Demand grows for energy efficient homes
Architects report that more clients are asking for more energy efficient homes.
By Les Christie, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- After many months of skyrocketing energy costs, it comes as no shock to learn that the home design features and designs most in demand these days revolve around increased energy efficiency.

That's according to the latest American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey for the second quarter of 2006.

Green homes like this are often highly energy efficient, a top priority for homeowners today.

AIA chief economist Kermit Baker says, "Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the energy efficient options available in the marketplace and they are requesting that architects incorporate them into the design and remodeling of their homes."

The AIA survey method is to ask their members whether their clients were requesting design features more often, less often or the same as last year. The AIA then deducts the negative responses from the positives to come up with a percentage.

Some 54 percent of respondents said energy management systems were more in demand this year, a big jump up from 38 percent last year. None said demand for these systems had dropped.

These energy management systems reduce energy use by employing computers to monitor and direct the building's heating and air conditioning, automatically lowering the thermostat during the day when occupants are out, for example.

But homeowners are interested in even relatively low-tech ways to save on energy costs. About 45 percent more architects said their clients requested extra insulation this year than did not.

Other energy efficient measures popular with consumers included tank-less water heaters, which lose no heat in storage, double pane window glass and energy efficient appliances.

And a recent poll of registered voters that AIA sponsored revealed that 90 percent would be willing to pay $4,000 to $5,000 more for a home that would burn less energy.

Other trends

With energy management systems so much in demand, interest in other systems has waned. Demand for wireless telecom systems dropped a few points to 67 percent and interest in having a central audio system went from 48 percent to 40 percent. Security systems still gained in popularity to 37 percent from 28 percent as did automated lighting systems to 36 percent form 31 percent.

The survey also queried architects on what specialty rooms their clients demanded most. The response was that 49 percent reported an increase in requests for a home office, up from 31 percent in 2005. Home theaters retained their popularity at 21 percent, the same as 12 months earlier.

Less popular, falling to 6 percent from 13 percent, were hobby or game rooms.

The biggest single call for architectural services is to design new additions and alterations; 52 percent more architects reporting an improving market in this category than those reporting a weakening market. Kitchen and bath remodeling was second with 50 percent more reporting better conditions.

The AIA reports that its members are still keeping quite busy, despite the slowdown in the overall housing sector, especially in new construction. Architectural firms are reporting a backlog of projects and an average of 5.6 months of jobs under contract.

But the custom/luxury home market was reported to be weakening by 1 percent more firms than said it was strengthening and the first-time buyer/affordable home segment was even slower: 25 percent more architects reported slower billings there than thought the market was getting stronger.

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