Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Harder Working Homes - Some 2011 Home Design Trends

What does next year hold for homeowners, residential building and design professionals? Well there's good news for the remodeling side of the equation.  Not so good news yet for new residential construction of various kinds. However, in general, smaller is better with a strong focus on green and sustainable design features with better organized , downsized spaces.  Excessive square footages and volumes are diminishiing in importance, replaced with a focus on pragmatism and quality.

In a press release sent out today, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Joint Center for Housing Studies (www.jchs.harvard.edu) predicts "substantive growth in remodeling spending, coming off of a three decline, seems likely according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) released today by the Remodeling Futures Program."

The indicator "estimates current quarterly and future home expenditures by homeowners."  Kermit Baker, the JCHS program director is also the AIA Chief Economist who assembles quarterly reports on the residential design and construction industry.  The AIA's recent reports also reinforce the growth in remodeling.  See the referenced AIA graph indicating how remodeling in general is strongest  out of all the residential categories tracked.  Among them remodeling kitchens and baths outpace other aspects of remodeling and alterations while other types of new residential construction countrywide remain in the negative.

Harder working homes
Homes are working harder than ever before.  With so many people going through work/life transitions, going back to school, the home office has become the most important special space followed by outdoor areas like porches, terraces and outdoor rooms, then mudrooms.  Home offices and expanded flexible use outdoor
areas top the list of most popluar unique spaces and program areas from the 2nd quarter AIA report. Rooms like guest wings/ kids rooms, au pair or mother-in law apartments, or hobby and game rooms diminished in popularity or shrank in size.  From a design standpoint, there might be less of a desire for those extra bedrooms which might be used once a year for a few weeks at a time.  Rather, rooms might have pull-down or hidewaway beds.  For the fans of the Not-so Big House movement popularized by Susan Susanka a decade or so ago this isn't necessarily new news but it's welcome news.

Smaller is bigger, finally
As all of us have become more cost, value conscious while having a deeper appreciation of green design, it's important to consider tighter, more compact floor plans where rooms have multiple overlapping functions and are smaller than they used to be.  In general smaller homes lessen stormwater impact on the water table and material resource use, with their smaller building footprints and focus on sustainability and energy efficiency.  Smaller homes also cost less and are easier and more effective to operate over the long term when done right with efficiency measures tuned to your region and climate.

Saving Money and helping the Earth
Greater attention is being paid to adding energy efficiency measures, systems and more durable, sustainable materials to homes as compared to earlier years indicating the continuing strength of all things Green and shifting consumer behaviors.  While it may seem a matter of course to many designers and builders, more homes are being built with added insulation in roof and wall cavities. This year there's more attention to energy management systems than to solar electric PV systems.  Energy management systems help homeowners whether at home or from far away manage their home's energy usage further optimizing returns on energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.  

There's even I-Phone apps for that!  I love how technology can help drive shifts in consumer expectations.  By having these cool tools consumers will become ever likely to ask architects, energy consultants and contractors about having homes to manage, thus having the conversation about energy efficiency features and sustainability.  I don't propose it's a build the app and it will come kind of thing but it's neat the high tech wizardry is there to help push market acceptance.

Water reclamation and reduced water use along with installing Geothermal systems also increased in popluarity.  See referenced AIA Graph.  The cost of solar modules continues to fall industry wide indicating a continuing trend in usage and market expansion.  The final quarter of 2011 saw record growth in the industry, about 196% in the first nine months.  I think it's safe to say, the cost of solar will continue to lower over the coming years and continue to grow as a stronger and stronger alternative energy fuel source option.  This can only be good for us all.  Yesterday Obama just signed a one year extension of energy efficiency tax credits .  So the government will continue to support helping drive the market for lowering our overall energy usage as a nation to build market momentum and consumer acceptance.  I applaud the Democrat controlled House of Representatives and Senate for their historic action on issues like this and others.

Let's Organize It!
As homes become smaller and more multi-function, vertical surfaces are more important than ever in the drive to maximize square footages and go smaller.  It's also a great thing for the environment with the overall smaller building footprints and site damage, storm-water impacts and less resource use.  As we build smarter, building in more shelving units, storage cabinets, storage walls taking advantage of wall surfaces can really help maximize this drive to smaller homes.  This places a greater need for organization and de-cluttering living spaces, closets and garages.

Whether you build your own integrated storage or utilize store bough turn-key storage solutions, custom closet design etc., this area will continue to be a growing sub-industry in the next few years.  Plus, it can be a lot of fun and interesting type of spaces and functions to design into homes.  Storage solutions when done well work like elegant puzzle solutions.

What do you predict for 2011?
What do you think about 2011 and beyond joyful cultivators? Do you agree with the design trends I've identified from the sources I referred to?  Do you have other suggestions or ideas I missed?

The Word on your Street
Are you seeing an increase in project inquiries and new work? Please let designcultivation.blogspot know how you feel about next year?  Are you bullish or bearish on residential design and construction?  If you are on the client side, do you anticipate hiring an architect, interior designer or landscape architect?  Or a realtor, what are you seeing?  Will you build new or will you like the data suggests renovate and add-on?  What rooms or spaces will you focus on and why?

Regardless, we know our homes will work harder than ever before just like we are! 

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