For decades, Megatel Homes, a second-generation, family-owned custom home building company, has seen home trends come and go. The days of homeowners looking for stainless steel appliances and granite countertops are gone. Today’s home building trends, the company says, focus more on durability and environmental sustainability, rather than looks and flash.
Modern housing trends are what Samuel Rashkin, the chief architect for the US Department of Energy, refers to as “hard trends,” according to Plastic News. While soft trends, such as granite, hardwood flooring or shag carpeting in the 1970s were of the moment, hard trends look to the future, not just of a single house, but of housing across the country.
“There are 12 trends that will make homes more energy efficient, more secure, and more reliable,” a representative from Megatel says. The company believes that, in 2014, there will be a number of hard trends that will impact the housing market.
Better Water Efficiency
Water use is an issue on the minds of many home buyers and builders, according to Samuel Rashkin. Drought has been a major concern in some areas of the country for several years. In March, 2014, the US Drought Monitor placed nearly a quarter of the state of California in the category of “exceptional drought,” a milestone rarely experienced by the area. Nearly 75 percent of the rest of the State is experiencing “extreme drought.”
Worries about water will mean that home builders will be expected to use water-efficient features in new homes, whether those homes are in drought prone areas or not. Buyers can expect to see features such as low-flow faucets and on-demand water heaters, according to Rashkin.
Lower Electricity Use
In the U.S., electricity use in 2011 was nearly 13 times more than electricity use in 1950, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Nearly 42 percent of electricity comes from coal power, according to the EIA, while just 13 percent is from renewable sources. Custom home builders will be expected to produce homes with a lighter electricity footprint.
One way to reduce a home’s reliance on less sustainable forms of energy is to equip it with some sort of solar-ready system. It is more cost efficient for a builder to design new construction with solar ready features, which allow a homeowner to add solar panels or a solar water heating system later on without having to completely retrofit the home. According to Rashkin, a solar-ready home can bring a house’s energy use down to zero, which appeals to plenty of buyers.
Better Indoor Air Quality
People are spending more and more time indoors, according to Megatel Homes. Yet, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality leaves much to be desired, and can be as much as five times more polluted than outdoor air. Ways for builders to improve the air quality indoors including removing the source of pollution and improving ventilation in the homes.
Healthier products for the home go hand in hand with improving indoor air quality. An example of a more health conscious home product is paint that is free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Megatel says. VOCs contribute to respiratory ailments, irritation of the eyes and nose, and can be carcinogenic. Home builders can find healthier versions of carpeting, pressed wood products and insulation as well.
More Energy Efficient Appliances
Energy efficiency has been on many homeowner’s minds, and, as such, it is on the minds of home builders, Megatel Homes says. According to Rashkin, about 25 percent of the market wanted high performance homes in 2012-2013. That percentage is expected to go up as energy sources dwindle and the costs of natural gas, electricity and oil continue to increase.
Better Weather Protection
As weather patterns continue to change, even homes in areas that formerly saw little in the way of extreme weather will need better weather protection. Storm shutters or seals on windows and doors will become more in demand as the path for hurricanes grows larger. Other weather concerns builders need to be aware of include tornadoes, heavy rainfall leading to flooding and earthquakes.
Improved Disaster Management
Along with better protection from dangerous weather, today’s new homes need to offer homeowners protection during a disaster. This means that builders can expect more requests for safe rooms or areas to store a disaster kit.
Fewer Air Leaks
Rashkin says that homes will need tighter building envelopes, defined as the barrier between the climate controlled areas of a home and the non-climate controlled areas, going forward. Better building envelopes will mean that heat is kept in in winter, cool kept in in summer and unwanted moisture kept out.
Buyers Want Creativity
Today’s home buyers don’t just want the basics. It’s about form and function, says Rashkin. Creative new homes can offer more integrated technology, such as built-in areas for televisions or gaming systems.
Buyers are Smarter
Home buyers on the market today are also generally more knowledgeable about the process. They have greater access to information about a specific construction company, about energy efficiency, and about durability of specific materials.
While plenty of people are on the market for a new home, older homes aren’t going anywhere. There are more concerns with older homes, as they aren’t energy efficient and can contain deadly materials, such as asbestos or lead-based paints. While home builders can’t ignore existing housing stock, they can do their best to make the home they build more appealing to a new set of buyers, says Megatel Homes.