Remodeling and renovation activity continues to lead the residential building sector, as the market for new home construction struggles to gain momentum. Some of this activity can be attributed to homeowners making needed repairs and upgrades to increase the value of their home for resale.

As several recent surveys show, however, much of it stems from homeowners who plan to stay in their current homes for some years to come. They are ready to invest in modifying their homes to accommodate current or anticipated lifestyle changes.

The latest AIA Home Design Trends Survey confirms what surveys from Houzz and The Demand Institute also found, that kitchens and baths are the areas homeowners are most willing to invest in. But it offers some additional insights into what is motivating them to make these changes now.

The Demand Institute study revealed that homeowners were looking to upgrade their kitchens because they were cooking and eating in more now compared with five years ago. Almost a third of the architects who responded to the AIA survey indicated that the number and size of kitchen/food prep/food storage areas was increasing.

Entertaining is a key consideration as well, with residential architects reporting a growing emphasis on pantry space for storage and even on butler's pantries for meal staging, increasing popularity of double islands in kitchens, and a resurgence of wine refrigeration and wine storage facilities. Kitchens also are becoming the home's digital hub, with computer workstations and recharging areas for portable electronic devices increasing in popularity.

The kitchen, in fact, now serves as the focal point of today's household, according to the AIA.

"The major point of emphasis in kitchen design nowadays revolves less around actual cooking activities," observes AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. "Rather, homeowners are looking for kitchens that are gathering spots for family and entertaining."

Stylish and luxurious bathrooms are a "must have" for homeowners seeking to create a refuge for relaxation and privacy. More than two-thirds of the respondents to the Houzz survey said they planned to increase the size of their shower when remodeling their master bath this year. Amenities such as heated floors, towel warmers, rain showers and steam showers make their wish list as well.

Accessibility is another major trend in bathroom remodels, especially among baby boomers. The AIA survey finds general adaptability/universal design considerations increasing the most in popularity, along with larger walk-in showers.

According to Houzz, baby boomers are three times more likely to install grab bars and twice as likely to request curbless showers than are younger homeowners. Accessibility features ranked high in The Demand Institute study as well, with more than a third of respondents age 50 and over (37 percent) saying they are "very important," compared to a fifth (22 percent) of those below age 50.

Going green is another lifestyle change making its presence felt in the surveys. Homeowners express a growing concern over energy and water conservation, sustainable materials and healthy homes. The AIA survey reports an increase in requests for LED lighting, water filtration systems and water saving toilets.

"Another important trend we see appearing more, not only in kitchens but the entire project, is specifying healthier construction components such as paint, caulking, glues, grout and other potentially high VOC (volatile organic compounds) products, that may contain harmful ingredients and off-gas noxious fumes or vapors over time as they are curing," notes James Walbridge, chair of the AIA's Custom Residential Architects Network.

Stagnant wages and stricter lending requirements make it difficult for many homeowners to move up to a new or larger home. With the economy showing signs of improving, they are choosing instead to modify the home they currently have to meet their changing lifestyle needs — improvements they have been putting off for some time.

And, according to the surveys, a substantial portion plan to engage remodeling and design professionals to help them accomplish the desired result.