Efficiency a Top Priority in 2010

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Better Homes and Gardens recently revealed proprietary research and insights on what consumers are looking for in their next home and overall priorities guiding current and future home improvement projects.

In a speech at the NAHB International Builders Show, Eliot Nusbaum, Better Homes and Gardens Executive Editor Home Design, presented the results of the Next Home Survey along with reported trends from a nationwide network of field editors, the magazine’s Home Improvement Challenge and editorial coverage.

The survey of nationwide potential new home buyers and existing home owners who are planning improvements in the next few months found top priorities to include price, energy-efficiency, organization and comfort.

“Not surprisingly, we continue to see a ‘cents and sensibility’ approach when it comes to buying or improving a home, with practicality and price being top priorities,” said Nusbaum. “Today’s homeowner is also looking for a home that fits the entire family–from a multi-tasking home office, to expanding storage space needs, to a living room that can adapt to advancements in home entertainment and technology.”

Future Home Buyers

A Smaller and More Energy-Efficient Home

Continuing the “downsizing” trend, more consumers (36% in 2009; 32% in 2008) expect their next home to be “somewhat smaller” or “much smaller.”

A greener home will be a priority, with 87% planning to have high-efficiency heating/cooling in their next home and 86% planning to have high-efficiency appliances; 24.9% will have geo-thermal heat.

When asked how today’s housing market and economic turmoil have impacted priorities for their next home, 76% said energy-efficient heating and cooling systems will be “more important” and for 70%, Energy Star appliances will be “more important.”

Almost half (48%) say green building practices/materials will be “more important” when purchasing their next home.

An Organized, Multi-Tasking Home with No Wasted Space

The home office is a priority as 59% of consumers plan to have one in the home. Of those, only 28% want a separate dedicated home office space (compared to 64% in 2008), with one-third (33%) now wanting a more multi-purposed space, such as combined office/computer/hobby/craft/art room.

A well organized home is key, with 66% of respondents listing “no-space-wasted” design and 62% listing ample storage space as attributes that will take on more importance.

Also on the ‘wish list’ for the next home is: a separate laundry room (85%); an outdoor grilling and living area (68%); a kitchen with eating area (67%); and an extra bedroom with bath (65%).

America’s love affair with the large garage continues to flourish with 37% of consumers now wanting a 3-car or larger garage compared to 29% in 2008.

A Family-Friendly Home

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers consider a comfortable family gathering space to be top priority in their next home.

Of lesser interest this year is a kitchen, family and everyday eating area combined in one space (49% vs 56% in 2008) replaced by significantly greater interest in a family room partially separated from the kitchen (42% vs 27% in 2008).

There is also an increased desire (51% vs 44% in 2008) for a wall-mounted flat screen TV in the main family living area and for networked computers/home entertainment center (48% vs 43% in 2008).

Home Improvers

“With the economy still a major concern, right now it’s more about the ‘got to’ improvements than the ‘want to’ improvements,” said Nusbaum. “The focus is now on low-cost improvements that will pack a big punch.”

With only 16% feeling “now is the right time to spend” on home improvements vs 38% saying “now is not the right time to spend,” 52% are focusing their efforts on needed repairs and maintenance.

Three-quarters (76%) say the economy has had an impact on their home improvement plans, with half (50%) having changed their home improvement plans during the last year.

Smaller projects prove to be the most popular, such as painting a room (54%), replacing/adding flooring or carpeting (38%), decorating/redecorating a room (35%) and landscaping the yard (30%).

Energy-efficiency is also a focus of future home projects, with respondents placing importance on installation of Energy Star windows/doors (34%), high-efficiency heating/cooling (31%) and Energy Star appliances (31%).

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Healthy Homes

U.S.

RISMEDIA, November 30, 2009—Consumers are more conscientious about healthy living than ever before and this awareness is making its way to the homebuilding industry, particularly in the custom home market, says Michael Lenahen who owns Ponte Vedra, Fla.-based Aurora Custom Homes.

“As more consumers begin to realize how much their home affects every aspect of their health, they are beginning to see the importance of improving its environmental quality with products to benefit their health and that of their family,” Lenahen said. “The new emphasis toward healthy living focuses around four main categories – air, water, odor/fumes and lighting.”

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, pollutants are often two to five times higher indoors than outdoors and this can significantly affect air in the home causing breathing problems and respiratory diseases. When it comes to the quality of the air, Lenahen said several products are available on the market that homeowners should incorporate into their home such as:

-Advanced allergy filters to control dust particles and pollutants
-Dehumidification devices to manage the humidity in the home
-Variable speed air handlers to maintain the circulation of air throughout the home and ventilation fans to introduce fresh air into the home while removing stale, humid air

Improving the water quality in a home is just as important as the air quality, Lenahen said. Several products are available to improve the quality and efficiency of a home’s water flow and usage, including:

-Carbon filter and reverse osmosis units to purify drinking water by removing particulate matter and harmful minerals
-Whole-house water softeners to remove calcium and other harmful minerals while providing added benefit to the home’s appliances and pluming fixtures. Water softeners also improve skin tone and texture by removing calcium, magnesium and iron from the water.
-Underground cisterns to collect rainwater from the gutter and downspouts to use for irrigating the lawn and landscapeHealthy home living is also improved by the use of low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) materials, which emit lower levels of gasses into the home from everyday materials such as paints, sealants, cabinets and flooring materials. Lenahen said homeowners should use the lowest emitting VOC products for custom homebuilding and remodeling projects, thereby reducing the negative health impact the products may have on the occupants. Low VOC products will have labeling to help homeowners find the healthiest option.

Better lighting solutions can also foster healthier living. Traditional light fixtures typically include high wattage bulbs, which waste electricity while adding excessive heat into the home. Suggested improvements include:

-Decorative light fixtures with less wattage requirements and soft-light emitting globes
-Compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs or L.E.D. fixtures and bulbs for longer life usage
-Next generation skylights, such as Velux Sun Tunnel or Solatube, that bring natural light into the home, reducing the need for artificial light and energy consumption

“These are just some of the many changes that can be made to current homes or built into new homes that will greatly improve the quality of life and health of its occupants,” Lenahen said. “The more consumers become aware of the positive affects of healthy living within the home, the more products will enter the mainstream of standard building practices.”

 

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