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3 Forecasts for the Home Building Industry—and Why

HBA Denver’s Innovations Summit revealed not only trends to come, but the forces behind them



The roof-inclusive palette trend [Photo courtesy of Boral Roofing LLC]

We had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Innovations Summit held by the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver on February 9, 2018, and we have to say: We left inspired. All three featured speakers were high-energy and full of fresh ideas. Thought Leader Courtney Ferrell dazzled us with her hysterical creative genius; Foresight Strategist Renee Labbe illuminated the elusive world of trend forecasting; and Zillow Manager Gregory Davis shared company culture concepts that fuel and drive success.

The Innovations Summit covered all bases for success in the home building industry, from fostering a creative mindset to inspiring your staff. So how can your newfound commitment to innovation be put to practical use?

Labbe shared a few insights from her forecasting work that apply to the home building industry, so you can start revolutionizing the way you approach the next decade. Added bonus? She also reveals how these forecasts are discovered in the first place—invaluable insight for the design world.

How are trends realized?

Trend forecasters work with designers and product makers to interpret what is going to be big, and when—and the process is anything but arbitrary. Consumers may think that companies are dictating what’s fashionable, but in reality, the consumers are the ones behind the wheel.

At the origin of every trend, one almost always finds cultural and economic change. Labbe uses the Great Recession as an example. The economy took a nosedive and almost overnight, Americans became incredibly thrifty spenders. Tighter purse strings translate to design that makes the consumer feel frugal, like they’re being reasonable and going to get the most value for their product.

For a case study, Labbe uses tote bag trends during the Great Recession—large for multi-functional use, neutral color and lack of ornamentation for a timeless and practical feel, and heavy materials for long-lasting durability. This consumer psychology also applied to home design trends—simple, non-flashy architecture and interiors.

Funnily enough (or rather, predictable, for Labbe), these design trends borne of the Great Recession have a lot in common with the design trends we’re seeing How can that be in such a different economic climate? Labbe provides the answer: Because this aesthetic preference soothes money anxiety, and it also soothes overstimulation.

In a time when the average American household owns 5-6 devices and the average American scans past 100,000 words a day, sensory overload is a major influencer on human behavior. Simply put: Our minds are over-cluttered, and we seek out design that provides an antidote to that. Our eyes (and minds) long to be put at ease.

3 forecasts — and why

1. ROOF-INCLUSIVE PALETTES
An immediately actionable trend; examples already exist

Residential exterior palettes are aiming to further soothe the cluttered American mind. Gabled modern homes in two colors/materials are going to get even more popular, affecting traditional and transitional design. Since preferences are moving to uber-simple color palettes, the home’s entire silhouette is “experienced” by the seer in one fell swoop—no ornamentation or details. Because of this approach, designers are starting to consider the roof as part of the overall aesthetic of the home’s exterior, often extending the monochromatic look or acting as the second or third color in the scheme.

2. PRIVATE OUTROOMS
​A nearly actionable trend

A private outroom is essentially a room without a roof, attached to the structure of the house but disconnected from the yard, most often as an extension of a bedroom. Why is this an interest? The first reason is privacy. With urban densities growing and technology encroaching on every personal aspect of our lives, privacy is more valuable and luxurious now than ever before. The second reason, as Labbe puts it, is "our increasing love of all things that connect us to nature." 

3. GROW ROOMS
A trend to watch; it's likely to be 3 to 5 years before this trend needs to be a consideration in home builds

(No, not that type of grow room.) Labbe explains that hydroponic vegetable growth is gaining momentum. Why? Research shows that consumers feel a growing distrust for mass food production and feel increasingly concerned about its impact on their health and the environment. “People want to circumvent traditional systems that are no longer serving them,” Labbe says. These “grow rooms” can be an extension of the kitchen/pantry are or entire rooms in and of themselves. They are digital farms—connected to the Internet, with the ability to tailor specific care to the produce in question. An example is IKEA’s LOKAL, a vertical gardening system that uses 90 percent less water and grows vegetables and fruits three times faster. 

Forecast for yourself

Labbe finished her presentation by encouraging home building professionals to find foresight on their own. Her two tips can not be underestimated:

1. Read—a lot.

2. Always be asking why.

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