Home design: The community is key

Good news for architects and urbanists.

The good news for architects is that their business is strong. The good news for urbanists is that architects are increasingly designing for infill, transit-accessible, compact, and walkable neighborhoods. All of these features rose in prominence according to the American Institute for Architects (AIA's) recent Home Design Trends survey.

"As the nation’s metro areas continue to expand, homeowners are seeking community amenities that allow them to remain connected to people and commerce. Walkability, higher density and infill development, as well as access to public transportation are all on the rise," AIA reports.

“There has been a pronounced shift in driving habits over the last few years, with increasing numbers of people being far more interested walking and utilizing public transit options,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “With that is a desire for proximity to employment and commercial activities.”

Contemporary styles are growing in popularity, but one traditional element is prominent: porches. The growing popularity of the porch indicates that home owners and architects recognize the importance of a relationship between the house and the public realm. A functional porch is a transition zone between public and private life. For a long time, the porch was omitted from modern houses. Then it was added back as a purely aesthetic feature—like multiple gables on a McMansion. In recent years, however, architects are designing functional porches as outdoor living spaces that relate to the neighborhood. Given the popularity of infill and walkable neighborhoods revealed in this survey, porches also make more sense relative to the context.

AIA Report 2015

The survey indicated strong demand for architectural services.

AIA Report Housing Market Graph

Additions/alternations make up the strongest residential work category. For new houses, the luxury and move-up markets still dominate. First-time buyers and affordable housing are still at low levels, but improving.