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Adaptable, connected homes are here, but changes in scale and function will define the home of the (near) future.

While it seems safe to assume that the design of U.S. homes will undergo fairly significant changes over the coming decade, it’s equally likely that these changes will be determined by fundamental economic and demographic developments instead of Jetsons-style technological innovations. The aging of our population, the continued recovery from last decade’s housing collapse, and a painfully slow economic recovery that is making it difficult for younger households to get ahead in the housing market are all factors that will shape the future of home design.

In the AIA’s Home Design Trends Survey, leading residential architecture firms provided their vision for the next 10 years in terms of home layout; features, systems, and products; neighborhood and community design; and kitchens and baths. The key trends that they identified are the growing popularity of universal design; increased attention to a healthy living environment; infill development and its focus on improved design; and the growing popularity of kitchens as the focus of household activities.

Housing Progress and the Housing Bust

The AIA has been tracking home design trends since 2005 through quarterly surveys of approximately 500 residential architecture firms. Since that inaugural year was near to the peak of the last housing boom, this survey has traced the housing market from one of the strongest booms through the steepest housing downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Through this decade of transition, several home design themes emerged.

Outdoor living expanded in popularity. Lifestyles have become more informal, and homes are reflecting this. Formal living rooms and dining rooms are disappearing, replaced by great rooms, dens, and open-space layouts. With this movement to informality has been growth in outdoor living. While initially decks, patios, and outdoor grills were the focus, this trend has expanded to outdoor kitchens and even fully furnished outdoor rooms.

Changing work patterns encouraged growth of home offices. During the recession, company scale-backs forced many to work or job hunt out of their homes. Additionally, technology advancements made telecommuting a more feasible option for many workers. As a result, even though homes were getting smaller during the housing downturn, home offices were growing in popularity.

Residential projects were integrated into mixed-use facilities. With the downturn came the demise of large suburban tract housing developments. In their place, housing activity occurred in smaller projects, often tied to other commercial activities. This approach often necessitated higher-density development and provided additional amenities for nearby residents.

Technology was incorporated into kitchens and baths. The Great Recession coincided with a period of technological innovation. Many consumers supplemented their traditional desktop computer with laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This created the need to provide the infrastructure within homes to support all these devices. Additionally, growing concerns about sustainability increased consumer demand for energy and water conservation devices, and emerging technologies often facilitated the management of these systems in the home.

Forces Shaping the Coming Decade

While economic cycles will, hopefully, be a good deal less severe over the coming decade, several demographic forces will shape housing demand in the years ahead. The first of these is the general aging of our population and, more specifically, the movement of the Baby Boom generation into their retirement years. Though population growth will slow in the coming years, the share of people 65 or older will grow dramatically, relative to current numbers, accounting for about two-thirds of net population growth in the coming decade.

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What changes do you see yourself incorporating into your home in the future?