Friday, July 19, 2013

Study by Rice University Says Houston Neighborhoods at Higher Risk for Cardiac Arrests

A Rice University/City of Houston study being published in the August edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds greater risk of cardiac arrest and lower cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in a corridor of Houston that runs right down the middle of the city. 

A new collaboration between the Houston Department of Health and Human Services and the local chapter of the American Heart Association is aimed at addressing the problem through increased availability of CPR training.  So far, more than 4,200 people in the targeted neighborhoods have been trained in hands-only CPR.

“Due to the work of our emergency responders, the local cardiac arrest survival rates are among the best in the nation,” said Mayor Annise Parker.  “However, your chances of survival are even better when a bystander steps in to help with CPR in the minutes before emergency help arrives.  In the longer term, the overall goal must be reduction in the incidence of cardiac arrest.  We have to continue work to improve area air quality and achieve healthier lifestyles.”

The at-risk neighborhoods generally follow a corridor along Highway 288 and Highway 59 North and include Sunnyside, South Park, Riverside, Magnolia, Denver Harbor and 5th Ward.  Acres Homes is a separate area also identified by the study as heavily affected.

“The opportunity to bring quality science expeditiously to the benefit of the community is a noted outcome of this work as well as our on-going collaboration,” said David Persse, EMS director and health authority for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services.

The city and the American Heart Association earlier this year launched the neighborhood outreach program that educates residents of the affected communities on the importance of bystander CPR and how to conduct CPR. The city coordinates and pays for the training. The association trains the residents to perform CPR.

Monday, July 15, 2013

NAHB Shares Complete List of all 255 Metros Currently on Improving Markets Index

A total of 255 metropolitan areas across 49 states and the District of Columbia qualified to be listed on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI) for July, released today. This is down slightly from the 263 metros that made the list in June, but is more than triple the number of metros that were on it in July of 2012.

The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Six new markets were added to the list and 14 were dropped from it in July. Newcomers include the geographically diverse metros of Cumberland, Md.; Saginaw, Mich.; Farmington and Las Cruces, N.M.; Kingston, N.Y.; and Olympia, Wash.

“This is the sixth straight month in which at least 70 percent of all U.S. metros have qualified for the Improving Markets Index,” observed NAHB Chairman Rick Judson. “The relative stability of the IMI is representative of the broad recovery underway, which is much more extensive than what we were looking at one year ago.”

“Despite slight ups and downs in recent IMI levels, an overwhelming majority of U.S. metros -- including those located in almost every state -- remain solidly on the path to recovery even as the pace of their improvement is slowed by ongoing challenges related to the availability of credit, labor, lots and certain building materials,” added NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Based on recent trends in home prices, housing permits and employment, the outlook for a continued housing expansion remains very positive for the remainder of 2013.”

“The fact that more than two-thirds of all U.S. housing markets continue to be represented on the improving list should be a boon to consumer confidence at a time when many are looking to take advantage of today’s very favorable mortgage rates,” observed Kurt Pfotenhauer, vice chairman of First American Title Insurance Company.

The IMI is designed to track housing markets throughout the country that are showing signs of improving economic health. The index measures three sets of independent monthly data to get a mark on the top Metropolitan Statistical Areas. The three indicators that are analyzed are employment growth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, house price appreciation from Freddie Mac and single-family housing permit growth from the U.S. Census Bureau. NAHB uses the latest available data from these sources to generate a list of improving markets. A metro area must see improvement in all three measures for at least six consecutive months following those measures’ respective troughs before being included on the improving markets list.

A complete list of all 255 metros currently on the IMI, and separate breakouts of metros newly added to or dropped from the list in July, is available at

Friday, July 12, 2013

Energy Saving Tips for Your Attic

Energy Saving Tips for Your Attic

The attic is one of the places where you often find the biggest air leaks, which can increase your energy bills and make you uncomfortably hot in summer and cold in winter. It is also a place that is generally accessible, making it easier to air seal and insulate to improve your home's comfort and overall energy performance.

Attic Ventilation

Attic Before Renovation
Proper ventilation of the attic with natural air flow keeps the roof deck cool and dry, extending the life of roof shingles and preventing ice dams without using the energy needed to run an attic vent fan. Be sure attic soffit vents and gable vents are not blocked so air flows freely through them. Some homes have ridge vents or vents through the roof deck instead of gable vents. Learn more in the DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR.


Look for holes, tears, and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them using mastic or metal (foil) tape (never use 'duct tape,' as it is not long-lasting). Insulate all the ducts you can access (such as those in the attic, crawlspace, unfinished basement, or garage).

Ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems. In typical houses, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts. The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set. See our Duct Sealing brochure PDF (1.3MB) for more information on steps you can take to improve your home's duct system.

Attic Hatch or Door

Attic After Renovation by Incredible Renovations, Houston, TX
Weather strip and insulate your home's attic hatch or door to help keep your home more comfortable and save energy. You can do this with weatherizing materials and insulation or with a pre-made attic cover available from local home improvement centers and on the web.

The exterior of your home — the outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor — is called the "envelope" or "shell." Sealing and insulating — done by a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor — can save more than $200 a year in heating and cooling costs (or up to 10% on total annual energy bills). It will also make your home more comfortable and help your heating and cooling system run more efficiently. If your attic is accessible and you like home improvement projects, you can Do-It-Yourself with help from our DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR, which offers step-by-step instructions for sealing common air leaks and adding insulation to the attic.

 You can also hire a contractor who can use special diagnostic tools to pinpoint and seal the hidden air leaks in your home before adding insulation. To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in the attic. A quick way to see if you need more insulation is to look across your uncovered attic floor. If your insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you probably need to add more. The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38 (or about 12–15 inches, depending on the insulation type). In the coldest climates, insulating up to R-49 is recommended.

More Information:

Information regarding Attic Conversions:

Friday, July 5, 2013

A New Home and a New Way to Cook

When you’re remodeling or renovating, you might want to consider the role that your kitchen is going to play in your new, improved home. In the before-time, when you were cooking a meal you probably spent a whole afternoon in the kitchen, trying to get the entire meal together and get it just right. You were running from oven to microwave to sink to refrigerator to stove top and back again, and the whole time your family and/or guests were enjoying each other’s’ company or watching television or doing something other than slaving over a hot stove. 

Get Out of the Kitchen and Into the Great Outdoors 

There is a solution to this problem: outdoor kitchens. An outdoor kitchen with a designer grill installed will allow you to do far more than just grill on your deck when everyone feels like burgers and hot dogs. After all, outdoor grills aren’t all there is to a kitchen, just as a stove top isn’t all there is to your indoor kitchen. 

The best outdoor grills come equipped with a variety of other cooking appliances that will let you create real gourmet meals outside while your friends and family hang around, telling you just exactly how they want their meat done. 

Beyond designer grills, outdoor kitchens come with things like refrigeration units, warming trays, and ovens. That’s right, you can use your grill to bake. That’s pretty amazing when you consider all the work it would normally take to run inside, check on what’s baking, and then run back outside. In fact, when you’re baking, you tend not to take your eye off the oven. 

With an outdoor kitchen, you never have to leave the company of friends and family while you’re cooking three or four different dishes at once, and with a dishwashing unit installed you don’t even have to step away from the party to clean up. Multitasking is, after all, the trademark of a modern life. 

There’s More to Cooking than Cooking 

With refrigeration units, you can store your cooking supplies in the grill, keeping it fresh throughout the night and ready to be cooked for diners who want seconds or thirds. You can also keep beer and other liquid refreshments in your grill, but why would you do that when you can install a beer tap and use a keg? When your grill is also a bar, you know you’ve got the best barbecues in the neighborhood. 

Hanging out with friends and family instead of being holed up in your kitchen isn’t all there is to having an outdoor grill installed in your renovated home. When you’re cooking outdoors, you get to spend time among nature, enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery of your yard, rather than being cooped up in your home. 

If you’re doing a lot of work on your kitchen as well, an outdoor kitchen might be just what you need to feed yourself and your family during the transition anyway! Bonus: you’ll be doing it in style and “eating out” every night. What family wouldn’t love to do that? 

Your New and Improved Kitchen 

Regardless of how you intend to use your outdoor kitchen or why you had one installed, it will serve you well for some time to come. Made of stainless steel, with its own warranty and an amazing array of appliances and tools to cook just about anything you’d ever think of, an outdoor kitchen is the answer to all of your kitchen-based problems. Surprisingly, there are plenty of those, but there’s nothing that can’t be solved with steel, fire, and plenty of meat.

For More Information about Remodeling:

By T.M. Loyd

T.M. Loyd is a freelance writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who has been published across the web on topics ranging from landscaping to web security and all points in-between. He is schooled in finance, international relations, literature, consumer issues, and education, among many, many other disciplines.