The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) took a stab at envisioning the home of the future at its recently concluded annual convention in Orlando, Florida.

NAHB noted that the norm in new housing has evolved in the last five decades from a small one-story bungalow of about 1,000 square feet with two bedrooms, and one bath to homes that tend toward two stories, 2,400 square feet, three bedrooms and a minimum of two baths. Not only has size and configuration changed, but "new homes have evolved to levels of comfort and sophistication that were virtually unimaginable even a generation ago."



NAHB's crystal ball looked only a few years into the future, to what a house will likely look like and live like in 2015. Information was based on a poll conducted last year by NAHB'S Economics Group that sought responses from architects, designers, marketers, and manufacturers who were asked to identify what they thought would be in an "average" home and an "upscale" one.

Changes will come much faster over the next decade than they have in the past, not a surprising conclusion given what technology is doing in all aspects of our life. Homes will be "greener" than today and there will be increasing emphasis on access for persons of limited physical ability, a trend that has already started as the population ages. Not a lot of the changes forecast by the study, however, are particularly startling or dramatic.

While, as noted above, houses have greatly increased in size since the immediate post-war years, the NAHB study does not expect this trend to continue. The average home in 2015 is likely to be in the same 2,400 sf. range that is found in today's new homes and are increasingly likely to be two stories (a green feature which minimizes footprint). What will grow, however, are garages as more and more homebuyers opt for three-car garages and for larger doors admit SUVs. So much for green! Consumers are currently turning toward use of recessed lighting in homes of all price ranges and wood floors are also in demand.

On a macro level, neighborhoods or communities will have more open space with walking and jogging trails and will be closer to public transportation facilities.

Here is a thumbnail sketch from the NAHB of first the average home and then the upscale home of 2015.

The average home will have 2,330 square feet on two floors and contain 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 bathrooms and four bedrooms. The family room will replace the living room which will either vanish or become a library, "retreat," or parlor.

The average home will not have the high vaulted ceiling found in so much construction today. Foyers will be one story as will family rooms but ceilings throughout the first floor will be nine-feet high with the second floor being eight to nine feet. The staircase to the second floor will rise from the foyer, there will be a front porch and a patio, and the exterior of the house will be vinyl or fiber cement siding or brick. (The study did not indicate whether any of these predictions but particularly the last one was regionally influenced.)

Tech features in the house will include a fiber optic network, programmable thermostat, structured wiring system, and a multi-line phone system. The master bath will have a tub and a separate shower stall and the toilet will have a separate enclosure.

The upscale home will average more than 4,000 sq. feet over two stories with the 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 bathrooms and at least four bedrooms. The vanishing living room will not be quite as universal but many homes in the higher priced category will opt for a smaller parlor, formal retreat, or library. Vaulted ceilings will be popular in foyers and family rooms and, surprisingly ceilings on the second floor will average nine to ten feet in height but only nine on the first floor.

The exterior of the house will be of stone, brick, stucco, or fiber cement siding and "stairs (will be) in the back or side of the house." We assume that these are secondary or back stairs as a two story foyer begs for a staircase of its own. The house will also have two master suites and again we will second guess that one of these will be on the first floor and used initially as in-law or nanny quarters and then for aging homeowners who wish to remain in their homes.

With all of that space inside, the upscale homeowner of 2015 will apparently expect to spend a lot of time outside. The home of the future will have not only a front porch and patio but also a rear porch and deck. There will also be an outdoor kitchen with grill, sink, refrigerator, and cooking island, and an outdoor fireplace and a pool or spa. All of this will be serviced with appropriate lighting and audio and television equipment.

High tech amenities will include all of those in the average house plus multi-zone HVAC, remote control fireplaces, instant hot water in bathrooms and kitchens, lighting control systems and monitored burglar/fire/toxic gas alarm systems.

2015 is, of course, now less than a decade away and most of the predictions in the NAHB study are relatively modest in scope. Still it will be interesting to keep an eye on the building industry from the perspective of the study. It will be especially interesting to see if the trend toward bigger and bigger houses actually comes to a halt.