The first edition of Bathroom Ideas That Work was published in 2007, and since that time, there have been two significant changes in the world of residential construction. First, the bottom fell out of the U.S. housing market; second, green building has become much more widely practiced.
Both of these have changed the way we look at bathroom design. The painful contraction of the housing industry has meant fewer construction jobs and lower property values for many homeowners. That, no doubt, has discouraged many people from selling their homes until the market improves.
At the same time, the situation has provided an incentive for homeowners to repair and renovate what they already have. According to the 2011 cost vs. value study published by Hanley Wood’s Remodeling magazine, a midrange bathroom remodel will earn back 64 percent of its cost at resale.
An upscale remodel returned only 57 percent. That suggests money for bathroom additions and renovations should be spent wisely, not on trendy upgrades but on high-quality building materials and fixtures that will hold their value.
The other development has been the rise of green building, a much different way of looking at design and construction than in the past. Among the most important values of green building is sustainability, which puts a special emphasis on conserving water, energy, and other natural resources.
For a variety of reasons, conservation is becoming a practical necessity for many of us. Supplies of clean water are under increasing pressure in some parts of the country and will continue to be in high demand for agriculture, recreation, and industry as well as houses.
The same can be said of energy that’s used to heat and cool our homes—it’s more expensive and harder to get. There are, however, many bathroom products on the market that save significant amounts of water or energy without sacrificing creature comforts. You simply need to ask the right questions before making a product selection.
Resource conservation also encourages the use of durable building materials, especially those that can be found locally. How does this drive bathroom design? By putting a premium on fixtures and materials that don’t have to be replaced often.
What this means is that ceramic tile starts to look more attractive than sheet vinyl; acrylic or cast-iron showers and tubs are better bets than fiberglass/gelcoat and porcelain steel. Houses that are better insulated and more tightly sealed also put a premium on effective ventilation, not only to keep indoor air quality high but also to protect the building from an accumulation of moisture in wall and ceiling cavities.
And, as the need for good ventilation has increased, so has the number of products that are available to consumers. Bathrooms serve the same fundamental needs they always have. That’s not going to change. But the nuts and bolts of how bathrooms are designed and built are different and will continue to evolve.
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