There's much the Great Stone House can teach today's builders and dealers regarding how to address such modern-day concerns as creating open spaces, using energy efficiently, and controlling air flow (albeit not because of chamber pots). But there's another important lesson to take away that's not so apparent. In essence, the Great Stone House succeeded because it met the unique needs of its occupants.

I believe it will be changes in the needs of dealers' customers–both the builders they sell to as well as the consumers who ultimately pay for the pros' work–that will be the primary drivers this decade in the evolution of the American home. It's why our feature package focuses on evolving ideas among big builders; the rise of cable TV shows (particularly one showing bad construction) as an influencer of consumer attitudes; and changes among key groups in the home-buying population–especially Millennials, childless women, immigrants, and aging Baby Boomers.

It's in dealers' best interest to take note of these evolutions, if only to keep their customers from being caught unawares. Builders sometimes can be clueless about what homeowners want, such as the guy who built an expensive spec home in snowy Minnesota without thinking of including a first-floor closet for the occupants to stow their boots. Your intervention can help builders avoid putting up unsellable homes. And your knowledge of building products and construction techniques can help them use materials as they were meant to be employed, thus reducing callbacks.

Even builders who understand demographics and construct homes properly could use your assistance. As our lead story relates, big builders are moving beyond trying to cut costs simply by pressing you to reduce prices. Now they're exploring exactly how many materials they need to put up a home, and they're open to saving expenses by reducing unneeded deliveries. Dealers who can help in those areas are winning sales.

"Tis the Gift To Be Simple," the Shakers sang. But they were talking about their faith, not their lifestyle. They built a home that might have been Greek Revival on the outside, but it was futuristic on the inside, sophisticated in its overall design, and oh so appropriate to their needs. You can help tomorrow's houses be the same for the next generation of people growing up in your hometowns.