American Institute of Architects Survey: Continued Weakness in Housing Market Prompting Shift Away from High-End Kitchen and Bath Features

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Homeowner preferences lean to energy efficiency and simplicity in design

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The general consensus is that homes will continue to be smaller on average than they were in the past decade.

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Without the rapid appreciation in home values seen between 1995 and 2005, design of kitchens and bathrooms has recently been somewhat more modest. Functionality is now preferred to more and larger kitchens and bathrooms within U.S. homes. Households are placing a premium on products and features that promote energy efficiency, and adaptability in the use of space for seniors and those with accessibility concerns.

Residential architects continue to report declining business conditions, indicating that the housing market is not yet entering a full recovery phase. These findings are from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey for the fourth quarter of 2009, which focused specifically on kitchen and bathrooms.

“The general consensus is that homes will continue to be smaller on average than they were in the past decade,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “But since kitchens remain the nerve center of the home, doing more with less space is a key consideration. Integrating kitchens with family space remains a design priority, as does including areas devoted to recycling, pantries, computer workstations, and spaces devoted to recharging laptops, cell phones and PDAs.”

Baker added, “Homeowners are moving away from glitzy features such as steam showers and towel warming drawers/racks, and instead looking for water-saving toilets, radiant heated flooring and LED lighting options to manage utility costs.”

Housing market business conditions

AIA Home Design Survey Index for Q4 2009 (any score above 50 is positive)

  •     Billings: 32 (down from 38 in Q3 2009)
  •     Inquiries for new projects: 45 (down from 46 in Q3 2009)

“It’s still too early to think the residential market has fully recovered, but there are two encouraging signs – overall business conditions are far better than they were a year ago at this time, and we are seeing improvement in those housing sectors that need to lead a broader improvement in the housing market: remodeling and alterations of existing homes, and at the entry-level of the new construction market.” said Baker.

Specific construction segments (index score computed as % of respondents reporting improving minus those reporting weakening conditions)

  •     Kitchen and bath remodeling: 28
  •     Additions / alterations: 21
  •     First-time buyer / affordable home market: -4
  •     Move-up home market: -31
  •     Custom / luxury home market: -44
  •     Townhouse / condo market: -46
  •     Second / vacation home market: -71

About the AIA Home Design Trends Survey
The AIA Home Design Trend Survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of 500 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector. Residential architects are design leaders in shaping how homes function, look, and integrate into communities and this survey helps to identify emerging trends in the housing marketplace. Business conditions are also monitored on a quarterly basis. Future surveys will focus on overall home layout and use (June 2010) specialty rooms and systems (September 2010) and community design trends (December 2010).

About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. By using sustainable design practices, materials, and techniques, AIA architects are uniquely poised to provide the leadership and guidance needed to provide solutions to address climate change. AIA architects walk the walk on sustainable design. Visit


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