A quarterly survey by The American Institute of Architects shows rising interest in solar panels and docking stations for electric vehicles but declining interest over time in the number of people who say they want net-zero energy or superinsulated houses.
The findings for the third quarter of the year represent information that AIA member architects who design single-family homes gather in their dealings with clients. The survey, which measured changes in interest from 2018 to 2019, focused on a variety of home features. Other quarterly reports look at kitchens and baths, home and property design, and neighborhood and community design.
Many of the subject areas probably aren’t of particular interest to designers and builders who specialize in high-performance houses or sustainable design. But there are a few topics that relate directly to that type of construction.
As AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker explained in a telephone call, the survey calculates the net difference between architects who report rising interest in a particular topic minus those who report declining interest.
Here’s what participating architects reported in the last survey:
- Interest in net zero and superinsulated houses is going down: In the most recent survey, the net interest level was about 23%, the same as it was last year. But the four-year trend is off sharply. In 2016, a net of 43.9% reported increased interest in net-zero building. That dropped to 31.1% in 2017. By way of contrast, there was twice as much interest in two other features—accommodations for multiple generations and ramps/elevators.
- Interest in electric car docking stations is going up: Interest was up slightly this year, growing from 57% in 2018 to 61% this year. In 2016, it was 47.7%, which rose to 54.1% the following year.
- Solar panels are gaining ground: Up from 41% last year to 52% this year. What’s just as interesting is the proportion of architects who reported that interest was declining—13% in 2018, down to just 6% this year.
- Energy management: Down slightly, from 63% a year ago to 62% this year.
Interest among prospective home buyers for technology friendly features—including extra outlet capacity and charging stations, wireless mobile charging docks, and USB wall outlets—dropped by five percentage points but remains strong at 64%.
The AIA has been conducting the surveys since 2005, Baker said, with the purpose being to learn “what’s hot and what’s not.”
In the area of solar panels and net-zero energy and superinsulated homes, Baker said trends could be partly explained by relatively low energy prices.
“Solar panels make a lot of sense if energy prices are high,” he said, “not that much if energy prices are low.” Ditto with net-zero construction, and interest could surge rapidly with a spike in energy prices.
Baker said the survey should not be viewed as a personal wish list from single-family architects.
“It’s not designed to be, ‘What do you think is going to be popular in five years, or what should be popular five years from now,’ ” he said. “It’s very much, ‘What are you seeing in your current practice and projects you’re working on.’ ”
What millennials don’t want
Over at realtor.com, another survey charts home upgrades that millennials say they don’t care about. There’s no mention of energy efficiency, air tightness, or indoor air quality either way. But we do learn that there are five things that actively repel potential homebuyers. They include:
- “Over-the-top” landscaping: Out with tidy, well fertilized lawns. Instead, millennials are said to prefer growing plants indoors and having an outdoor space that doesn’t require too much maintenance.
- Formal dining rooms. Let’s cook up a storm and eat in or near the kitchen.
- Rigid floor plans: Millennials would rather have open floor plans and rooms that can be used for a variety of functions.
- Brand new carpeting: Bare floors with “statement rugs” are more appealing and better for their pets.
- Memorabilia and game rooms: These are areas where you put a pool table or show off stuff you’ve accumulated, like golfing trophies. Millennials are more taken with digital things, so a big screen TV or media room is more likely to please, according to the report.
Realtor.com wasn’t specific on exactly when and how it gathered the information.
-Scott Gibson is a contributing writer at Green Building Advisor and Fine Homebuilding magazine.