Technology can be a giant pain in the butt, but it can also keep us remarkably productive. It’s also pretty amazing that what we have now often wasn’t available 10 years ago, even, but there is an entire generation that has never known that you couldn’t always carry your computer in your back pocket.

Just the other day, a kid asked me how I knew where to go in the “olden days,” before there were cell phones that could give you directions.

“What do you consider to be the olden days?” I asked him.

“You know, about 1993 when you were a new baby,” he replied, matter-of-factly.

First, bless his heart for thinking I was born in 1993, and secondly, I had to think — remember the days of printing out the directions from Mapquest, or going to AAA for a TripTik?

Almost two weeks ago, I went to the Online News Association’s annual convention and encountered the latest in tech for journalists, and attended a forecast of what the technology landscape would look like in the next few years.

So all of that was swirling around last Friday when we posed our Friday question on Facebook. We were curious — what do you use to keep yourself organized, or even entertained?

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A U.K. firm has created a water absorbing concrete that I seriously think we need to take a look at and begin using or making here in the U.S. STAT.

This concrete is called “TopMix permeable”  and it acts as a giant concrete sieve/sponge, allowing the rainwater to drain right through it. Working on the traditional Indian model of rainwater harvesting and infiltration, this concrete can save more than 880 gallons of water per minute. But I think its use will be vital in our increasingly dense, urban infill areas that are flat, where water pools and floods during wild rain storms.

  • On an average, it can up take 36,000 mm water per hour
  • The level of water absorption may vary from country-to-country based on its climatic conditions
  • Many Texas areas would benefit from the reduced rainwater

TopMix Permeable can help cities better manage storms — watch this video —  just please don’t tell those folks who still want a tollroad next to the Trinity!

 

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The spec house at 6115 Desco Dr. will look similar to this. Photo courtesy Shoot2Sell.

The spec house at 6115 Desco Dr. will look similar to this, also built by LRO Residential Development.

Spec homes are a sign of strong builder and bank confidence in a market, as they are created without any specific buyer in mind, just the belief that one will be interested once it is completed. The higher the price tag, the higher the stakes.

In our inventory-parched market, homebuilder Les Owens, President of LRO Residential Development, has that confidence in the Dallas market, even at multi-million-dollar levels. He’s starting two spec houses this month, one in Preston Hollow for $3.15 million, and another in Devonshire for $2.2 million.

Both houses are available for customization, but Owens is breaking ground now and says he will complete them in late summer/early fall this year.

As we reported earlier this month, luxury home sales in Dallas-Fort Worth skyrocketed in 2014—those with prices of $1 million and up grew 15 percent year-over-year, the second highest sales volume in Texas (bested only by Houston).

Luxury home sales in DFW represented 1.2 percent of the market, and top-performing luxury brands are seeing more multi million-dollar sales in areas that have strong resale value and high existing demand.

“Established neighborhoods and homes of significance in coveted areas such as Highland Park, Preston Hollow, Greenway Parks, and The Volk Estates are desperately pursued, and the quality of the design continues to be a driving factor,” said Caroline Summers, a Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s agent. Jump to read about the houses and see photos!

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Photo courtesy Greico Modern Homes

Photo courtesy Greico Modern Homes

The homebuilding market in DFW is super hot, and with a new year comes new trends. Candy already mentioned the emergence of the skullery, but there’s more!



We’ve asked the best and brightest North Texas homebuilders to look into their crystal balls and make predictions about homebuilding trends for 2015. They’ve also given us some sublime photos that illustrate those trends in action in their own work. You won’t want to miss this—jump to read the whole story!

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Top 10 Best Performing MSAs

It’s definitely an improvement over last year’s ranking of 14th, with Dallas coming in 7th in this year’s Best-Performing Cities poll from the Milken Institute. The Dallas-Plano-Irving MSA beat Houston-Sugarland-Baytown (8th) but came in behind top-ranking Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos.

The poll tries to objectively measure job creation and retention, as well as the economic vitality of the nation’s metropolitan statistical areas. Thanks to Austin’s booming technology sector and growth in high-paying jobs, put the Texas capital city ahead. Here’s what the authors attribute to Austin’s lead:

This year’s Best-Performing City, Austin, is a case study in concocting the proper recipe for economic vitality.  A rising technology center, it is creating high-quality jobs that improve the region’s overall wage structure.  Economic development officials rightly tout its business-friendly, low-tax, low-regulation climate when recruiting outside the state, particularly when soliciting California firms. They also herald the business startups of local  entrepreneurs, the spinouts from the University of Texas, Austin, and the number and quality of UT graduates.

Austin’s technology base is fairly diversified: hardware, chips and communication gear, computer system design, Internet-related services, and biomedical research. The metro has its share of homegrown tech companies — Dell, Freescale Semiconductor, Flextronics International, and National Instruments among them — and has been successful at attracting technology icons from elsewhere as well. The financial services sector is also adding jobs.

Dallas Milken Report chartDallas made big gains this year, though, moving up seven spots thanks to its active financial services market and the growth of technology-related companies. It has one of the most diverse economies, the report claims, and Dallas’ economic growth was one of the fastest in the past year.

What we noticed in the report that many Dallas homebuyers are noticing now, too, is the higher cost of living within the Dallas city limits, especially in middle-class neighborhoods. The Milken report cautions that this could push companies and wage-earners to move outside the area, a trend that Austin is seeing right now with families finding housing within the city of Austin to be overpriced. Still, wage growth helps buffer high housing costs, an area in which Dallas trails.

How do you think Dallas can become an even better-performing city?