“Building design” does not refer to the multitude of stylistic clichés, such as “colonial” or “ranch”, which are ubiquitous today. It certainly does not refer to any decorative elements of the exterior. No. Building design encompasses a holistic approach, from the spacing of studs to the spacing of shrubs. The point is building design is the antithesis of shallow suburban stylistic platitudes.
On the flip side, most home-buyers today treat their home search like buying clothing from a rack. We find an acceptable style, trying on several houses through home tours, and then do our best to pick the ideal fit for our families and our lifestyles. However, like clothing, the best fit is more often than not bespoken as opposed to turn-key. The tragedy of today’s 21st century house is the proliferation of turn-key residential developments, and an utter disregard for design. You may be able to choose a style, albeit from a limited number of “custom” blueprints, but good luck determining the interior layout, maximizing natural light, taking advantage of specific views, or minimizing your energy bills.
Proper Building Design Minimizes Energy Consumption
A well-built, quality house will save money in the long run through reduced maintenance and time costs. However, even before construction, the determination of the building orientation and the design of the envelope can have an even greater impact. After all, going back and having to address issues is much less efficient than having had them properly accounted for from the very start. Optimizing building orientation in the relation to the sun, and other site factors, can easily reduce energy consumption by 30-40 percent. Strategic placement of windows, porches, shading devices, vegetation, and other architectural devices can all contribute to reducing energy use, increasing architectural distinctiveness, and creating a much better place to live.
Proper Building Design Promotes Healthy Living
Better design makes for better living environments. After all, a house is more than walls and windows, or brick and wood. Innumerable materials, some harboring decidedly toxic ingredients such as formaldehyde, go into the making of a typical new home. Designing for health means consciously avoiding the use of many industry standard materials such as formaldehyde-heavy plywood’s for cabinetry or paints containing volatile organic compounds. Standard flooring materials, such as nylon carpeting, off-gas toxins, such as benzene and toluene,into the interior air. While some may actually like the “new home smell”, it is most certainly “not ideal for human health.
Proper Building Design Focuses on Maximizing Potentials
Conventional housing developments focus on maximizing one thing: profit. For instance, turn-key developments typically orient houses based on a lot distribution formula that maximizes the number of houses the developer can squeeze onto any given piece of land. The result is a large portion of houses oriented at random with substantially higher energy bills, glare problems, or too little natural lighting. A properly designed house, however, seeks to maximize the potential inherent in any given lot of land, or site. For example, houses designed to maximize natural lighting are typically oriented with shaded windows facing south and large, exposed windows facing north. North facing windows let in as much ideal, diffused northern light (the light Rembrandt preferred to paint), while shaded south-facing windows allow in warm light and heat during the winter months.
Proper Building Design Is Good For the Planet
Reducing energy consumption, through proper solar orientation, site selection, appropriate materials, and intelligent design, is a boon for the greater ecosystem – of which humans are a part. Actions spawn consequences. Considering that building in the United States account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s CO2 emissions and consume 70 percent of our electrical output, most of which is generated from coal-fired power plants, reversing global warming through better buildings is a key priority.
Proper Building Design Creates Unique Works of Art
Ultimately, a designed house is unique to each owner, whereas mass-produced tract housing is not. The home becomes an expression of individuality and a celebration of living. To some, the house becomes a work of art. For most, however, it just makes sense to have the environment, in which much of our lives will be spent, tightly tailored to our needs.
Design simply implies that the house is conceived and built in order to meet those needs.
Design Smart. Build Native.