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The American Institute of Architect’s latest Home Design Trends Survey of its professional members shows the powerful impact the pandemic continues to have on our living spaces, compounded by other natural disasters. This study showed a sharp uptick in demand for outdoor improvements, multiple home offices, exercise spaces, and safety features like backup generators and hurricane-resistant design.

“Outdoor living space and home offices have been popular for years,” noted AIA’s chief economist Kermit Baker, “but the dramatic increase in demand for them, along with multiple laundry facilities and patio heaters indicate homeowners are staying home more and want to be prepared in the event of another shutdown.” He also noted that rapidly-increasing demand for generators, insulation, and other features that allow livability during a catastrophic event like a hurricane signal homeowners’ concern for staying safe and healthy during likely future events of these types.


This was a top trend in the survey, with demand for outdoor spaces increasing from 61% to 70% among respondents compared to last year. Reduced travel has made making your own outdoors ‘greater’ an appealing project, while also freeing up vacation dollars for home improvement.


Working from home has also been a long-time popular trend, as Baker noted, but was once accomplished with a single dedicated or shared space. With two adults telecommuting and Zoom-ing this past year, the need for an additional home office capacity has become evident. Demand in the AIA survey more than doubled, from 24% in 2020 to 48% this year. Those spaces are being used not just for traditional laptop work, but as “Zoom rooms” and other virtual meeting spaces. These often require good light, uncluttered space, and quiet to optimize the experience.


Even though many gyms and studios have reopened this year, the demand for home-based fitness and yoga spaces has jumped from 23 to 39%, the AIA reports. It’s likely that last year’s burst of Peloton purchases have something to do with this trend, but also that many health-conscious adults are still wary of exposing themselves to viruses in the close quarters often prevalent in commercial spaces.


Homeowners are looking for ways to ensure their safety, health and functionality despite the disruptions of natural disasters. That includes adding backup power generation (60% demand in 2021 vs. 46% last year) and a related 17% increase in solar panels to help power them. This is especially key for those who work from home being able to handle power outages, and for those with medical equipment requiring power.


Remodeling and additions are both trending strongly, the AIA reports, as people seek to improve the spaces they’ve been eyeballing between their four walls for more than a year. So is the trend toward improving second homes, which went from negative two percent last year – when everyone was locked down – to 35% this year; Americans are enjoying the freedom of moving around more, but are still doing so in as safe a way as possible, vacationing at their own properties.

It’s conceivable — perhaps even likely — that building code changes to address ventilation issues and reducing energy use are going to show up on these AIA surveys in the next few years, as are homeowners’ continuing desire to stay safe and healthy in their homes.


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