Survey: Homeowners Zero in on Efficient Energy

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In an effort to address rapidly escalating home energy costs, homeowners are reacting with a sharp increase in the preference for energy-efficient management systems and products.

That’s the key finding of a “Home Design Trends Survey” for the second quarter of 2006, conducted by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The survey, part of a quarterly series conducted by the Washington, DC-based AIA, focused specifically on systems, technologies and functional rooms used in the home, and compared these trends to the 2005 results.

According to the survey results, rising gasoline prices and more flexible telecommuting opportunities have led to the second consecutive year in which home offices are the most popular special-function room in today’s homes. Media and home theaters are the second-most popular special-function room, the survey found (see related table, below).

“Our data indicates that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the energy-efficient options that are available in the marketplace, and they are requesting that architects incorporate them into the design and remodeling of their homes,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist.

“There was a significant jump in the percentage of survey respondents – from 38% to 54% – who indicated that demand for energy management systems has increased over last year,” Baker observed.

“Whether you add insulation, replace single-pane windows, install motorized dampers to close ductwork in unoccupied areas or employ a fully integrated digital energy controller, there are a host of options available to make homes more energy efficient,” added Lisa Stacholy, chairperson of the AIA’s Small Projects Practitioners committee.

The AIA survey also delved into housing market business conditions, finding that kitchen and bath remodeling remain relatively strong compared to other market sectors, even in the face of the current housing slowdown.

While billings at residential architecture firms are representative of the slowdown in the overall housing sector, architectural firms reported steady backlogs for projects, with an average of 5.6 months of work under contract.

“There continues to be strong demand for remodeling and renovation projects despite new construction being significantly weaker than a year ago,” the trade association said. However, specific construction segments vary dramatically, as noted below (the index score computes as a percentage of respondents reporting improving minus those reporting weakening conditions):

  • Additions/alterations: 52%.
  • Kitchen and bath remodeling: 50%.
  • Town home/condominium market: 24%.
  • Second/vacation home market: 2%.
  • Custom/luxury home market: -1%.
  • Move-up home market: -3%.
  • First-time buyer/affordable home market: -25%

The AIA Home Design Trend Survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of 500 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector. A survey scheduled for next month will focus on kitchen and bath trends.