How Does Geography Influence Building Materials?

by Reno Manuele


How do building materials differ by region? And for what reason are they popular?

Have you ever wondered by chrome seems so common in New England homes? Or why the shiny, shimmering textures of bronze always pop up in Texas dwellings? The NAHB Research Center just combed through 15 years-worth of construction materials in its annual survey of residential builders, and it found some very interesting trends for what building materials are the most common for certain geographical areas.

Geographical Demand for Building Materials

First, we’ll begin with the East North Central region, which includes Illinois. Here were some of the NAHB Research Center’s main findings for the region:

  • Carpeted floors, nationwide, are tied with hardwood as the most popular floor covering, with 37 percent of luxury homes having carpeting.
  • Yet, while carpeting has declined in prominence in the rest of the U.S., it has retained its stature in the East North Central region, with carpeting appearing in the same percentage of homes in 2011 as in 2006.
  • Steve Revnew, the vice president of product innovation at Sherwin-Williams, told the Wall Street Journal that the reason for this may be the region’s infamously horrendous wintry months, which, as any longtime resident of the Midwest can attest, would certainly raise the appeal of carpeting!

Form Follows Function with Building Materials

It was Chicago architect Louis Sullivan who first said “form follows function,” and when looking at the building materials in the other regions of the U.S., it’d be difficult to argue with him. The Mountain region, for instance, with its trend for natural living, loves stone and exposed wood, and though bronze finishes are popular, they are often sod with a worn finish to match the rugged features of the fellow furnishings.

Similarly, in New England, hardwood flooring is extremely popular because of how naturally it complements the Cape Cod/Colonial homes in the region – traditional flooring for traditional housing; Southern California homes, where Mediterranean architecture is common, opt for the muted tones of satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze, rather than chrome; and the Middle Atlantic region – where Hurricane Sandy recently made a stink – wood-plastic composite decking (which is more durable and moisture-resistant than wood) is huge, increasing in usage by 63 percent from 2006 to 2011.

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