In aggregate, the scientific community has reached a consensus—the earth’s climate is changing. The gradual warming of the planet will have far-reaching effects on all areas of life, including the way we build and live in our homes.
There was a time when concerns about generating waste and increasing pollution were non-existent. But today it is recognized that practices am unsustainable, putting pressure on the natural environment as building materials and energy resources are extracted from the ecosystems. For example, building a home that cannot withstand high winds may not make sense as weather catastrophes hit with alarming regularity.
Instead, the trend is to build more resilient and environmentally sensitive homes, making the best use of resources, and working in harmony with weather and land conditions.
In some areas of the country, for example, long-term drought is a serious issue. In desert and low-water climates of the southwest, water-saving features are no longer an amenity but a necessity, and even mandated in many areas. Some of these features include budding homes with low-flow toilets and showerheads, rainwater harvesting systems, composting toilets and gray-water recycling.
Energy conservation will continue to be a feature prized by builders and buyers alike. To diminish the need for excessive cooling and heating, buildings can utilize design changes that encourage natural ventilation. High-efficiency lighting and appliances have a role to play, generating less heat and requiring less energy to operate. And, of course, making better use of natural resources and generating energy on site continues to be popular with buyers.
Wood floors are in demand because of their look and durability. Reusing or reclaiming wood is attractive to many consumers because it is a sustainable practice, and with the added benefit of using material that has a history. In addition, many buyers embrace the visual character of older wood flooring and appreciate health benefits of using older wood that doesn’t off-gas like some newer, manufactured materials. Flooring colors are also trending lighter because homeowners prefer a look that will blend with contemporary furnishings.
Universal design is a concept that focuses on making life easier for people of all ages and abilities, so they are better able to utilize and navigate within their surroundings.
Some of the ways a home can be “liveable” no matter a person’s age or ability include wider hallways and doorways, and pocket doors which are both easier to open and space-saving as well. Wide, walk-in pantries with lower shelves are desirable because they can be accessed by children, and those in walkers and wheelchairs. Lever handles on doors are much easier to open than round knobs that must be grasped and turned.
With water safety taking center stage, copper is being considered for water lines, and also making it into the interior of a home. For some homeowners, copper provides a fresh alternative to stainless steel or wood. In addition, it is bacteria-resistant. U.S. manufacturers are now producing copper finishes for refrigerators, ovens, and other appliances, as well as sinks, door handles and light switches. Colors for copper appliances and hardware are no longer limited to copper-penny bright, but include a brushed finish and a more yellow or bronze finish as well.