Residential architects looking to succeed in the remaining years of this decade will need to address three related issues: sustainable design principles, attainable housing, and resilience. When it comes to sustainability, the market already favors products that use less energy. This bias will accelerate, with an added twist: Clients will demand that the claims being made for “green design” are evidence-based and verifiable. Those architects who can provide this level of performance and data will have a leg up in the marketplace.
The principle of sustainability must be treated as more than just saving energy. It must promote a new culture of living that addresses the reduction of the use of fossil fuels and promotes a healthier lifestyle that focuses not on the car, but on the pedestrian. Architects have a responsibility both to respect the environment and to use design to improve our communities’ quality of life.
In responding to the second trend, attainable housing, successful architects will be those who recognize that they’re in the business of improving lives. This is an opportunity for architects to lead the development of well-designed housing that responds to the functional, social, and financial demands of a wide variety of community needs. Whether the challenge is serving low-income families, those new to the U.S., the elderly, those who have lost their homes, or veterans transitioning from military to civilian lives, access to attainable housing is essential to economic stability.
Architects who approach housing as an opportunity to make a positive difference will influence the process of shaping local, state, and national policy—and they will play a major role in our nation’s economic recovery. Never before has it been more important to have leaders who are committed to a safe, healthy, and prosperous future for our communities.
The final trend shaping the future of residential design is resilience. Natural disasters are inevitable. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, architects must lead the discussion of re-evaluating how we rebuild and plan for the ever-increasing number of communities that are made vulnerable to natural disasters. Architects who incorporate resilience into the design of our nation’s housing will not only be welcomed, but will be sought out in the marketplace.
Mickey Jacob, FAIA, 2013 President