2010 marks the introduction of the first AIA Triangle Homes Tour in and around Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC. Modeled in part after the AIA Austin (TX) home tour, which is celebrating its 24th anniversary this year, this introductory Tour will feature “Ten award homes, nine featured architects and a clear demonstration in the value of working with an architect on a residential project of any scope and size.” The Tour will be held October 2nd from 10a-6p.
I recently got together with David Fish, Assoc AIA and Committee Member for the Tour, so I could get a better understanding of the Tour’s importance to homeowners in this tough economy, especially surrounding the downturn in new home building, and the resulting resurgence of home improvement and remodeling.
Over coffee, Fish - as David is known to many; he goes by his last name, as often as his first - explained that many homeowners are looking for better utilization of (existing) space in their home; it’s less about adding on to the home, and more about making the home work better for its occupants.
Whereas some homeowners may turn to magazines, a local home improvement store, or trusted contractor for advice and services, others are learning the benefits to employing the services of an architect. Rather than an approach of “I want something like this.” that may come from a magazine, or prior work of the contractor, these homeowners are more interested in something that may be developed from a more unique perspective suited to their needs. As Fish said during our discussion, “Think in terms of architecture as an applied art that brings together vision and systems.”
The customary homeowner who might look for the services of an architect in this situation is a couple without children, or a typical family of four. In both cases, where they may have sought more space in a move-up to another, larger home, they now want to see if a rearrangement or remodel can expand what they already have in place. There is no age limit to this trend, as empty-nesters are as likely to want these changes as those who are in the more typical age bracket of 28-45 years of age.
Today’s architect can bring valuable insight into the selection of materials, living environment, a better work-life balance, and an overall compliment to the homeowner’s lifestyle. This holds especially true for those who work from home, have a home business, or where couples are both managing business demands from home – a well-developed his and her space can help manage the working atmosphere in a more good-natured way.
The AIA Triangle Homes Tour will showcase the rich history of homebuilding in the Triangle and the resulting neighborhoods that grew from a wide variety of architectural styles, landscaping, and the residential community – including multigenerational occupancy - that occupied these homes over the years. Although education, promotion, and awareness of using an architect for residential design and use is a key component of the Tour, guests will have a chance to see firsthand how these professionals transformed each home with a unique design solution for the homeowner.
In the conversation with Fish, I challenged him with the notion that many see using an architect as an added expense to the job. Fish was confident that in most cases, the cost of the architect is easily offset in the savings that result from better use of materials, more efficient design, reduced complications from the emerging sustainable trends of Go Green, and lower energy (and natural resources) consumption. The Tour focuses on what is not only sustainable from the use of newer materials and products, but what is also obtainable as a practical and affordable outcome for the homeowner, now and in the future.
On the Tour, you will see this put to use. There are four ENERGY STAR Certified homes on the Tour, along with other green certifications in some of the homes. Along with this positive ‘seal of approval’, you will also find positive use of optional materials, better utilization of space and light, and steps taken to reduce consumption of resources that result in lower utility bills. This becomes important as cities and towns wrestle with rate increases and usage fees, e.g., municipal water for residential use, along with recent drought conditions wreaking havoc on supply.
Tickets for the Tour are $20.00 pre-purchase, or $25.00 on the day of the Tour. You can obtain your tickets online at the AIA Triangle Homes Tour website, or at select Harris Teeter locations in the Triangle. The ticket includes each participant’s entrance into all ten homes along with a Guide Book that can be used as a reference in creating your own positive living space. Many of the architects and designers will be available during the day for open discussion at their respective showcase home.
Sidebar: For the aspiring residential architect, what are today’s employment possibilities? Interestingly enough, they are quite good. According to the BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), “Residential construction makes up a small portion of work for architects, so major changes in the housing market would not be as significant as fluctuations in the nonresidential market.” Looking forward, the BLS predicts that “Employment of architects is expected to increase by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Current demographic trends will lead to an increase in demand for architects.”