Builders, designers and suppliers are all relieved that the housing market is finally showing long-awaited signs of life, but it’s clear that change is still the prevalent word in homebuilding.

Coming out of the Great Recession, we see new buyers with new requirements for everything from energy savings to light fixtures. Wood usage in the interior is also taking on new importance as the design community embraces natural materials for its beauty, versatility and sustainability.

Here are a few notes on pending changes in home building that could impact woodworkers and their businesses:

New energy codes and new technology will have a dramatic effect on home and community design. Zero Net Energy (ZNE) for all new homes by 2020? With the introduction of innovative insulation materials, doors, windows and ventilation systems, a ZNE home is rapidly becoming an affordable option. Driving the reduction in energy consumption are state and federal building codes that have become law and are being phased in over time. Green building programs like LEED and Green Globes place a high value on energy efficiency. Last but not least is demand from the new home buyers: Generation X, Y and Millennials. Sustainability and efficiency are not extras for them—they are requirements.

Traditional home buying patterns and segments are rapidly changing. The first-time buyer is looking for a community or neighborhood as much as they are looking for a home. More than half own a pet. Having multiple generations in one home is becoming common, something home builders must take into account as they allocate space and think about what functions are on which floors. The 55+ category is also changing as they look for everything from active communities to the availability of an on-demand concierge service for any need.

The days of large tracts of detached homes are over. First, this kind of vacant land is now scarce. More importantly, the overwhelming trend is home buyers looking for close-in, mixed-use developments that look and feel more like a village that has a wide range of services within walking distance.

Building in infill sites is becoming a standard part of home building. This means that builders have to come up with new ways to deal with smaller, denser projects. Here is one place where wood treatments in the interior offer real benefits. The homeowner may not have a yard but they can look at beautiful wood cabinets, wood wall treatments, wood floors and millwork.

Many new home buyers are looking for an urban community with suburban amenities. The list of what home buyers are asking for is long but all fall into the mindset of a community with parks, jogging trails, entertainment venues, nearby restaurants and shops, as well as services like dry cleaners.

These trends bode well for the woodworking industry. The warm look of wood and its versatility is seen as a sustainable way to make today’s new home more livable and attractive. From high-end appliances to a dog-washing tub in the laundry room, buyers have shown they are ready to spend money for those enhancements that are important to them. Woodworkers have many products that can help today’s home builder as they strive to meet the ever-changing demand in this dynamic marketplace.

What questions about home building and woodworking do you have?

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