The Future of Designs

Kermit Baker b&w

Kermit Baker
Chief Economist, The American Institute of Architects


In order to get a sense of what will be the dominant forces in design, construction of homes and buildings over the next decade, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) conducted a recent survey. The survey respondents were made up of a panel of nearly 1000 residential and nonresidential focused architects.

Some obvious overlaps were revealed that will playout in the housing market, the commercial sector and public buildings. Foremost, the demand for more energy-efficient spaces will grow in years ahead with particular emphasis on water conservation measures, energy management systems, solar and wind power generation. Automation will also become more prevalent in the near future.

Homeowners are increasingly interested in technological integration with dedicated support for personal devices, along with “smart home” type controls for temperature, security and lighting. Facility managers will employ more widespread use of natural daylighting techniques and lighting technology systems which is expected in building design, including automation controls and motion-sensor activated lights.

Architects will specify more innovative building materials such as composites and new glass / glazing technologies to allow for expanded design options on the nonresidential side of future construction. Greater consumer awareness about the environmental health issues of building materials is leading to more widespread use of low or no volatile organic compounds for paint and composite wood. Air purification systems are gaining in popularity with homeowners, along with furnishings made of natural fibers and without polyvinyl chloride backing. We think that a preference (or mandate) for healthier building materials could track much like the organic food movement that began roughly 20 years ago and has now become almost mainstream.

With extreme weather conditions and the greater regularity of severe natural disasters, there are also high levels of demand for design strategies that strengthen structures including elevating residences, windows with impact glazing, dedicated safe rooms and backup power generation sources. There is also some radical rethinking of the design of certain types of “horizontal infrastructure” such as hospitals being designed “upside down” so that computer servers with critical patient records are housed on the highest floors on the building in case of a flood.

Moving away from formality in residential design with a greater emphasis on functionality and accessibility has become a dominant trend. It is predicated around some pretty simple economic and demographic shifts. With the increasingly aging population, aging-in-place and universal design elements have become more regular with wider hallways, added handrails and one-level living spaces. Homeowners are also facing the challenges of having either ailing parents or boomerang children living with them for extended periods necessitating large-scale renovations or additions.

Kitchens have morphed into the focal point of the home, highlighted by open design concepts and that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. There has also been a heavy emphasis on investing in outdoor living spaces, along with a need for space devoted to home offices reflecting people’s changing work patterns.

Emerging technologies are becoming a driver in how nonresidential buildings are being designed, and the ways in which construction projects come together are also evolving at a rapid rate. We expect the adoption of Building Information Modeling software to grow substantially, along with alternative project delivery methods and lean construction practices that will increase the efficiency of the building design process and throughout the lifecycle of the building.

In many ways this shift towards more use of more advanced design software and integrated approaches will make projects more economically viable, with stricter adherence to delivery timelines and budgets resulting in a better bottom line for all parties involved.

Top 10 Residential Design Trends
Next 10 Years

  1. Technological Integration with personal devices: temperature automated controls, security and lighting.
  2. Environmental friendly materials: low or no volatile organic compounds for paint, composite wood, natural fiber upholstery, carpets without polyvinyl chloride backing and air purification systems.
  3. Natural disaster design strategies: elevating residences, windows with impact glazing, dedicated safe room and backup power generation.
  4. Energy efficient and sustainable elements: solar panels, water reclamation systems, tankless water heaters.
  5. Aging-in-place designs for baby boomers: wider hallways, added handrails, one-level living spaces.
  6. Kitchen as the interior focal point.
  7. Outdoor living space emphasis.
  8. Devoted spaces for home offices for increased remote workstyles.
  9. Infill development promoting smaller, better designed homes.
  10. Urban lifestyle characteristics with higher-density developments providing additional amenities.
Kermit is headquartered in Washington, D.C. where he analyzes business and construction trends for the U.S. economy. He examines the impact on AIA members and the architectural profession as a whole. Since 1995, Kermit has overseen the execution of the monthly Architecture Billings Index survey that is considered a leading economic indicator of future construction activity across the nation.



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