The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently released its first quarter 2008 Home Design Trends Survey, and some of the key findings will have a familiar ring if you've been following trends closely for the past few years.

Among the key findings the AIA reports that:

  • the typical home is getting smaller;

  • accessibility within the home as well as without is becoming increasingly important for an aging population; and

  • households are looking for ways to increase outdoor living options, while preferring low-maintenance landscaping.

    According to the AIA's survey, it's not just the down housing market that is influencing a greater interest in houses smaller than the average McMansion. Lifestyle changes play a key role as well. In 2006, almost twice as many surveyed residential architects reported that home sizes were increasing as reported that they were decreasing. In 2008, that trend has reversed: 33.5 percent of survey respondents reported declining homes sizes compared to the 15.5 percent that reported size increases.

    In terms of home volumes (interior spaces, ceiling heights), the survey shows decreases that can be attributed to housing affordability and higher home energy prices, the AIA reports. In 2008, 12 percent of respondents said that home volumes were declining (compared to only four percent in 2005), and 28 percent said that home volumes were increasing (compared to 51 percent in 2005).

    The changing needs of an aging population are driving changes in home interior spaces. More than two-thirds of surveyed architects said they are seeing more interest in layouts that improve accessibility in and around the house, such as wider hallways and fewer steps. Also, there is a continued emphasis on open and flexible floor plans as well as increased informal space within the home.

    Even as lot sizes shrink, residential architects are reporting a growing interest in outdoor living, extending past traditional decks, porches, and patios to include outdoor cooking areas and complete outdoor rooms. In 2008, more than two-thirds of surveyed architects said that the popularity of outdoor living is on the rise, compared to slightly under half of respondents in 2005.

    There is less separation between indoors and outdoors, as well, with a growing interest in outdoor features that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces, blending the two together, according to the AIA survey. Landscaping is becoming more important as homeowners look to spend more time outdoors, although survey respondents indicated that homeowners are more interested in low-maintenance landscaping, particularly in plants and features that use less water.

    To see more details from the AIA 2008 Home Design Trends Survey, visit www.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek08/0606/0606b_htdsq2.cfm.