Tight Budgets and Universal Design
March 01, 2010
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore - If the recession of 2008 and 2009 has taught us anything, it’s that the housing market is not going to be the same as it was before the economic crash. The consumer has shifted both buying and saving habits due to the uncertainty of the economy. Family lifestyles are also changing because of an aging population and a younger generation that isn’t launching out on its own fast enough.
What this means for architects, in 2010, is that both new construction and remodeling plans need to accomplish revised goals to satisfy a changing market. Our research has identified two revealing window and door trends this year that provide insight about what’s on the minds of today’s consumers: affordable and usable.
Save vs. Splurge
When it comes to home improvement, homeowners will be pickier with their pocketbooks in 2010. Consumers with limited discretionary funds are weighing their priorities, choosing among projects that will make the cut. Homeowners want you, as an architect, to select affordable materials but still spend wisely on fenestration options in areas that have a major impact. For example, when it comes to windows and doors, materials do make a difference. In general, vinyl, for windows, will cost less than wood. Although if you need to replace old wood windows, companies offer replacement wood window sash kits that can be installed in existing wood frames. This can be very cost effective.
Custom trim, style and hardware options will typically cost more. It’s always worth asking first whether there might be a standard design option in an alternative material to determine whether a particular look can be achieved without sacrificing style. Consider door panel designs and hardware options to give homeowners a variety of choices.
For long-term savings, insist on windows and doors that come standard with energy efficient, Low-E glass. The U.S. Department of Energy says that homeowners can save an average of $125 to $450 a year on energy costs by replacing worn-out windows with more efficient models.
For splurging, you don’t have to pay big bucks to achieve a great look, but experts agree that if the style doesn’t fit with the character or architectural design of the house, it’s not worth the investment, no matter what the price. It makes sense to invest wisely in areas that will provide a strong payback. Cladding, which is essentially a prefinished metal layer for the exterior of wood windows, provides great weather protection and never needs to be painted. As a result, according to JELD-WEN, nearly 90% of homeowners choose the clad-wood option, recognizing the long-term value and payoff, even though it costs slightly more.
The Boomerang Generations
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2007, the number of parents living in an adult child’s household increased by 67%. At the same time, a recent Pew Research Center report, (November 2009), shows that 10% of young adults aged 18 to 35 say the poor economy has forced them to move back with their parents.
Whatever the cause of this new phenomenon, whether it can be blamed on job loss or the more positive signs of Americans’ desire to build closer family bonds during insecure times, forward-thinking designers, architects and builders are being called upon to consider solutions that will make a home more user-friendly for all ages.
Many experts agree that separate living quarters, which may include a second master suite and even a second kitchen or cottage, are the best solutions for three and four generations living together. However, that’s not always an affordable option. As children boomerang back home after college and elderly parents move in with their children, home designs and operations need to function well for both the young and the old. For example:
- When it comes to universal design, safety, including easy-to operate and secure window and door locks as well as wider doorways to accommodate increased traffic flow and potential mobility issues, are important considerations.
- Passage doors, in particular, must be easy to open and close and sufficiently wide for residents who might face physical limitations. Pocket doors are the ideal solution for many homeowners, as they provide more usable room, especially in small spaces like bathrooms and are simple for people who use wheelchairs or walkers to operate. A regular door takes up about ten square feet of floor space when it swings open. Pocket doors disappear into the wall and are user-friendly. In a bathroom application, a pocket door can provide homeowners with more vital space to maneuver.
- When it comes to window design, manufacturers are increasingly considering the needs of senior homeowners as they develop new, simple-to-operate products for the market. Over the past two years, new window locking mechanisms, ergonomic crank handles on casement windows, and push-out casement units (with a simple locking handle and friction hinges) have been introduced.
As more homeowners face the need for universal design features, window and door technology will continue to evolve to meet the challenge of making homes easier to live in. Above all, most experts agree that multigenerational living can be a joyful, rich experience, it simply requires some planning and a shift in what has been the “typical” American lifestyle.