Housing design judge on homes getting smaller, greener

Housing design judge Heather McCune recently talked about two trends in the housing industry: smaller and greener homes.

The exteriors of the homes are getting far simpler, with far fewer gables and dormers.

There are a couple of reasons for this, we think: One is that this is a change that’s driven by cost. Every time you add a bump-out or change a roofline, it adds to the cost of the house. Builders and architects seem to be consistently asking themselves, does a change like this add value, does it add to the cost? So, the appearances are becoming more streamlined.

The other thing is a generational shift. The entry-level buyer is demanding a home designed for their aesthetic, not for their parents’ aesthetic. They seem to prefer a far cleaner presentation than what had been popular among their parents. I don’t think it would be out of line to characterize it as an anti-McMansion attitude…

Honestly, [“green” is] an evolutionary term in our industry. The definition of green is as different as each and every builder in each and every category. But we didn’t see a single entry that didn’t discuss its “greenness” in its entry statement. The industry is figuring out that green, in some form, isn’t an option anymore — now it’s simply mandatory.

But they each approach it their own way, and a lot of the builders and designers are participating in the many green-building rating systems, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which may emphasize different systems and concepts. Generally, though, what we’re seeing is that reducing energy usage is becoming an aspect of home maintenance, from the homeowners’ point of view. We saw less emphasis on sustainably produced building products than on energy management.

Housing going relatively smaller and greener. These trends seem to be picking up momentum and shouldn’t be a surprise (see a recent headline that suggests that here) to readers of this blog. For example, this housing judge was part of the most recent International Builders Show where a Gen Y home combined a smaller size with outdoor living.

It seems like cost is a big factor here: a larger home or a home with more “unnecessary” features means a higher purchase price while some want to lower home energy costs (some going so far as to have net-zero-energy homes). So perhaps we can infer that if the economy remains in the doldrums, these two features will continue to gain steam as homebuyers think more economically.

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