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Q: My husband and I bought a piece of land and we are beginning to think about building a house. What are some of the latest trends in house design? We are also concerned about resale value.

A: Jackie Craven, a widely published author in the area of architecture and home design, has identified some special features in houses which are being built now and with an eye toward the future. You may already have heard the term "earth friendly design" which calls for the use of simple and bio-degradable materials. Architects are also favoring prefab construction in their work and they often use modular building materials like glass and steel in their designs. "Adaptive reuse" is a term we now see frequently which means using entire buildings or pieces of old buildings for a new structure. Everyone these days would like "healthy design" which recognizes that building materials affect our physical well-being. Some materials like plastics, laminates, and fume producing glues are to be avoided.

Storm resistance is mandatory in some storm prone areas but everyone wants a structure which can stand up to some extreme conditions over time. Concrete is used more often these days to provide support. Life styles are changing at such a rapid rate that flexible floor plans are very much in demand. You may be thrilled with a dining room now but in a few years, you might want to change that room to an office and do it easily.

Accessibility is another characteristic found in new home design. The key is for people to get around and be able to use a house whether or not they have physical limitations. The changes will be there but not necessarily be all that noticeable. For example hallways are wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair. The concept of "outdoor room" is getting attention. This allows the yard and garden to blend in more seamlessly with the house itself. Look for more sliding glass doors leading to patios and decks which may include some sophisticated outdoor kitchen appliances. Home owners have been begging for more storage for years and architects are finally listening. New construction includes more cabinetry, enormous closets, dressing rooms, and larger garages. Eastern ideas are also influencing contemporary architects. Feng Shui, the Chinese system of living in harmony with the natural elements and forces of earth is definitely in vogue just now. - Linda Byard

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