December 31 2007

Consumers want Sustainable Communities!

A recent report by the AIA highlights trends in the housing market. The report, written by Kermit Baker and published in AIArchitect, concludes that:

With rising energy costs and longer commutes, community and neighborhood design trends are favoring greater diversity of land uses and increased accessibility to transportation and commercial opportunities. Homes are being designed to encourage more neighborhood interaction. Households are favoring exterior materials that require less maintenance, as well as those that have sustainable characteristics.

Data collected by Baker concludes that there is a "growing popularity of mixed-use facilities and infill projects as owners look for greater access." The author cites the sprawled development around cities which result in longer commute times and less commercial opportunity as a major reason consumers are asking for mixed-use developments. The article also notes that there is increasing interest in infill housing in more desirable locations.

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The graph above shows how remodeling, additions, and alterations remain healthy while most other segments of housing are in decline.

From a sustainability standpoint, denser, pedestrian friendly, efficient ways of designing communities are better. It is up to architects and planners to ensure that these new communities provide safe, clean and healthy environments for their occupants. Communities like Hammarby Sjostad, Seaside Florida (Congress for the New Urbanism) and High Point in Seattle already illustrate that these strategies work and can build vibrant communities. Obstacles are still present however and until we can get our legislators to enact policies that encourage sustainable communities it is going to be a challenge for these communities to be developed. That is why it is so encouraging to see the market of potential clients begin to recognize the benefits of sustainable development.

Please read the original article for more information.

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January 4th, 2008 at 5:18 PM


Great post, and great news. I've gotta take issue with one assertion, though: "It is up to architects and planners to ensure that these new communities provide safe, clean and healthy environments for their occupants." We can't just put all that on the architects and planners. Communities need the economic power and the political will to create and maintain safety, cleanliness, and health. Architects can help create and inform that political will, but architecture can't do all that by itself, those are social issues with footprints far outside our discipline. We can certainly help, and even lead, but we're only a piece of that puzzle, and we claim the whole thing under our purview at our peril.

January 13th, 2008 at 1:49 AM


it's about time... of course people want sustainable communities!