Building Trends to Watch For

2009 has brought many changes in the home building industry, here are some of the trends you can expect to see.

The concept of "green" building has taken the construction industry by storm and those who do not follow suit will be left behind. Green building techniques begin with the selection of materials, the use of natural light and space, proper insulation, flooring, and even responsible techniques for disposing of waste. It's estimated that this industry will grow by 60 percent in 2009 and will influence everything from residential to commercial developments.

Home design with energy saving solutions will become standard. This includes everything from energy star rated appliances to heat pumps and even solar power systems.

Water conservation technology that ranges from water-saver fixtures to rain recovery systems and tankless water heaters.

You'll be seeing fewer of the sprawling McMansion designs as buyers opt for smaller homes with efficient designs. Only about 14 percent of the homes built in the US have ceilings higher than 9 feet. The upscale features such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and spa bathrooms will still be present.

About one third of buyers do not mind purchasing a home without a living room. Many of these rooms are being turned into a study or extra space.

The demand for more storage space is becoming a common trend. You'll see larger walk-in closets, extra storage under stairs and in the attic. The size of the homes are not getting larger, but the use of existing space is becoming more efficient.

As the space inside decreases, the outdoor living space will expand. Screened-in porches and elbow outdoor kitchens with fireplaces and sitting areas replace simple decks.

Versatile designs that are easily adaptable to people of all ages replace impractical sunken living rooms and spiral staircases. More and more homeowners are choosing to stay in their homes as they age and accomodate them according to their physical limits. If you already have the nice wide hallways, level floors and fewer stairs, it makes these types of changes easier.

Many of the new design features have women in mind and consider features important to them. Things such as roomier laundry rooms, mud rooms with drop zones to reduce clutter, well organized kitchens, and spa baths with glass showers.

Home wiring has gone up a notch and often including wiring for in-wall speakers, intercom systems wireless networks, lighting and temperature control, security cameras and home theater systems.

Designed as gathering places, kitchens have become more luxurious, more open with increased storage, recycling organizers, heavy-duty, energy saving appliances, and walk-in pantries. The custom cabinetry looks more like furniture and makes the kitchen an eye-catching focal point of the home. Also becoming more popular is the mix and match cabinetry that may combine dark and light finishes to make the area appear larger.

The wide open plans are also decreasing, often replaced with a half-wall or large breakfast counter with pendant lighting. Additional work spaces are often added to accommodate multiple helpers in the kitchen.

With an increased number of people working from home, designated office space is also a common requirement.

Large windows are commonplace with low-E glass, inert gas between the poles, UV-ray protection and energy star rating.