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Days of McMansions dwindle as builders seek to economize

Think of it as the shrinking American dream.

What’s out: Outdoor kitchens and fireplaces, two-story foyers and deluxe bathroom features like multiple showerheads in the master bathroom.
What’s in: Smaller homes with lots of natural light, storage and energy efficiency features that save money and don’t cost too much.

“There’s no more ‘la-dee-da, green is wonderful,” said Calli Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Home Builders.
According to recent surveys by the Washington-based trade association and Better Homes and Gardens, there’s less appetite than in recent years for big homes with high-end amenities.

Now, the mantra for many homebuyers reflects a desire to keep costs down. They want to reduce wasted space like high ceilings that drive up energy bills. They favor features like smart appliances that help cut household energy costs.
The average size of an American house shrank about 100 square feet last year to about 2,400 square feet, according to the NAHB survey. The percentage of homes with three or more bathrooms fell for the first time since 1992, while homes with four or more bedrooms declined for the third year in a row.

Builders said they’re less likely to build homes this year with outdoor kitchens, media rooms and sunrooms. The next generation of homes, builders said, is more likely to have a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a laundry room, energy-saving windows, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and an insulated front door.

Up to a quarter of all new homes built last year received an Energy Star rating, which means they met the guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s up from 11 percent in 2007.
Solar energy continues to be a big draw.

At a recent trade show in Las Vegas, CertainTeed Corp. showed a new roof solar power system designed to fit flush with asphalt shingles, giving it a more streamlined look.

A similar solar energy system unveiled by Dow Chemical impressed Beazer Homes, which plans to use it in a test house.
“I’ve just not seen anything that thin,” said Tony Callahan, an executive with Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA Inc.
Broan-NuTone, showcased its sunlight-powered roof fans, used to vent the hot air that builds up in an attic. A single unit can ventilate up to 1,600 square feet.

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, continue to be a pricier, though longer-lasting, alternative to the use of compact fluorescent lights.