Recognizing the general public's ever-growing interest in home improvement and residential design issues, and the importance of tracking this information for firms focusing on residential design work, the American Institute of Architects presented the results of its first Home Design Trends Survey at this year's national convention in June. The survey, which will be released on a quarterly basis going forward, will collect data from 600 residential architectural firms. This year's three remaining surveys will continue to address general market issues, in addition to focusing on a specific topic-special function rooms, community, and kitchen and bath.

Data from the first survey indicated a generally strong housing market. Firm billings for residential projects increased by 5 percent, and firms surveyed reported a minimum of a five-month in-house project surplus. A quarter of the firms interviewed reported six months or more of work. This is good news for staff and employment statistics, given the generally short design/construction duration of residential projects as a whole.

However, not all sectors are performing equally. According to the report, approximately half of all firms indicated that the remodeling market, which includes additions and alterations to existing structures, and kitchen and bath renovations had increased by at least 40 percent. What the survey categorizes as move-up, custom/luxury, and second/vacation homes also showed a healthy increase. The one area that reported a loss was the first-time-buyer/affordable homes sector--a significant piece of data and an important sector to watch in coming quarters, as it might forecast general U.S. economic conditions.

Several trends of note, as indicated by the survey data, include an increase in square footage, whether a result of new construction or additions; an increase in interior volumes as evidenced in the prevalence of two-story entryways, double-height 'great rooms,' and vaulted ceilings; finished basements and attic spaces as a means of increasing square footage; more 'informal space,' such as family rooms and dens; open-plan layouts; and upscale landscaping as a means of creating outdoor living spaces. Moreover, the aging population and retirement of the 'baby boomer' generation has resulted in a 'demand for greater accessibility and single-floor design,' as found in wider hallways and fewer steps.

While the current survey did not discuss lighting or lighting-related topics, there is an obvious impact on the specification of residential lighting. The current survey report is available at For information on how to participate in the next Home Trends Design Survey, send e-mail inquiries to A|L