Archive for April, 2009

Scientists Study How Room Designs Affect your Work and Mood

While it’s not exactly a scientific study of Feng Shui as the Chinese practice it, research is beginning to prove how room qualities such as ceiling height, views, and type of light affect peoples moods, ability to socialize, and critical thinking.   All of which lend more weight to what artists and stagers have long known…

Architects have long intuited that the places we inhabit can affect our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But now, half a century after Salk’s inspiring excursion, behavioral scientists are giving these hunches an empirical basis. They are unearthing tantalizing clues about how to design spaces that promote creativity, keep students focused and alert, and lead to relaxation and social intimacy. Institutions such as the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in San Diego are encouraging interdisciplinary research into how a planned environment influences the mind, and some architecture schools are now offering classes in introductory neuroscience.

Such efforts are already informing design, leading to cutting-edge projects, such as residences for seniors with dementia in which the building itself is part of the treatment. Similarly, the Kingsdale School in London was redesigned, with the help of psychologists, to promote social cohesion; the new structure also includes elements that foster alertness and creativity. What is more, researchers are just getting started. “All this is in its infancy,” says architect David Allison, who heads the Architecture + Health program at Clemson University. “But the emerging neuroscience research might give us even better insights into how the built environment impacts our health and well-being, how we perform in environments and how we feel in environments.” 

“Ceiling height affects the way you process information,” Meyers-Levy says. “You’re focusing on the specific details in the lower-ceiling condition.”full story

How Room Designs Affect Your Work and Mood [Scientific American Mind]


Takin' It To The Streets

City officials decided to shave costs, given the city’s huge budget deficit and Muni’s fiscal problem, by cutting street sweeping in more than 20 neighborhoods, in August, but what they didn’t anticipate was the loss of almost four times more money than it saved. City officials knew the change would lead to a loss in revenue from parking tickets but are they willing to keep with the trend? If so, the transit agency will be out more than $3.8 million per year in exchange for $1 million in savings for the Department of Public Works.

There has been concern from both city officials and residents of whether or not these cuts, in both cash and service, make any sense. But Muni officials claim that there has been a decline in parking tickets, in general, on all routes during the same time period therefore figuring the loss of revenue isn’t that high. The agency, also, states that the $3 million, in lost revenue, is a little misleading considering on average only 80% of ticket fines are recouped which brings the annual lost revenue, on those routes, closer to $1.6 million. However, the amount of lost revenue still may potentially increase because some of the street-sweeping cuts didn’t take effect until December.

All in all, transport agency spokesman Judson True made himself very clear by saying, “his transportation agency doesn’t base its tickets on possible revenue and doesn’t decide when streets need cleaning.” In turn Public Works officials claim the changes are about efficiency, not just cost-savings.

Street-sweeper reductions costing Muni money [SFGate]


New Appraisal Rules Adopted by Fannie Mae & Freddic Mac

As of May 1st, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has mandated that loan officers CANNOT select or pay appraisers. The Home Value Code of Conduct (HVCC), as it’s called, outlines appraisal-related practices to which lenders must adhere with respect to so-called “conventional” or “conforming” loans that they want to sell to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It’s intended to remove conflicts of interest some feel are inherent in the loan officer/appraiser relationship.

In the coming months these new rules from HVCC potentially mean appraisals and perhaps escrow periods may take longer. Instead of the current practice of a loan officer ordering directly from the appraiser , the HVCC model is that a bank has a stable of appraisers, a loan officer submits an appraisal order, and any appraiser in the stable will be randomly assigned to the order. Banks will either have internal appraisal divisions or be contracted with an appraisal management company, therefore, leaving the loan officer at the mercy of the process regarding turn around times considering the FHFA (using Fannie and Freddie) has to approve each bank’s entire appraisal process.

Lag time may be inevitable, but proponents say the new rules will result in more-reliable appraisals, less fraud, lower costs and minimal disruption. As opposed to critics who expect less-accurate appraisals, delays in loan processing, higher costs and general misery for all concerned.


San Francisco Real Estate Activity Over the Past Two Weeks

Statistics for the Past Two Weeks, SF homes, condo’s and TIC’s
New Listings: 315 – slightly up from 306
Back-on-Market: 64 – slightly down from 67
Price Reductions: 207 – substantially down from 273
Went into Contract (Contingent): 171 – down from 185
Contingent REO (bank owned): 7 – down from 11
Went Pending: 164 – up from 151
Sold: 104 – down from 133
Sold REO (bank owned): 9 – down from 20
Expired/Withdrawn: 131 – substantially down from 199

The median list price for active houses is $913,000; the median list price for contingent/pending houses is $640,000; the median list price for contingent/pending REO houses is $419,000.

The median list price for active condos is $703,000; the median list price for contingent/pending condos is $640,000; the median list price for contingent/pending REO condos is $385,000.