The AIA's second quarter 2012 Home Design Trends Survey asked residential architects about the role played by systems, technology, and function rooms in the home. While their responses indicate that functionality and affordability usually trump luxury, it may be too early to write off gains in higher-end energy-efficient products and synthetic and engineered building materials, says AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, particularly if the products or systems make the home more accessible for children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities, or it if lets homeowners stay put longer.

“We are far removed from the days when there was strong demand for home theaters and saunas,” Baker said in a statement. “Instead, the last several years have seen consumer priorities based more on practicality, ease, and affordability over luxury.” Read Baker’s expanded analysis.

Photos: AIA Home Design Trends Survey

Special-function rooms: Thirty-five percent of respondents said home offices were the most important special function rooms, down slightly from a year earlier, while outdoor living rooms were ranked second, despite dipping slightly for the same period. Mud rooms tied outdoor living rooms with 22 percent of architects tagging each of them as the most popular special function room. However, a big gap separated media/home theater rooms, for which 7 percent of architects voted.

 

Photos: AIA Home Design Trends Survey

Home Products: Low maintenance products fell 6 percentage points from 2011 with 59 percent of architects saying their popularity is increasing. Energy-efficient products saw similar results at 58 percent. Meanwhile, tankless water heaters, water-saving products, synthetic materials, and recycled materials have architects reporting a decline in popularity compared with last year.

 

Photos: AIA Home Design Trends Survey

Special Home Features: Adding extra insulation to the home is still the most popular feature, although it dipped slightly from 2011. The first-floor master bedroom continues to attract interest as well, despite dropping 1 percentage point from a year ago. Ramps and elevators were the only feature to show increased popularity for 2012.

 

Systems and Technology: The popularity of wireless systems popularity decreased slightly to put it on par with energy management system, which picked up two percentage pointsfor home systems. Other areas that saw year-over-year gains: solar panels, geothermal heating/cooling, and water reclamation.

Photos: AIA Home Design Trends Survey

Specific Construction Segments: Additions are up slightly from a year ago, with 44 percent of architects pegging the segment as improving. Kitchen and bath remodeling is up by a slightly greater margin from 2011, joining additions as a category leader. The move-up home market, custom home luxury market, first-time buyer market, townhouse and condo market, and the second-home market have yet to rebound, but fewer architects this year say the sectors are weakening compared with 2011.