I've professed my fascination for new products and cool tools in this column in past issues. What I may not have shared with you is that I'm also obsessed with home repair projects. Being one of those guys who just can't seem to sit still, I bet a day doesn't pass by without me working on something in my yard or my house. This not only drives my wife crazy, but it also provides loads of entertainment for my neighbors.

Over the past five years, I've completely gutted and rebuilt both bathrooms in my house. Earlier this year, I wrapped up work on a complete gut and redo of our kitchen, dining, and living room spaces. At present, I'm rebuilding my staircase — converting the carpeted treads and wood balusters to stained wood treads and decorative metal balusters. I'm also looking a step ahead and trying to figure out how best to update our family room. I'm afraid to say that my obsession with reworking spaces and updating décor has even moved beyond the walls of my own home.

In recent years, after watching too many episodes of “Flip This House” and “Property Ladder,” I had to try my hand at flipping. If the knuckleheads on these TV shows were making huge sums of money, why couldn't I do the same? After working nights and weekends for far too many months, my first flip was a total bust. Although I was devastated, it didn't stop me from trying again. I had to prove to myself and to my family that I could be successful on a project like this. I'm proud to say that my second flip was a psychological and financial success — even after forking over a healthy portion of my gross profit to Uncle Sam and my realtor!

After watching our economy free fall for the past year-and-a-half or so, it got me thinking. What's happening with all of the existing industrial and commercial building space out there that is vacated due to companies scaling back in size or completely going out of business? Are these buildings prime targets for a flip — not by a novice, part-time flipper like me, but by savvy professional designers and contractors? As you'll see in our cover story this month, “Transformers,” starting on page 18, the answer is a resounding yes.

So the question is, are you taking advantage of this market opportunity? If not, maybe you're willing to financially back a hard-working individual that loves to work with his hands and can't sit still.

EC&M Welcomes Back Code Consultant

Nearly two decades after his departure, he's back on the team. Brian J. McPartland has taken over the writing assignments for our “Illustrated Catastrophes” and “What's Wrong Here?” columns. Brian served as an associate editor for EC&M from 1986 to 1990. After attempting to start his own electrical publication with his father, Joseph McPartland (long-time chief editor of EC&M), he began freelance writing and consulting, primarily on issues related to the NEC. He served as the primary author of McGraw-Hill's “National Electrical Code Handbook” in 1990, and produced the Yearbook Supplements from 1991 until 1998. Additionally, during the '90s, he wrote McGraw-Hill's “Handbook of Practical Electrical Design” as well as McGraw-Hill's “Handbook of Electrical Construction Calculations.” In 2001, he took a position as an electrical inspector with The New York Board of Fire Underwriters. Now Brian will serve as our Code consultant on NEC violations.