This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin O’Connor, the host of This Old House. Having been made famous by Bob Vila, This Old House is the longest-running and most-watched home improvement shows on television. Kevin shared a number of interesting comments on the homebuilding industry, including debunking popular misconceptions regarding the importance of several widely discussed trends in the industry.

The first of these was a topic on which we have commented in prior DWM blogs – that of shrinking home sizes. The tiny-house trend gets a degree of attention that, in Kevin’s view, is out of proportion to its actual relevance in the market. During the recession, Kevin shared our view that homes would get bigger again as soon as the recession passed. This turned out to be the case, with average home sizes now approaching 2,500 square feet.

The other key aspect of the trend of increasing home size is that dramatically fewer people live in them. The average home size has more than doubled since 1900, and the average number of occupants per home has dropped from seven people to just two. In fact, the single-occupant, single-family home is the fastest-growing segment of the housing industry. The math behind this sea change in home sizes and household composition represents a preference for nearly a ten-times increase in the amount of square footage per occupant that we desire in our homes.

One other trend Kevin highlighted that looms larger than it should in his opinion is the general preference for green products. Adoption rates on green products tend to be fairly low, unless there is some mandate put in place or a huge marketing effort is undertaken. In the case of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), both of those factors combined only pushed the product to a 23-percent market share. Consumers seem primarily interested in green products that increase their comfort and are convenient to use. Enter the door and window industry.

Thanks to improvements in doors, windows and other aspects of the building envelope, the modern American home uses less energy than its smaller turn-of-the-century ancestor. Increasing home size also places a greater emphasis on door and window configurations that are attractive enough to do justice to the extra space in the home. This means that the focus on high energy efficiency will only continue and increase in importance.

Taken together with the general growth of homebuilding, these factors sound like a recipe for success for door and window manufacturers.

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