Changing Times

These are interesting times we’re in. The last ten years has brought changes to nearly every facet of our industry. We’ve learned that many of the rules have changed. Some of the rules needed to change, some of the rules were destine to change, and some of the new ideas have evolved from being in survival mode. And even more change is on the horizon, as recent NAHB research shows that today’s construction pace will result in a housing shortage in the decade to come, creating opportunities to engage those new ideas.

So what changes should we be ready for? What will new homebuyers be looking for? And when a strong housing market does return, where should a builder’s business focus its efforts? The answers lie in understanding our evolution from McMansions to a more practical housing model. We are redefining what affordability means and offers and discovering a wide range of options and ideas that suit that refined definition.

First we need to understand that we all have similar needs for our homes. A place to rest, a place that’s safe, and a place that’s warm and comfortable. Those seem simple enough, but the needs list has grown well beyond those basics. We now see buyers also expecting durability, efficiency, respectful design, and a reduced environmental impact.

From my recent visits to Atlanta, Houston, Sacramento, and Duluth, I see these changes manifesting. More frequently, I get questions about using housewraps and better flashing products and practices. About which insulation systems to use, foam or blown fiberglass? And what about energy recovery ventilation systems—do they help with window condensation? I see smaller house footprints and better designs. There are larger builders looking to develop communities that focus on energy efficiency, solar energy generation, or Green features.

The current economy also reminds us of a few lessons that many of us already knew quite well, but are only now beginning to apply … or re-apply to survive.

For example, our industry’s dependence on imported energy has plagued us in the past. Only now, we have the technology, the education, the motivation, and I think the will to build better homes that leave a legacy of responsibility and innovation to the generations ahead. We have the chance to reevaluate the communities and the homes we build by looking at lifestyles, economic situations and cultural needs, listening to a new and more savvy, cost-conscious consumer and understanding what they interpret as value and incentives to change as they seek their place in the New Economy.

For buyers, it’s no longer about price per square foot, but about seeing their families better prepared to live with a smaller footprint. It is about finding comfort and affordability at all levels. As a result, we now can discuss not only the cost to buy, but also to the cost maintain and operate a home. We can see that the adaptability of changing lifestyles matter and can be integrated into the decision to buy. We are beginning to feel empowered to choose a better future by being less dependent on things we can’t control and select quality and durability over size and waste.

With that, more consumers are learning to make decisions based on knowledge and less on emotion. They expect to be educated in the experience of buying a new home. Take the time to listen and understand what people are asking for. Today’s buyers are ready and interested in what makes you different than the rest.

Learn from the tour of A Home for the New Economy and see that a home can have style, efficiency, durability and flexibility. It creates a reason to get off the couch and come see what they’re missing; a better home, a better lifestyle, and hope in the New Economy.



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16 comments to “Changing Times”

  1. Abbie Sladick says:

    Times have certainly changed and will continue to change. As builders, remodelers and manufacturers we must listen to our customer and understand their changing values. Great Post!

  2. Susan says:

    I tried taking the tour but keep getting stuck in the dining room, which will not seem to load. Technical difficulties?

  3. Pete Diaz says:

    Congrats on the New Blog, looks great from a design perspective.

    I look forward to reading post about ESH. I currently live in one and I kind of wish I could take it a step further. Any ideas you have would be welcomed.

    Thanks
    Pete

  4. Frank Fisher, Architect says:

    Enjoyed the Tour…this house probable fits the eastern buyer, however our buyers in the southwest like much more open plans, even in small footprints. We have been designing very low energy homes for thirty years…we are glad the rest of the country is starting to think about them. We have learned that not all products are truly a savings to the home owner…and the difference can be difficult to determine in the design stage. Thanks

  5. joseph d. chance aia says:

    While I applaud the adjustment to a more reasonable and sustainable size and the incorporation of energy saving materials and devises in the concept home, I am appalled that one would foist upon the public a house that looks like it could have been built in 1810 and call it a concept house for 2010!
    In order to truly promote a “concept house” one needs to also include the changes in culture, technology, spatial and lifestyle concepts and design innovations that would allow a residence to transform into a very different appearing structure. In no other field that I can think of; transportation, appliances, electronics, etc. have I seen such a fearful reluctance to let go of the past and embrace, at least the present, if not the future, as there is in residential design. Sure, some of the futuristic designs will be outrageous and will become outdated but they will create discussion and serve to generate new ideas. Eventually new “classics” more representative of our place in time will emerge. I believe that it is our duty as architects, builders and designers to fuel change and improvement in the industry.

  6. joseph d. chance aia says:

    While I applaud the adjustment to a more reasonable and sustainable size and the incorporation of energy saving materials and devises in the concept home, I think that more effort should have been expended to create a concept house that truly has the look of 2010!
    In order to truly promote a “concept house” one needs to also include the changes in culture, technology, spatial and lifestyle changes and design innovation that would allow a residence to transform into a very different appearing structure. In no other field that I can think of; transportation, appliances, electronics, etc. have I seen such a fearful reluctance to let go of the past and embrace, at least the present, if not the future, as there has been in residential design. Sure, some of the futuristic designs will be outrageous and will become quickly outdated but they will create discussion and serve to generate new ideas. Eventually new “classics” more representative of our place in time will emerge. I believe that it is our duty as architects, builders and designers to fuel change and improvement in the industry.

  7. janet says:

    I tried to take the tour but yr website got hung up and wouldn’t get me past the foyer. I tried reloading the page but couldn’t get to the LR.

    I have a questions: what’s the cost per sq ft?

  8. Liesl says:

    I , as a consumer like the traditional look of the house. I grew up in a “California” beach type home with cathedral ceilings and a loft, and although it is 32 years old it is still a very appealing home – even in Michigan! However – it is cold – heat rises, so in the winter we were always putting on extra clothes with the 20 foot ceiling height.
    Back to the New Economy home – I would love to build it. There are a few changes I would like to see. For instance I would like fewer bathrooms but one large enough for 2 sinks and a linen closet in the bathroom because we have four children. I would like to see a way to use the back storage area as a bedroom (without going through the master) as the one up front with the bunks is really tiny. People are always going to look for “traditional” type housing so it doesn’t bother me in the least that it looks like it could have been ” built in 1810″.
    I forgot to mention that while growing up in the “coolest ” house on the block my parents have always had to pay extra in taxes (custom home tax) because it doesn’t look like the “traditional home” and I think that also comes into play in the desing here. I do wish there were printable plans available to really study. I enjoyed the tour it helps alot in envisioning the space. How hard would it be to make it ADA compliant? As an OTR this is another aspect in adaptability to consider.

  9. admin says:

    @Susan: Hi Susan, the tour has been fixed and should be working properly now. We apologize for the inconvenience.

  10. admin says:

    @Janet: Hi Janet, the tour has been fixed and should be working properly now. We apologize for the inconvenience.

  11. Penny Venable says:

    Hi1 I’ve tried twice taking the tour of the Builder concept home, & I get partway thru, & then that’s it. I’ve visited all of the booths at least twice. How do I register to win the Kindle? I’ve already spent over an hour trying to figure this out. I’d really like to register to get my shot at winning. Thanks!!

  12. admin says:

    @Penny Venable: Hi Penny, your booth visits are automatically tracked as soon as you enter the tour. You should already be in the database.

  13. Penny Venable says:

    So does that mean that I’d be entered in the Kindle contest? Thanks!

  14. admin says:

    @Penny Venable: Hi Penny, that is correct.

  15. Roger says:

    BTW, This is a concept home right? Are you just trying to gauge the demand? Solicit improvements?

    Or are plans ready to sell? What’s your goal here?

  16. Mary Everett says:

    The Concept Home is great BUT I insist on windows in all bathrooms, if not for ventilation, then at least for natural light. Also I believe most mothers would prefer a view to the backyard from the kitchen window. I would like to see a revised floor plan with the kitchen across the rear and the 1st floor bedroom to the side. One big problem with open design is that noise travels and that includes television/videogame noise. I didn’t notice any mention of basement space, maybe for banishing those noisemakers downstairs.

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