked atop one another. These structures push the boundaries of architecture and test the limits of compact living. These vertical homes also answer the increasingly dire problem of cities’ density and expense. That’s how they started in Japan and Vietnam, where they’re known as eels’ nests and tube homes, respectively.

Here in the U.S., we have a few skinny houses of our own. The residents of 2726 P St NW in Washington, DC, enjoy a spacious interior width of 8.1 feet. Getting along with even less space, residents of the Hollensbury Spite House, Alexandria, Virginia, boast a seven-foot-wide home. In 325 square feet of space, they can fit about 12 guests and not much else.

Not claustrophobic yet? Picture 44 Hull Street in Boston’s North End. Four stories tall and wider in the front than back, this home is as little as 6.2 feet across on the inside … which makes Pittsburgh’s Skinny Building seem luxuriously big! This one comes in at 5.2 feet wide, which has been enough space over the years to serve as a lunch counter, produce stand, cookie shop, jewelry store and hair salon.

Still not feeling the walls close in on you? Check out Singel 166, a beloved tourist spot in Amsterdam that is a little over three feet wide. Not to be outdone, Warsaw, Poland, has the new Keret House, an art installation and studio space for traveling writers that is 2.3 feet wide at its narrowest.

Last but not largest, 75 ½ Bedford Street, New York, is as narrow as two feet in some places. Previously used as a cobbler’s shop, candy factory, art studio and home to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, 75 ½ Bedford Street can be the skinny home of your dreams.

The examples that dot the world are beloved for their innovation, and are sought after for the exact reason that some might avoid them: They’re just so very small and simple. Whether skinny houses gain popularity here in U.S. depends on the collective tolerance for wingspan-width spaces. Like it or not, though, cities are filling in. Soon we may all have to ask ourselves, “How much space do I really need?”

Photography: ericodeg on and is licensed by Creative Commons

A Season of Trade Shows and Innovation

Published on: Jan. 16, 2015

Source: The International Builders’ Show
Source: The International Builders’ Show

The last half of January is a particularly exciting time for the Griffin & Company team as we attend two of the building industry’s largest conferences. The first to kick off is the 2015 International Builders’ Show (IBS), taking place January 20-22 in Las Vegas. The second is the 2015 AHR Expo (AHR), from January 26-28 in Chicago.

IBS is the largest annual light construction show in the world and the numbers involved are astonishing:

  • 500,000-square-foot show floor
  • 50,000+ builders, remodelers, architects, designers, dealers and distributors
  • 1,000+ exhibiting companies
  • 100+ education sessions

After briefly recovering from the excitement of IBS, we’re then off to the AHR Expo where the numbers are just as impressive:

  • 480,000-square-foot show floor
  • 60,000+ manufacturers, engineers, managers, suppliers and contractors
  • 2,100+ exhibiting companies
  • 100+ education sessions and workshops

Equally astonishing is the breadth and quality of the exhibiting companies at both events. Among them are our clients ODL, Inc. and Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. Cooling & Heating Division.

Participating in conferences throughout the year is an important and enjoyable part of our work. IBS and the AHR Expo are especially worthwhile because they each gather an entire industry under one roof. Walking the show floor and interacting with industry members, we gain insight into the latest trends and innovations. We then use this knowledge to help our clients in their own work, and so contribute to the industry that continues to thrill, surprise and encourage us.

Un-Blurring the Line between PR and Advertising

Marketing Advertising Communication on Arrow SignsAs PR professionals, we’ve always been clear with regards to the distinct differences between public relations and advertising. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), however, doesn’t quite view the two as separate entities. In fact, in its regulation of commercial speech, the FTC regards content that comes from PR firms indistinguishable from content released by advertising agencies.

According to a recent article by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), as the line between the two continues to blur, we as PR pros need to be especially vigilant when it comes to producing content for our clients. If we’re not careful, not only can we find ourselves in an ethical dilemma but in a legal one as well.

PRSA consulted with Michael Lasky, a senior partner from  Davis & Gilbert LLP, New York, who heads the law firm’s PR practice group and co-chairs its litigation department. Lasky provided insight into the compliance issues PR firms need to be aware of and shared helpful advice for dealing with federal laws relating to native content (or advertising).

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Disclosure. Create honest, straightforward content that does not mislead the target audience and contains support for any and all claims that are made. In the event your PR firm is asked, it should be able to identify the message’s intended audience. Similarly, make sure to include clear disclosure when using sponsored stories or paid placements.
  • Intellectual Property. Agencies and PR firms have a responsibility to ensure that all content, including native content, does not infringe on copyrights, trademarks or other intellectual property rights held by others. In other words, do your homework. Research and carefully screen all content to ensure that it’s original and unique to your client – especially when user-generated content is involved.
  • Strategize. Keep your brand’s strategy top of mind and ensure that messaging is consistent across both paid and editorial platforms. This will help avoid conflicts with brand values as well as adverse affects in consumer loyalty.
  • Establish Guidelines. Every agency should have separate guidelines when it comes to native and paid content, and should set parameters to distinguish the two in style, design and format. This is increasingly important in today’s digital-driven world, where mobile and online devices offer endless mediums for accessing content.

To learn more on this topic, click here to read the full article from PRSA.

Griffin & Company, Inc. Hosts BroadFutures Intern

In the U.S., only 46 percent of individuals with learning disabilities obtain regular paid employment within two years of graduation. BroadFutures, an emerging nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., aims to change this statistic. BroadFutures helps young adults with learning disabilities transition into the workplace through a unique combination of holistic, individualized mentorship and training and paid internship opportunities. The organization kicked off its inaugural pilot program this summer, and we had the pleasure of being a part of it.

Our intern, a community college student from Silver Spring, Maryland, spent six weeks in our Washington, D.C. office, getting a feel for what it’s like to work in marketing communications. She assisted with daily operations, giving her the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a professional office environment, and participated in media projects that allowed her to learn about public relations and media outreach. She experienced firsthand the importance of thoroughness, teamwork and professionalism in an office setting. These experiences will serve as an invaluable foundation as she moves forward in her chosen field.

Griffin & Company was honored to participate in this inaugural program and we will continue to provide our support to more BroadFutures interns in the months and years to come.

To learn more about BroadFutures, click here.

Green Building Enthusiasts Descend on The Big Easy

Green build imageWhat did architects, engineers and manufacturers all have in common last week? They flocked to New Orleans to attend the 2014 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. The Griffin & Company team was there, too, both to represent our clients in the industry and as green building enthusiasts ourselves.

Greenbuild is the world’s largest gathering of building and construction professionals dedicated to implementing the best practices in sustainable development. Here’s what we mean by largest: For three days, more than 30,000 attendees explored energy-efficient, eco-friendly products and technology from 750+ suppliers and manufacturers. The seemingly endless rows of booths on the exhibition floor showcased everything from coatings and controls to HVAC and water systems. When not on the expo floor, attendees sat in on any of 120 educational sessions and explored the first-ever Net Zero Zone, an exhibition space powered entirely by on-site alternate energy generation.

Conference attendees experienced sustainability in every detail imaginable. Each event item distributed was printed on 100 percent recycled content paper and with vegetable-based inks. Expo staff even provided attendees with a shoe-check to encourage walking to and from the conference; this thoughtful offering gave attendees a place to store sneakers so they could comfortably commute and then stroll the conference floor in heels or loafers.

It is no surprise to Griffin that Greenbuild has become the monumental event it is. Green building is immensely popular now, with McGraw-Hill Construction estimating that 40 to 48 percent of new commercial construction will be green by 2015. We look forward to our continued part in this important industry.

SEO: From Trick to Treat

October 13_Death of SEO Image
Google processes more than 40,000 search queries every second and sifts through 20 billion websites a day to find information that it can turn into results. Search engine optimization (SEO) dictates where the information (website) ranks among the virtually endless search results. Google has changed the SEO game, however, so to maintain or increase your website’s visibility, it’s imperative you understand how the search engine powerhouse now works.

Google has released a number of new algorithms since 2011 – Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird – each designed to provide users with better information faster. Although Google has held its cards close and not publicized exactly how it now operates, below is what we do know has changed:

Before, SEO was a game of smoke and mirrors. The highest search results might have had the top search word(s) on the page, but they were often not the most relevant content from the most reliable sources. The websites with the most traffic attracted visitors solely because of their placement on the search results page, not because of the content it provides.

Now, Google calls for comprehensive information. It’s no longer just a keyword-stuffing gimmick. In fact, in 2013, Google stopped providing data about keyword popularity to avoid the skewed results. Its latest algorithms are not deceived by websites packed with keywords, duplicated content and manipulated hyperlinks, but instead recognize them for what they are.

Before, there were “content farms” and “scraper sites.” “Content farms” are websites with shallow or low-quality content. “Scraper sites” pull content from other sources. The creators of these websites, according to Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, identify popular searches in a particular category and then spend as little time and money as possible to generate content specifically tailored to those searches.

Now, Google rewards the creator. It now targets the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that “scraped” or copied it. This means websites that spend the time to generate and produce new, relevant information are rewarded with higher rankings on the search results page.

So, what does this all boil down to? The more original, inclusive and well-written your content is, the more likely Google will pick your website out from the masses.

The District Goes Green

Blog img 10.3Washington, D.C. is best known for the government, world-class museums and supremely tasty half-smoke sausages. More and more, though, the city is establishing itself as a leader in green building. According to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Washington, D.C. recently surpassed 100 million square feet of space certified to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) standards. The city is also home to the U.S. Green Building Council’s headquarters, whose very building was the first project certified under LEED 2009 for Commercial Interiors.

The annual Green Building Symposium and Expo (Symposium), hosted by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), is part of that vital effort. Last week, members of the Griffin team had the opportunity to attend the third Symposium, a day-long event that included opening remarks from DCRA Interim Director Rabbiah Sabbakhan, Deputy Mayor M. Jeffrey Miller, Mayor Gray and David Epley of DCRA; panel discussions and presentations; and an expo of green vendors.

The event was divided into four tracks, or topics, that offered a variety of sessions aimed at educating the engineers, architects, homeowners and other groups in attendance. One session offered insights into “greening your home,” including best practices and tips. Another featured a workshop on completing solar permit applications. And so on. A large focus throughout was the recent adoption of the 2013 DC Construction Codes, which as Sabbakhan said, “are substantially changing the way we design, construct and regulate buildings in the District of Columbia.”

The Griffin team sat in on Track 2: Best Practices in Green Building. Panelists in the Green Operations + Maintenance session spoke about building both green and affordably. We were inspired by an idea Krista Egger of Enterprise Green Communities shared: What ought to be can be with the will to make it so. We also listened to DCRA’s own Denise Everson detail the Sheridan Station project – the first affordable LEED Platinum housing in the country. The scope and significance of this project, and others like it, was stirring.

Griffin team members also enjoyed the lighthearted discussion of using ventilation to deal with humidity – an issue that anyone who’s been to the District in the summer knows intimately.

Events like this one are enjoyable, but beyond that they offer further proof of how active Washington, D.C. is in the building community. We are excited to do our own work surrounded by such innovative thoughts and actions, and we look forward to attending the fourth annual Green Building Symposium. Just 12 months to go.

Click here to learn more about the Symposium.

EPA Unveils Online Tool to Increase Consumer Awareness of Home Energy Use

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Consumers have to deal with many obligatory costs that come with owning a home - property taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and furnishings are just a handful of them. Energy costs can also put a big dent in a household's budget. Reflecting a growing market concern for reducing energy costs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed an online tool called ENERGY STAR @ home that helps homeowners save money by saving energy.

Users can navigate a virtual home and click on various rooms to receive tips on how they can make smarter choices and better manage their energy usage, from unplugging power adapters when equipment is disconnected or fully charged to using the right sized pot on stove burners. It also directs users to ENERGY STAR®-qualified products that improve comfort and convenience and lower electric bills.

As the cost of living continues to rise, it’s our duty as building and PR professionals to educate and help consumers save where they can. This fun, interactive tool makes it easy and convenient to do so – two valuable qualities in today’s hustle-and-bustle world. Check it out here.

Housing Starts Grow in Beaten Down Markets

Information released in August on housing starts shows that they are up more than 15.6 percent, and according to a Metrostudy report, some of the most beaten-down markets are now doing better. In Las Vegas, for example, starts of detached single-family homes were up 16 percent from Q2 2013 to Q2 2014, and Phoenix showed a 12.3 percent increase. The south, hard-hit with the housing bubble burst, showed gains in the Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Texas and South Florida markets. Single-family housing starts in Chicago were up 87 percent quarter over quarter, and up 30 percent year over year. Naples, Florida showed double-digit gains, both quarterly and annually.

Typically, data on housing starts measures by total volume. But Metrostudy compiles its information in percent change, which allows us to see trends of improvement in smaller markets.

Check out the chart from Metrostudy below on the top 10 markets for start growth. Click here to learn more about the recent trends in new residential construction.

Green Schools Offer Many Benefits

Many students are returning to school this week so we thought we’d take a minute to discuss the importance of green schools in our communities.

Many studies have shown that green schools have an extraordinary impact on how students learn and how teachers teach, and since building and renovating schools represents the largest construction sector in the United States according to The Center for Green Schools, there’s a huge opportunity to improve schools and make a difference in student’s lives.

Additionally, green schools help save an average of $71 per square-foot in overall operating costs as you’ll see in the infographic below. Plus, facility executives name a few other benefits such as improved community image, student performance and teacher retention.
Green Schools infographic_blog

Can you name any of the green schools in America? We’d love to hear about them.

Pre-Fab, Modular Housing: Three Facts for Building Insiders

The McMansion days are over. Average American home sizes continue to shrink since the recession, with the typical home now between 2,400 to 2,800 square feet. This trend is driven by cost and practicality; American consumers are focused on simplicity and efficiency as well as luxury. Natural finishes, clean lines, minimal embellishments, simple architecture: these are the trends of today.

Modular, or prefabricated, housing is a growing industry because it meets these trends head-on. The rise of factory-built, pre-fab homes might scare some in the building industry. But there are some advantages to this emerging market. Here are 3 facts to consider:

1. Pre-fab housing is faster

Home modules are constructed and inspected in a factory. According to the NAHB, it takes an average of three to four months to build a pre-fab home, depending on the complexity. Advanced, permanent machinery and the absence of weather delays are keys to the efficiency. It then takes an average of three days to assemble the components (or modules) at the home site. Watch this video to see how a modular home is assembled.

The average time for a stick-built or custom built home? Nine months to a year.

2. Modular homes can be remodeled

Having a modular home doesn’t mean that you can’t save up for that kitchen remodel in a few years. Nothing about pre-fab house precludes you from reconfiguring the layout and design later.

Remodeling contractors should know that the rise of pre-fab housing could actually impact their business positively. There may be some slight differences in the structure of the beams that support a pre-fab home, however, so contractors should ask homeowners upfront about the origin of the construction before getting started.

3. Modular homes are surprisingly durable

Prefabs can actually hold up better in extreme weather conditions than traditional stick-built structures, according to several hurricane-related studies. The engineered approach offers special safeguards for coastal homes such as additional strapping and bolting and specially formulated adhesives.

BUILDER magazine, which extensively covered modular housing during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, notes: “Modular construction is ideal for high-wind zones. Prefabricated housing has an added benefit for builders: It reduces dependence on on-site skilled labor, a commodity in short supply in New Jersey's booming rebuilding market. Typically in situations like high-volume rebuilding, prices rise pretty rapidly related to labor costs because it becomes in short supply relative to the market. This doesn't happen with modular building."

Griffin Blog_August 18 Post_Image
Photo caption: Modular homes are available in nearly any size or architectural style. Here are two homes from manufacturer Ritz-Craft.

College Prowler Ranks Greenest Campuses

Griffin Blog_August 11 Post_ImageNearly one out of every five home builders says 90 percent of the homes they build are green. The number of devoted green builders is expected to double by 2018 as green living becomes the norm and more families opt for sustainable lifestyles at home. It comes as no surprise then that the green movement is picking up steam on college and university campuses nationwide as well as in homes:

Given the arms race to become the greenest campus in the nation, College Prowler wanted to find out which school is currently the greenest in each U.S. state. The company ranked each college and university on a scale from one to 10, taking into consideration the number of green-certified buildings on campus as well as its sustainability initiatives and programs. Pitzer College in Claremont, California, took the top spot in the state and nationwide and was the only school to receive a perfect 10.

Want to see if your school or alma mater was dubbed the greenest? Click here.

Looking for a Themed Vacation? Go LEED This Summer with USGBC's Vacation Guide

Still trying to get in a last minute summer vacation? The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently released its “USGBC’s Guide to Your Vacation” listing the top five LEED® certified U.S. cities and must-see attractions for each. As vacation season is coming to an end, why not use your summer trip as a chance to visit some of the most eco-friendly cities in the country?

Here are the top destinations on the USGBC’s list:

The Living Roof

The Living Roof, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco.

San Francisco.
In 2011, San Francisco was named the greenest city in North America, and is considered a pioneer in the environmental movement. On par with its green ordinances, the city boasts several LEED attractions including the SFJAZZ Center, The Exploratorium, California Academy of Sciences and even the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park.

New York City.
Despite its growing population, New York City has made it a priority to make LEED certification top-of-mind when it comes to construction and renovation. Thus, the Big Apple has numerous LEED hotels, museums and theatres to offer its more than 54 million visitors each year. Topping the USGBC’s list is the Gold-certified Empire State Building, as well as the city’s first LEED certified Broadway theater, the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, and its first LEED certified museum, the Brooklyn Children's Museum.

In the last decade, the Windy City has climbed the ranks from an industrial capital to a deserving frontrunner in the race for the most eco-friendly city in the U.S. In addition to its miles of bike lanes and urban farms, Chicago has a number of green buildings to showcase. To name a few, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Broadcast Communications and Hotel Felix are listed as top attractions.

Las Vegas.
Known for its bright lights, over-the-top amenities and big-city atmosphere, Las Vegas has been making its way into the sustainability spotlight in recent years. In fact, Sin City holds some of the largest LEED certified projects in the world – including the 16,797,000-square-foot Las Vegas City Center, which received LEED Gold certification. Other notable LEED hotels and casinos suggested by the USGBC are the Venetian Resort & Casino and the Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino.

The Living Roof

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, one of the largest LEED
Silver certified history museums in the country.

Like Chicago, Pittsburgh has shed its previous title as an industrial center and begun a city-wide focus on green living and sustainability. In addition to housing one of the largest LEED Silver history museums in the country – the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh – the USGBC deems the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, David L. Lawrence Convention Center and Senator John Heinz History Center worthy of a visit.

Click here to read the full list from the USGBC.

The Future of Walkable Urbanism

Image Source: Builder Magazine
Image Source: Builder Magazine

According to a recent report by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis and LOCUS, walkability may be on the rise for some of the nation’s most sprawling cities.

The report, “Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism in America’s Largest Metros,” suggests that, if current development trends continue, major cities such as Atlanta, Miami and Detroit will transition from their sprawling urban plans to what’s becoming known as “walkable urban places.”

Also referred to as “WalkUPs,” walkable urban places are characterized by high density and a diverse mix of real estate and transportation options – with spaces such as home, work, school, grocery stores and restaurants all within walking distance.

What’s most interesting about the report, however, is how significant the shift is. Our very own Washington, D.C., tops today’s list of walkable cities, followed by the predictable New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. While the future list isn’t tied to a specific year, predications show that Atlanta will move from eighth to fifth place, while Detroit jumps from 22nd to eighth and Miami moves from 23rd to fourth.

What does this mean for the future of the building industry? According to a recent article in Builder, professionals would be wise to embrace this trend.

Both Millenials and baby boomers are looking for developments with these characteristics. While Millenials are searching for mixed-use, excitement and buzz, baby boomers are looking to settle in areas where driving is no longer required to access the services they need.

Walkability doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to urban areas either; it can be achieved in urban, suburban and rural locations with the right attributes. Among the list of qualities to focus on is design that encourages interaction, such as larger sidewalks, mid-block alleys and courtyards, along with an emphasis on mixed-use applications with tenants that complement each other, like coffee shops and bookstores.

To read more about the future of walkability, click here.

Top 5 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Over Independence Day Weekend


This week Americans will be celebrating the Fourth of July all over the country, but we think there's no better place to experience the anniversary of our country's birth than our nation's capital. Since Washington, D.C. is our home base, we've listed the top five can't miss activities for this year's celebration.

5. Walk around the Folklife Festival. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held every summer on the National Mall and typically draws more than a million visitors. This year's festival has two themes: China: Tradition and the Art of Living, and Kenya: Mambo Poa. The festival will run July 2-6, and like the Smithsonian museums, it's free.

4. Attend the National Independence Day Parade. Who doesn't love a parade? America's National Independence Day Parade consists of invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, equestrian, drill teams, VIP's, national dignitaries, and celebrity participants. The parade route is on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Streets and will kick off on July 4, at 11:45 a.m.

3. View the original Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. What could be more patriotic than viewing the document that started it all? The Archives holds a variety of Fourth of July festivities including a reading of Thomas Jefferson's text.

2. Head over to the Willard for its annual Fourth of July Block Party. The Willard InterContinental Hotel is just steps from the White House and is one of the most historic hotels in Washington (President Ulysses S. Grant used to take meetings in the lobby, spawning the urban legend of the origin of the term "lobbying"). Each Independence Day, the hotel decks out its lobby and opens its doors for its annual Fourth of July block party. The hotel's restaurant, Café du Parc, hosts live music and serves classic American fare.

1. 4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall. Washington is home to the nation's largest Independence Day fireworks display. Kicking off at dark, the fireworks are launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and light up the sky over the Washington Monument. Best of all, the District has strict limitations on building height, meaning no skyscrapers block the view and the display can be viewed from many vantage points throughout the city. You can also enjoy them from the Potomac River by taking a Fireworks Cruise.

Chesapeake Bay – Stop the Silliness


You would think a straightforward task like cleaning up a major U.S. bay wouldn’t be complicated, but that seems to be the way it goes lately. We don’t usually get involved in political softballs, but this one seems particularly silly. And since I can throw a rock from my office into the Potomac River, it’s especially personal (full disclosure: one of my mentors – Michael Hanley, founder of Hanley Wood LLC and the Hanley Foundation Award – is a board trustee of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation).

cbf_logoIn a nutshell, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute and other special interests (including NAHB) have declared what some call “environmental war” on the Bay, its rivers and streams (the Potomac River being a key tributary). And they’ve pulled some 21 states into the fight from as far away as Alaska and Florida. The fear is that the recently-approved Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint poses a threat to future regulation of large bodies of U.S. waters, such as the Gulf of Mexico. But the Blueprint represents a groundbreaking federal and state plan to significantly reduce pollution levels every year, which is exactly what this area needs.

Here’s What the Blueprint Says:

  • Asks everyone to do his/her part, insuring governments, businesses and individuals work together
  • Tracks progress by measuring specific two-year goals, called milestones
  • Imposes penalties for failure

How You Can Help:

  1. Get involved – click here to learn the steps
  2. Email your local congressional rep or senator about this silliness
  3. Make a donation here (however small, but do it before June 30, 2014!)

Some Quick Facts:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) was founded in 1967
  • CBF works throughout a six-state region and the District of Columbia – an estimated 64,000-square-mile watershed (includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia)
  • The CBF watershed is home to more than 17 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals
  • CBF is the largest estuarine protection organization in the U.S. with 200,000 members and e-subscribers


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