Square footage is on the rise, as is the prevalence of accessibility features and open-plan layouts in residential projects, according to the quarterly AIA Home Design Trends Survey, released yesterday. This iteration of the survey delves into home and property design activity during the first quarter of 2016 and includes responses from more than 500 residential architecture firms. Highlights from the survey are below.

Home and Layout Design
Interior design elements meant to aid aging in place continue to top the list, with in-home accessibility, single-floor plans, and open layouts also making the top five. Consumer demand for these features is expected to continue in the coming years as droves of baby boomers prepare for retirement. Although overall demand is down year-over-year, “minor lags in demand for accessibility features within the home are a signal universal design concepts have become a more common feature in existing housing stock,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA in a press release.

Residential Demand for Key Features

Consumer demand for bigger homes—based on both square footage and volume—continued in the first quarter of 2016, following a trend seen since 2011 mirroring recovery in the broader economy. Lot size is also on the rise, responding to homeowners' growing interest in using more of their property as livable space, with outdoor living areas continuing to top the list of residential design trends.

Change in Demand for Home and Lot Size

Outdoor Living and Landscaping
Seven in 10 firms reported more activity around the design and construction of outdoor living spaces during the quarter, with six in 10 seeing an increase in activity concerning "blended indoor/outdoor living," or areas in the home such as a ground floor common room that span interior and exterior spaces, during the period. Landscaping features are also in high demand, with low irrigation landscaping (56%) and difficult lot preparation (50%) also making the top five.

Demand for Outdoor Living Features

Business Conditions
The first-quarter report corroborates discussion of the housing market's slow but steady recovery. Project inquiries continued their cyclical trend of peaking in the first quarter before slowing down for the remaining three. The projects inquiries index came in at 67 for the first quarter of 2016, down from 73 a year ago. Meanwhile, billings at residential firms dipped slightly to 61 from its mark of 66 a year earlier. The residential billings and project inquiries for the residential sector are promising in comparison to overall recent architectural firm numbers; as ARCHITECT reported earlier this week, the AIA's Architecture Billings Index posted a 10-month high of 53.1 with project inquiries at 60.1 in May from 56.9 in April. Scores below 50 represent a contraction in the market while those above indicate growth.

Amid the sectors responsible for this work, remodeling still accounts for the largest share of business activity, while buyer interest in move-up and custom and luxury homes has picked up in the past four years. Although the survey found that demand for those projects is lower year-over-year, buyer interest reamins strong. The clearest indication of consumer confidence, according to the report, can be seen in the rising demand for second and vacation homes, which dropped off the map during the recession and through 2014 and is beginning to re-gain traction.

Remodeling Sector Demand

Read the full report here.