Residential design has changed minimally during the economic recovery, while community design has shifted more toward infill development, according to the quarterly AIA Home Design Trends Survey released yesterday. This iteration of the survey delves into neighborhood and community design activity during the third quarter of 2016, and includes responses from more than 500 residential architecture firms. Highlights from the survey are below.
Community Development Trends
Respondents indicated an increase in both tear-downs and infill development projects in 2016, suggesting demand for urban housing as cities become more dense. Mixed-use facilities, access to public transportation, and high-density development were among the top five community design trends during the third quarter, which all speak to the needs of urbanization as more people move from the suburbs and closer to city cores.
“After years of growth in multi-generational housing, we’re now seeing demand level off,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA in a press release. “This could be a result of a strengthening economy paired with a housing stock that can better accommodate homeowners’ needs in this area.”
Home Styles and Exteriors
Over the past year, residential design trends have changed minimally, and the majority of firm respondents report that contemporary styles featuring a front or side porch are still most popular among clients.
Trends regarding house exteriors also showed little variation since 2015, as low maintenance materials still dominate consumer choices for products. However, the number and size of windows, and demand for fire-resistant materials did increase marginally in 2016. According to Baker, “as building product technologies advance, such as smart glass windows, demand for more and larger windows is increasing."
The third-quarter report indicates continued recovery in the overall housing market, but that demand for first-time homes is softening, likely due to continued increases in prices that are pushing buyers out of the market.
Even with the traditional seasonal slowdown that follows the bustling spring and summer seasons, project inquiries and billings rebounded from second-quarter levels. The projects inquiries index came in at 59 for the third quarter of 2016, up from 56 in the second quarter—but down from 61 a year ago. Meanwhile, billings at residential architecture firms increased marginally in the third quarter to 55, up from 54 in the second quarter, but down from its mark of 59 a year earlier. By region, firms in the South and West reported improving business conditions during the third quarter, while firms in the Midwest and Northeast reported weakening conditions.
The remodeling sector continues to account for the largest share of business activity among the residential market, a trend seen since the Great Recession began in late 2007. Softening seen in entry-level, custom/luxury, and second/vacation home sectors in the third quarter is typical of seasonal slowdown, but also could indicate consumer uncertainty about the economy. “Business conditions continue to strengthen across all regions," Baker said. "However, the uneven housing recovery continues with a setback in demand for more affordable homes, as well as for second homes.”