TRENDS in DESIGN: DOWN-SIZING AND UPGRADING

Those of us who have some tenure in the building systems industries have been witnesses to a consistent march of new lifestyle and design trends over the past five-plus years: open floor plans with the kitchen-dining room-great room/family room as the center of living, media rooms, master bedroom suites on the first floor, the laundry/mudroom as a living focus area, expanded indoor/outdoor living, the building and designing “green” movement - - we are continually watching the available materials, purpose and functionality of exterior facades and interior living spaces being redefined and reinterpreted.

As a principal in an interior and architectural design firm that exclusively designs for the modular industry, I am a front-line observer of client preference in the movement of down-sizing the square footage of residential structures while, at the same time, dramatically up-grading the line-item specifications for exterior architectural elements and interior fixtures, finishes and furnishings. This trend is evident in requests by the modular factories, builder/developers and end-users who are our clients.

The motivations of this trend of up-scaled down-sizing come from several market driving demographic groups: the over-50 “Boomer” generation, those wanting second-home vacation residences, and the single professional with a large, disposable income entering the housing market for the first time. (For those of you who are not aware of it, Susan Susanka, author of “The Not So Big House” and a leading spokesperson for the down-sizing movement, has built a modular house for her newest residence.)

As an example of how the up-scaled, down-sizing trend is commencing to affect the systems-built industry, our firm is developing a series of well-appointed “court yard” house designs from 1,200 sq. ft. to 2,000 sq. ft in living area, aimed at the market segments identified above for a new modular factory that is coming on line in the Sacramento, CA, area in the third quarter of 2007, Details Homes of Architectural Distinction.

Building Systems Network www.buildingsystemsnetwork.com CEO Grant Smereczynsky is a big promoter of systems-built product. After several decades as a multi-use builder/developer and custom home builder in the site-built industry, Smereczynsky is convinced that systems-built homes are the wave of the future. In doing his due diligence researching a market niche for his factory, Smereczynsky identified the down-sized, up-scaled house as an important market segment to be reached through Design Homes’ identified market areas.

Many floor plans and several elevations for a 1,200 sq. ft, two-bedroom courtyard home designed to be built in keeping with client expectations for up-scaled product? Some of the noted floor plan and architectural features are:

  • A thoughtfully planned, generic floor plan that is adaptable to any number of architectural facades and is atypical of the two-box, ranch-style modular design often utilized for this size house.
  • The house is designed for a three-module set, with the roof system built in factory.
  • An open floor plan for the “public” areas for maximum living flexibility.
  • A large laundry/pantry area with expanded storage capacity.
  • Four-fixture bathroom for master bedroom and a three-fixture bathroom for the second bedroom.
  • Vaulted, open beamed ceiling for the living room/dining room and master bedroom areas.
  • A private, elevated courtyard with out-door fireplace and pergola emphasizing the movement to indoor/outdoor living.
  • A choice of multiple exterior architectural styles with enhanced architectural detailing on all sides of building facades.

In addition, the home owner has the options of radiant heat floors, geothermal heat pump wells, solar and photovoltaic collector systems, expanded foam insulation, CAT-45 wiring, and/or “smart house” wireless installations.

The movement to down-sized, up-scaled house designs is not just a West Coast phenomenon, but is a main-stream, market-demand occurrence nationwide.  Most monthly shelter magazines will have features on the “cottage” look in every publication, and the web-based house plans services are featuring up-scaled, down-sized homes as lead-in designs on an almost daily basis.

Entering this market segment for the first time is not without several caveats.  For a manufacturer, there is the need to expand the product resources to that are offered to the builder and end-user and developing stock floor plans and enhanced style genre designs that have an interchangeable flexibility.  In addition, a manufacturer will need access to skilled trades people in-factory or at-hand who can provide a higher quality of finishes and workmanship expected for an up-scaled product.

For the builder, there is a need to have capable, professional staff members or subs who have the dedication and ability for applying and finishing an up-scaled trim-out package.

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Modular Homes Builder Challenges Discrimination from City Officials in Zoning Case

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Industrialized housing battle heats up over a modular home

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