The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released the results of its second-quarter 2008 Home Design Trends Survey, which focuses on in-demand home features. Overall, the survey shows that homeowners are more interested in energy management and conservation systems and other elements of sustainable design than they are in extra rooms designed for specific functions.

Among special-function rooms, home offices still reign supreme; but interest in them is declining. Of the residential architects surveyed, 41% reported increasing popularity of home offices, compared to 61% in 2007; only 2% of respondents actually reported declining popularity. Homeowners still show healthy interest in mud rooms, but the popularity of au pair/in-law suites and hobby/game rooms have decreased from 2007.

According to the surveyed architects, homeowners are increasingly interested in saving energy and living in more sustainable, healthier homes, so many of the features, systems, and materials they request have "green" or high-performance qualities. Reducing home energy usage is motivating homeowners to more frequently request structural insulated panels (SIPs), sprayed foam insulation, and additional attic insulation, the survey reports.

On the technology front, residential architects indicate that systems enabling energy management and alternative energy generation are becoming more popular. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said that homeowners showed increasing interest in solar panels/photovoltaic systems, followed closely by energy management systems. Interest in geothermal heating and cooling systems, water reclamation systems, and air purification systems has increased slightly.

Surveyed architects also report that products that contribute to a home's energy efficiency or overall "green" profile are more popular requests among homeowners, including tankless water heaters (88% of respondents), energy-efficient products such as double- or triple-glazed windows (79%), low-maintenance materials (70%), "green" flooring (69%), synthetic/engineered materials (62%), water-efficient fixtures and devices (62%), and reclaimed/recycled materials (60%).

The second-quarter 2008 Home Design Trends Survey also reports on the deteriorating business conditions for residential architects, caused by the declining housing market. The AIA's survey shows severe declines in architecture billings and project inquiries nationally, as well as steadily falling project backlogs. Also, the residential construction downturn—while initially affecting primarily the production segment—has now started to affect all construction segments.

According to the survey, the markets for second and vacation homes, townhouses and condos, trade-up homes, and custom and luxury homes have declined significantly between the first and second quarters of 2008. The only segments showing (modest) improvements are additions and alterations to existing homes and kitchen and bath remodels.

To read the full results of the survey, visit www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek08/0905/0905b_hdtsq2.cfm.