Shake Shack to open up to 20 stores by end of year; 1st drive-thru next year

The fast-casual burger chain Shake Shack has returned to unit development, opening nine new stores so far this year with plans to open 15 to 20 new locations by the end of the year. Read the Restaurant Business online story here

Posted in News |
NY state hotel makes history for accessibility

The new Hampton Inn Buffalo-Amherst in New York boasts the nation’s first certification for total access to guests of all abilities. Features of the $14.4 million property include bathrooms with roll-in showers, low-placed thermostats and absence of steps. Read The Buffalo News story here

Posted in News |
College-town condos designed to double as hotel rooms

The new, $50 million Lakeside Lodge in Seneca, South Carolina, near Clemson University has sold almost two-thirds of its $200,000 to $800,000 condo units, which can double as hotel-style college game day accommodations with lockable doors for every unit’s bedroom suites. Each owner chooses whether to participate in the hotel-rental program, which offers a 60/40 revenue split between owners and the developer/management company. Read The Greenville News story here

Posted in News |
7 Easy Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value

Your home is one of your biggest investments. Not only is it perspectively an investment, as its value will increase, but it is the space where you spend most of your life, and the quality of your life will be determined by the state of your home. So let’s check out what are some things that you can do to increase your home’s value without blowing a hole through your budget.

Get Your Walls Together

Our walls are the foundation of the home. We tend not to pay attention to them and just see them as a backdrop, but over time, they bring in a lot of energy to the room. If you have white walls that have gotten dusty and scuffed over the years, a fresh lick of paint will make your room literally shine. If you have holes in the walls from where pictures hung, patch them up and they will look as good as new. The experts at this website put this at the top of the list for repairs that need to be done before trying to sell. It makes sense, though, as a house with freshly painted walls will give the impression that the entire home has been maintained.

Trim the Outdoors

If you have an outdoor space, you want to make sure you are using the most of it. This might mean planting a tree that will grow to create some beautiful shade in the garden, or it can be maintaining a tidy hedge around the property and the grass at a nice length. What you don’t want is to have a garden overflowing with weeds and vines climbing up to where they’re not supposed to, because that will make it look like a haunted house, rather than a house in the prairie.

Make it Efficient

This is a long-term investment and one that you’ll want to make if you’re planning to spend a few good years in the home after you do it. Making the house energy efficient by insulating it properly, replacing any leaky doors and windows, and making sure the bills aren’t any higher than needed, will raise its value for any potential buyers because it cuts their costs in the long run.

Increase the Square Footage

The main thing a potential buyer will look for is the usable square footage – usable being the important word there. But you should also focus on getting as many rooms out of the home as you can. So if you have a walk-in closet that doesn’t need to be there because there’s plenty of space for a closet in the rooms, why not make it into a nursery?

Renovate Your Bathroom

Most furniture gets taken out of the home when you sell, but not the bathrooms. This means that potential buyers will be looking closely at the state of your bathrooms and calculating whether it will all need to be replaced. But if you do it now, you will not only have a beautiful new bathroom to enjoy while you’re living there, but you will be adding to the value of the home. Buyers don’t look only at how much the upgrade will cost, but how much time it will take them to change it.

Regular Maintenance and Repairs

When was the last time you had a professional come and check your plumbing, or your electricity or measure if there’s any mold in the air? Probably not in a long time. We don’t tend to think about that because they’re not some changes we can see with our eyes. However, you will find that if you mention that there were regular repairs on the home to a buyer, they will be very pleased and more likely to accept a higher price.

Unify it

If we’ve been in a home for a long time, we get accustomed to every detail in there and we don’t see that altogether, it doesn’t actually look that great. The walls are a different color in each room, the wood finished on different pieces of furniture don’t match, and the house just feels a bit disjointed. Get some design magazines and try to invest yourself in finding a style that can flow through the whole house. If your house looks like it came from the front page of a magazine, people will be willing to pay a lot more for it!

When and if you one day decide to sell, you’ll be very happy you maintained your home in good condition. You don’t have to do a huge overhaul to raise its value in the last second. Use the above-mentioned tips and you’re good to go!

Posted in Vendor News |
What Benefits Should You Offer To New Hires?

To retain new hires, you need to offer them an attractive benefits package to avoid losing them. Some business owners choose not to provide new hires benefits; this often proves to be costly late on. The benefits can be valuable, hence it’s always essential to consider offering new hires benefits as part of compensation.

With this in mind, it’s necessary to understand the important ones to provide your workers.

1. Disability and Accident Insurance cover

When working, new hires might get in an accident, and the accident insurance could come in handy. The insurance covers their medical costs that include medical exams, treatment, surgery, among other expenses.

Besides, you should offer your new workers a disability insurance cover. Your workers will work comfortably since they are assured that they would receive a fraction of the income when they have an injury or have a permanent disability.

2. Dental Benefits

To increase your chances of retaining new hires, you should prioritize their dental benefits. Get your new hires a dental insurance cover that covers annual cleanings and dental exams. Some insurance policies also cover fluoride treatments, but generally, the benefits will work to your advantage.

Human resource management specialists from often advise employers to integrate their employees’ benefits into their HR system. With such an arrangement, your new hires will evaluate, compare, and pick the right benefits for selection online or from a mobile device. You will notice that most new hires will go for the dental benefits package.

3. Time Off

A paid time off is an allowance that employees receive as they work, and it includes vacation leave, sick leave, and holidays. Offer your new hires a PTO as a separate benefit, and they will value your business and strive to accomplish the business goals.

4. Medical Cover

It would help if you considered offering your new hires a medical insurance cover. The insurance will cover the costs of prescription drugs, hospital rooms, and surgery fees. Besides, optical and dental care can be part of the benefits package, and you should also consider offering them a package that covers their family members.

5. Health Reimbursement

Health reimbursements are plans that are funded by the employer, such that the new hires will be reimbursed tax-free when they have medical expenses. Besides, unused funds can be rolled over to the next year, and the best part is that the employer owns the accounts.

6. Retirement Benefits

Show that you care for the new hires’ well-being by offering them a retirement benefits package. Your new employees are uncertain of their future, and they have devoted their time to see your business succeed. Offer them a retirement benefits package which you will offer them when they end their career.

7. Partner Benefits

Consider offering the new hires’ domestic partner benefits. The benefits allow access to health insurance, although the government taxes the amount. The new hires will have to provide proof of financial interdependence or domestic partnership to qualify for the partner’s benefits.

8. Life and Accident Insurance Cover

Provide your workers with accident insurance cover such that their loved ones receive compensation if they pass on when they are on the line of duty. Besides, the new hires will work confidently since they know that they will receive compensation if they lose their ability to hear, speak, or see. Life insurance covers are also essential for new hires since they are confident that their future is covered.

9. Fringe Benefits

The benefits are suitable for retaining or attracting new talent to your business. Some fringe benefits include a child care spending account, a flexible medical cover, tuition assistance, and bonuses that are not related to work performance. Tuition assistance benefits can be beneficial to your workers, especially if they intend to advance their careers. The knowledge they gain from colleges will benefit your business since they will employ whatever they learned.

10. Pet Insurance Benefits

The pet insurance cover should be optional since some of the new hires own pets. The pet insurance covers veterinary treatment costs if your employee’s pet gets an injury or falls sick. Besides, you can get your employee a policy that covers damage and compensates them if the pet is stolen or when it gets lost.

Generally, benefits packages are essential in retaining or attracting the best talent in the market. Some of the leading businesses in the market, such as Google, offer their employees free haircuts, yoga classes, and chef-made meals, among other incentives. The little appreciation goes a long way, and with time, you will realize the impact that you made on the new hires’ lives.

Posted in Vendor News |
Minimizing Office Spaces For Fire Detection Systems

With real estate being one of its top expenses, many companies are seeking ways to maximize their office’s square footage and leave less underutilized space. Of course, in 2020, these goals must be accomplished in a way that also considers new regulations and policies, like social distancing.

Optimizing space on individual floors or throughout an entire building may mean exceeding the architectural specifications on record.  One way of addressing that is by installing a fire alarm system that allows for faster, earlier egress from the building or tenant floor in the event of a fire. To achieve that, fire protection engineers are often called upon to re-evaluate and potentially redesign the fire and life safety systems to meet NFPA 72 code requirements.

To re-evaluate the design, fire protection engineers must submit performance-based design proposals to help ensure occupants can safely exit the building within an acceptable timeframe. As an International Code Council (ICC) accepted alternative, performance-based designs allow engineers to apply “alternate materials and methods” that offer equivalent or superior fire safety performance.

“Life safety codes are designed to ensure everyone in the building can exit safely if a fire occurs,” says Bill Van Loan, President of Critical Systems, LLC, a Marietta, Ga.-based full-service fire alarm life safety and building security company owned by ADT Commercial. “If there are more people that have to exit the same sized doors and stairwells on the floor, then typically that requires even more advanced detection systems that can identify the exact location of the fire.”

As a low voltage systems integrator, Critical Systems handles life safety and security needs of commercial properties including fire alarms, emergency responder radio communications systems (ERRCS’s), fire suppression, access control and security systems.

According to Van Loan, the amount of time the performance-based design approach allows for egress ultimately dictates retrofit requirements. While it is possible to install traditional addressable wired or wireless spot smoke detectors, it is now also possible to use addressable aspirating smoke detectors that also allow firefighters to pinpoint the exact location of the fire.

Recently, Critical Systems completed a project involving four floors of a high-rise commercial building in Georgia. As part of the performance-based design to allow the tenant to increase occupancy beyond the architectural specifications, advanced aspirating smoke detection technology was specified for the project. For this, Van Loan says the company used eight VESDA VEA fire alarm system units manufactured by Xtralis, a global provider of very early detection solutions

“Building owners want early warning detection to help save lives, protect assets, and avoid extensive business downtime in case of fire. With early detection you can potentially put out the fire with an extinguisher before it escalates, and first responders will have an early start on the blaze if necessary,” says Van Loan.

Aspirating technology was first introduced in the early 1980s. The latest VEA model consists of small, unobtrusive sample points that can identify smoke in each room. The air is analyzed using sophisticated laser-based technology at the central unit located within 300 feet.

As a multi-channel, addressable system, the central unit can pinpoint the exact location of the alarm up to 40 sample points and the central units can be extended to meet any size project.

The system has different sensitivity settings to suit a range of applications.

“We have used other products but lately are focusing on the VEA because of its unique capabilities with addressable point identification using individual tubes in detection ports. It makes it easy to get a better point ID location versus putting in a hard pipe system which tells us nothing about location,” says Van Loan. “We want to drill down to that level of detection. The system allows us to pinpoint addressability all the way back to the main building fire alarm panel.”

He notes how important such location information is when a fire occurs. “With a sprinkler system, you have no clue where the fire is on the floor so you have to take your chances and investigate what is going on, at which point the fire can grow out of control,” he says.

“False alarms are a concern for traditional spot detectors, which can be set off by dust or dirt. A false alarm can be disruptive and expensive if you have to evacuate a high rise building with different tenants,” says Van Loan.

The VESDA VEA clears the tubes of blockages or dust with a puff of air, creating a low probability of false alarms. Every seven days, the system will do a sample port test. On every third sample port test, it cleans, thus providing constant system monitoring.

Mandated annual National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) inspections are also simplified. As the VEA unit has a centralized detector and full integrity monitoring of the sampling tubes, annual smoke testing is conducted at the central unit, saving time and allowing smoke testing to be conducted without interrupting the protected area.

“The aspirating smoke system is easy to test. In a commercial building, you might have 100 conventional addressable, analog smoke detectors that you would have to test individually every year. That’s a lot of work and can require entry into hard to reach, access-controlled areas,” says Van Loan. “With the VEA, you can test from the central unit [which is usually placed in mechanical or electrical rooms] so you don’t need special access, and the test can be done in 15 minutes.”

For commercial properties that value aesthetics, the VEA sampling points are about the size of a quarter, making them inconspicuous to facility occupants and visitors.

“We generally use black, white, or stainless-steel sampling points. They blend in with the environment and are architecturally pleasing,” says Van Loan.

With the four floors of the commercial building in Georgia successfully completed, Van Loan says that plans are underway to outfit another floor with the aspirating technology. When finished, this will account for about 27% of the building’s total capacity.

Van Loan expects to install more aspirating technology systems in the future.

“We have been contacted to work on 10 to 12 of these types of projects in the last year, including one at a major university,” says Van Loan. “The aspirating technology is an ideal solution in these situations because it provides much earlier warning and is easier to install and maintain over time than traditional spot smoke detection systems.

For more information, contact: Xtralis at 12 Clintonville Road, Northford, CT 06472; call: +1 800-229-4434, email:; or visit:


Posted in Vendor News |
ROCKWOOL™ expands Comfortbatt® & AFB® products

Contractors, designers and installers now have new, innovative, and expanded options when it comes to insulation for thermal and sound applications. With codes and climate zones varying throughout the U.S., ROCKWOOL™ now has a thermal batt option for every area from the north to the south and coast to coast.

ROCKWOOL, North America’s largest stone wool manufacturer, has extended its Comfortbatt™ line with products available in several new R-values—R13/R21/R38, designed to provide customers with more options. In addition, ROCKWOOL has released AFB® for wood stud applications—an acoustical fire batt that is now available in new dimensions designed for wood stud cavities.

Comfortbatt® R13/R21/R38: Using Comfortbatt® within the building envelope can contribute to a robust thermal insulation solution that meets the variety of code requirements that exist across the United States. Comfortbatt® is a semi-rigid stone wool batt insulation for exterior wood and steel stud applications in both new construction and renovations. ROCKWOOL now offers Comfortbatt® in R13/R15/R21/R23/R30/R38. No matter what R-value or climate zone you are in, there is a Comfortbatt® solution for your project.

Comfortbatt® features a unique flexible edge designed to aid installation. Simply compress the flexible edge as the batt is inserted and release. The flexible edge is designed to spring back, expanding the batt against the stud cavity to give a complete fill. This flexibility ensures the expected R-value is achieved and maintained.

AFB® for wood stud applications is a lightweight, acoustical fire batt stone wool insulation specifically designed for wood stud interior wall and floor applications. Its superior sound absorbency and fire protection contribute to the overall comfort and safety of occupants. It provides increased insulation density that reduces sound transmission. Traditionally, AFB® was designed for steel stud applications only. Today, we are pleased to introduce several new sizes designed for wood stud applications.

“In the US, codes and standards are constantly evolving,” says Garrett Feehrer, Marketing Manager USA at ROCKWOOL. “With our new ROCKWOOL Comfortbatt® range, ROCKWOOL now offers a solution for every climate zone and every application. Our customers are looking for products that make their jobs easier, and this extension of our existing Comfortbatt® line addresses that.

“In regard to AFB®, wood construction is certainly a growing trend in the built environment, and AFB® has been a trusted acoustical fire batt in steel stud applications for many years. We wanted to bring those same steel stud benefits to the new wood application market, this product allows us to do just that.”

Like all ROCKWOOL stone wool products, Comfortbatt® and AFB® are non-combustible and resist temperatures up to 2,150˚F.  They provide excellent sound absorption due to their density and non-directional fiber structure and are uniquely durable against all forms of weather (vapor permeable, water repellent, high drying potential).  ROCKWOOL stone wool products, including Comfortbatt® and AFB® are manufactured using sustainable materials, like basalt rock (an abundant natural resource) and recycled steel slag.


With five manufacturing facilities and over 1,000 employees, ROCKWOOL is North America’s largest stone wool producer, offering advanced building insulation, industrial and technical solutions.

At the ROCKWOOL Group, we are committed to enriching the lives of everyone who experiences our solutions.  Our expertise is perfectly suited to tackling many of today’s biggest sustainability and development challenges, from energy consumption and noise pollution to fire resilience, water scarcity and flooding.  Our range of products reflects the diversity of the world’s needs, supporting our stakeholders in reducing their own carbon footprint along the way.

Stone wool is a versatile material and forms the basis for all our businesses.  With more than 11,700 passionate colleagues in 39 countries, we are the world leader in stone wool solutions, from building insulation to acoustic ceilings, external cladding systems to horticultural solutions, engineered fibers for industrial use to insulation for the process industry, marine and offshore.  For more information, visit: (global site) or (North America).



Posted in New Products |
Nike to debut House of Innovation concept in Paris

Nike is set to open its first European House of Innovation store in Paris today. The four-story location in a historic building on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees was four years in the making and will offer an immersive digital experience and features to ensure shopper and employee safety in the pandemic, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Posted in News |
Poll: Amazon, Publix among top grocers during pandemic

Amazon, Publix, Wegmans, Costco and Kroger have been ranked in the Top 10 among US companies for the reputations they built with their responses to the pandemic, a new Axios Harris Poll shows.  Read the Progressive Grocer story here

Posted in News |
McDonald’s turns to Mayo Clinic for safety advice

McDonald’s will join with the Mayo Clinic to get best practices for safely opening up and operating restaurants during the pandemic. The chain also announced plans to set diversity goals for its employees, franchisees and suppliers and track progress to improve inclusiveness. Read the CNBC story here

Posted in News |