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Feature Articles - Housing

 

Timeless Ways of Building

Ronn Phillips, Arch.D., and Bobbi Hauptmann, Environmental Design, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia


One way to increase the quality of one's housing is to use design principles that are enduring. These sustainable and enduring principles are referred to as "design guidelines" or "design patterns."
 

House Orientation on the Property: If the right rooms are facing south, a house is bright, sunny and cheerful. The most important rooms in a house should be located along the south edge of the house spreading the building out along the east-west axis. For example, the common area should receive a full southern exposure, bedrooms southeast, and porch southwest. For most climates, this means the shape of the house is elongated east west.
 

Natural Daylight: When people have a choice, they will always gravitate to those rooms that have natural daylight on two sides, and leave the rooms that are lit only from one side unused and empty. When rooms are oriented with windows that permit natural light to fall from more than one direction, they are perceived to be more comfortable than those rooms where natural light only enters from one direction.
 

Outdoor Rooms: There are ways of being outdoors that are not met by a deck - the outdoor room. An outdoor room is a partly enclosed space, outdoors, but enough like a room so that people behave there as they do in rooms, but with the added beauties of the sun, wind, smells, and outdoor sounds. This room needs to be defined at its corners and possibly partially roofed with a trellis, for example. "Walls" around it could be created with fences, sitting walls, screens, hedges, or the exterior walls of the house itself.
 

Varying Ceiling Heights: One way to add visual interest is to vary ceiling heights throughout the house, especially between rooms that open into each other, so that the relative intimacy of different spaces can be felt. In particular, ceiling heights in rooms that are most public or meant for large gatherings should be 10 to 12 feet high, lower in rooms for smaller gatherings (7 to 9 feet), and lower in rooms or alcoves for one or two people (7 feet).
 

Improving Fireplace Efficiency: The "draft" one feels when standing or sitting near a fireplace comes from the air required for combustion. Typically, this air comes from the spaces around wall openings (doors and windows) and then flows up the chimney. If outside air for combustion were introduced inside the actual fireplace combustion chamber (a vent with operable damper), the draft would be eliminated. Under this condition, glass fireplace doors could also be added without sacrificing combustion efficiency.

 

 

 


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Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009