Led by strength in remodeling and renovation projects, business conditions for residential architects are experiencing the strongest growth since 2006, according to the American Institute of Architects’ latest AIA Home Design Trends Survey.
©Maxwell Mackenzie Architectural Photographer
|The Hampden Lane House, Bethesda, Md. designed by Robert M. Gurney, FAIA, was honored with a 2012 AIA Housing Award. |
AIA adds that larger home sizes and property enhancements are also contributing to an upswing in the market’s direction.
“These conditions are not only significantly stronger than just last quarter, but also over the past year,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist. “We aren’t close to pre-housing market-bust levels of design activity, but all housing sectors are performing at vastly higher levels than recent years, and billings are likely to accelerate in the months ahead.”
The AIA Home Design Survey Index for Q1 2012 stands at 56 (any score above 50 is positive), and the index of inquiries for new projects was 64.
Trend to Watch: Outdoor Living
The trends survey focused specifically on overall home layout and the use of interior and exterior space. AIA surveyed more than 500 residential architects about emerging preferences in residential design features.
A preference for outdoor living, in particular blended indoor/outdoor living, continues to gain ground, along with strong demand for accessible and flexible home layout, the survey reports. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported increases in outdoor living, up 4% from a year earlier.
“In the last few years, outdoor living spaces have become the new ‘great room’ in terms of must-have items for homeowners,” Baker said. “As people are more interested in adapting their property to their long-term needs rather than readying it for sale, we are seeing more attention paid to landscaping and features that have some return-on-investment like rainwater catchment systems.”
Signs of Change in Home-Size Trend
The report also indicated that the recent trend of shrinking home sizes may be losing traction, perhaps signaling an end in sight to a six-year pattern of smaller homes. A modest increase was evident among respondents reporting that homes grew in size in 2011, and a larger increase was evident from results of the 2012 survey, AIA said.
Similar trends hold for home volumes (ceiling heights, two-story foyers, etc.). With the bottoming out of home sizes, volumes also appear to be trending up, as 20% of respondents report volumes to be increasing while fewer than 15% report them to be decreasing.
The AIA notes, however, that home sizes appear to be shifting in some building sectors with greater speed. Only 8% of respondents report that overall home sizes are increasing, but 13% say that more expensive, upper-end homes are increasing in size.
At the same time, 30% of respondents report that upper-end homes are continuing to decrease in size, compared to 42% overall, AIA reports.
Key Residential Sectors Show Improvement
“Residential architects are in the unique position of being able to report the relative strength of multiple sectors of the housing market,” the survey said.
Generally, certain housing market sectors turn up (or down) before others, giving a sense of the future direction of other sectors, AIA said. During the last downturn in 2005, the “first-time-buyer” market began to weaken before the rest of the market, while the custom/luxury market remained relatively healthy into 2007.
Baker said the same pattern may appear as the housing market recovers.
AIA said the survey provides a gauge of residential business conditions on a quarterly basis, and helps to identify emerging trends in the housing marketplace.
Upcoming surveys will focus on specialty rooms and systems (September 2012) and community design trends (December 2012).