A glimpse at tomorrow's homes
In early February, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) gathered for the first annual Design and Construction Week in Las Vegas, a new event that combined the building industry's two primary trade shows -- the International Builders' Show (IBS) and Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) -- into one mega-event that drew over 75,000 builders, designers, and product manufacturers.
Leading into the recession, while every other industry seemed to be getting smarter and more efficient, the homebuilding industry seemed to grow dumber and more wasteful than ever before: Bloated floor plans that were difficult to furnish, uncomfortable to live in, and expensive to heat and cool seemed to be the default in an industry on auto-pilot. But the housing crisis and ensuing recession made the entire industry stop and think.
Now, as we turn the page on the recession and look to the future, the question is, Have we learned from our mistakes and are we better for our quiet time? It has been said that housing led us into the recession and housing will lead us out. Here are five trends from today's homebuilding industry and a snapshot of what is to come.
Smart and efficient
Technology is making its mark in the home building industry. From the Nest thermostat, which learns our patterns and programs itself accordingly, to a new product called Edge Home, which provides a monthly breakdown of energy use in a house parsed down to the individual outlets and switches, new products will allow us to save money.
Sometimes technology can get ahead of itself, so there are smart fixes for that too. Hidden panel dishwashers are the wave of the future, but often with the ultra-silent settings, it is impossible to tell if the machine is turned on, let alone how long you have left in the cycle. Bosch now offers dishwashers with a light that beams down to the floor projecting the remaining time. Sick of six different charging cords cluttering your kitchen counters? Corian is developing a counter with hotspots that will charge your phone when you put it down.
Business heads to the cloud
Builders and contractors are increasingly relying on new tools to streamline and optimize their businesses. Building a home is only a small part of being a successful contractor. In fact, when a builder fails, it often has more to do with how the back office is run than what is being produced on the job site. At the Design and Construction Week show, there was an entire wing dedicated to new companies that offer cloud solutions to streamline the business process, from invoicing subcontractors, to purchasing materials, to client interaction.
Since every phone is now a camera, real time progress can be easily communicated to the main office or even to clients. Companies like Hyphen Solutions create automated schedules and invoices. Other companies, such as BuilderTrend, are creating online portals that allow clients to communicate with builders to see up-to-date photos and real-time schedules.
Luxury for everyone
We all aspire for a little touch of luxury in our homes. Before the recession, the perception of luxury was linked to square footage, a Roman tub, or granite counters. Today's definition of luxury has evolved into something that's more accessible. HGTV's David Bromstad sees educated consumers taking ownership of their home's design and pushing professionals to create "the look for less."
You can see the trend in NAHB and Hanley Wood's annual flagship show house, The New American Home. Even at 6,700 square feet, the house offers take-home advice for all budgets. This multimillion dollar home includes stock kitchen cabinets, floor tiles, and lighting systems all inventively made to look custom-made. Going further, the open yet clearly defined rooms of the New American Home are differentiated with off-the-shelf millwork to create textured accent walls, something anyone can achieve as a DIY project.
RIP McMansions, hello clean design
Architectural styles typically enjoy a 15-to-25-year run. We are now at the end of the age of the McMansion and entering into a new era of traditional forms with a clean modern feel. White kitchens with either shaker cabinets or smooth European inspired fronts are replacing dark stains and country kitchen profiles. Double-height entries and great rooms are being replaced with more intimate nine- and 10-foot ceilings. Useable storage is essential.
Jill Waage, editorial director at Better Home and Gardens, sees this trend especially among millennials, who are beginning to make their mark on home design. Inspired and emboldened by sites like Pinterest and Houzz, Waage sees this younger set adding more personal touches to their homes by combining vintage and modern furniture, installing creative storage, and adding unique lighting and interesting wallpaper.
Green is growing up
In a recent survey conducted by the NAHB, approximately 70% of consumers acknowledged that while they were concerned with the environment and wanted an environmentally friendly home, they did not want to pay for it. In the same survey, over 80% of consumers felt that it is important to have an energy efficient home and would pay between $6,774 and $9,146 to lower their energy bills. In other words, the same question posed in two different ways on the same survey resulted in opposite answers.
Green building has evolved from a fringe hippie movement, to a period of oversaturated green washing, now to a new age where the benefits translate into real savings for consumers. As this trend continues and companies can illustrate tangible benefits for customers, more homes will become efficient.