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Riding out the downturn at PCBC

San Francisco The chief executives from two of the nation’s largest home builders, Pulte and Shea Homes, ended a joint session here by delivering the following message: the housing industry is cyclical. Hang in there, if you can, and the business will come back.

Of course, most of the attendees at PCBC 2008, the West Coast’s annual conference and trade show for the building industry, already knew all that. But many of them were happily reassured on June 25 by Richard Dugas, president and CEO of Pulte Homes, and Bert Selva, president and CEO of Shea Homes. As two of the largest production builders in the country, Dugas and Selva were also able to address the changes they see coming during “What’s Next: A Housing Market Overview.”

Although “market dynamics” seem to be better in the Rockies, and job growth is still strong in Texas and Colorado, neither builder saw definite signs of a recovery. Looking into 2009, the CEOs saw a healthier market, but a changed one.

“There will be less players when the dust settles,” said Selva, addressing the issue of builders merging or going out of business.

Dugas agreed. “The headlines don’t show it, but you’re going to have more consolidation.”

On the issue of reducing the cost of materials -- a subject of several seminars on this year’s educational program -- Dugas said he hopes to use value engineered home plans across different parts of the country. Selva is taking a second look at “a lot of things we put in a house [where] I wonder if we’re really getting paid for it.”

Pulte and Shea have reduced their staffing by 60 percent and 45 percent, respectively, as have other home builders, architectural firms and trade contractors. The industry wide layoffs had a noticeable effect on this year’s show, both in terms of foot traffic and number of booths.

Anumber of exhibitors drilled down into the green category with solar water heaters, LED lighting systems and energy-efficient ventilation fans. Manufacturers also addressed the growing number of state and municipal fire code regulations aimed at preventing another season of raging wildfires in states like California and Colorado.

Organized by the California Building Industry Association, the three-day conference, held June 25 to 27 at the Moscone Center, continues today with a keynote address by Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink.”

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