Bring more sunshine into your house: part 3
Now this is South-facing window 2.0. The idea of having a space that heats up in the winter sun but protects you from the wind and the cold air is just mouth-watering. Big bonus, you can have plants and veggies growing in there as well, all year in most climates! A passive greenhouse is a windowed-up space that is stuck to the walls of the house (or half-buried in the ground) so that the mass of the walls gives heat back to the space and helps keep steady temperatures. South-facing, obviously, as you would need to get the most exposure as possible. Though recent studies try to explain to us that lack of sun exposure is not the depression-causing villain we thought it was, I still firmly believe that a well positioned passive greenhouse can be the bringer of many winter joys. If you have space, bring that daybed in here, along with books, a desk, and WiFi, and you will not come out of there until the end of March.
Lets be frank: a sunshine-less house is just depressing. I've lived for two winters in a house in the middle of the forest. It was niched along a valley and had a big hill in front. That wasn't a problem in the autumn when we arrived, as the hill was far away enough that the sun was passing right above it. But by the time December came, the sun started disappearing sooner and sooner behind the hill. "One day, S said, we shall go on that hill and scrape the top of it off!" We were a sad bunch, all of us, huddled around the stove, heating ourselves up in this darkness of the winter afternoon that was our alone. Because the rest of the houses, while few, were all either to the left of the hill, or to the right, or above it. So the darkness was ours and ours alone.
The big hill was just high enough and close enough for the winter sun to hide behind it for two months, starting from about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. This meant that our stone house, which was supposed to soak up the afternoon heat and give it back to us gradually throughout the night, keeping us warm, well, didn't. We were chasing the sun all mornings, and longing for it all afternoons. One day I was contemplating the warm rays of sun disappearing from sight and leaving me cold and lonely and swore I shall never have another human being endure such a trauma!
So here I am, evangelist of the January sunshine, preaching those who will listen about the countless ways (well, …
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 5
A big ruiner of sunlight access is the sheer depth of the rooms we build. The proportions of a room with regards to the natural light source can cause a room to be one half blindingly lit and hot and the other half pitch dark. That's because contrast in light exposure changes the way we see things. Too much light in one room can cause you to not see anything when you enter a less-lit one, like when you come inside a dark room after having been out in the sun.
10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 6
First-time modern home builders soon realize that, while their spaces look great, they have nowhere to put stuff. From Le Corbusier's first fancy modern buildings until today, the problem of home storage has been avoided by architects in favor of sleek design. Apart from basic usage areas like kitchen, sitting area, office, every house needs those additional spaces specifically purposed for storage. Built-in storage is also a great way to avoid hallways. Any mismatch in the way walls meet up can become the perfect storage room. But watch out, built-in storage becomes a fixed feature of the room: try to keep your layout flexible enough that you can still use the room if its function changes.
10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 2
Advancements in technology have lately made it possible for humans to bypass most of the natural building constrictions. If only a couple of decades ago, a harsh environment would have deterred us from building altogether on a specific site, today we can do almost anything anywhere. And it is almost the definition of our times that we are global. What works for you must work for me and what works here is bound to work there. And this is the way architecture had been made for generations. This does not mean we should disconsider the environment when we design. Bio-climatic design harnesses age-old sets of techniques for embracing and responding to the local environment. Much of the world's vernacular architecture responded to the regional climate, like heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, looking for the sun rays and avoiding the cold winds. What makes a house comfortable year-round depends on the specificity of the place. The basic layout of the building emerges from the questions you ask the land. Take a look at the Permarchitecture Site Analysis Checklist. You can find it here.
10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 5
Head bumps at the end of the staircase.
I live in such a house with my very tall boyfriend, so I speak from the heart. When drafting in 2D, some elements seem obvious, but when you build them, surprises occur: the space above the last steps of the staircase is very often the main culprits here. The trick is to simply be aware of this when drafting stairs and, if you can, draft your plans in 3D to be sure you have enough space to get upstairs. (she whispers in your ear: "come, book a session")
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 7
Every type of light gives a different mood to a space. Think about how morning sun brightens up a kitchen at breakfast like a Nutella ad, but a good novel requires - demands - candle light and deep shadows, curtains and cushions. Every room in the house has its own potential moods and you can and should pair them up with the sunlight possibilities your place provides. I always love being outdoors and looking at leaves moving in the wind, even in the winter, but being a shivery, frail little thing, I shelter under a blanket by a window. I suffer when I can't have sunlight, and will stay in the Sun even if I have to squint my eyes to read the screen (which might not be too healthy).
You might be different. The mood of every room and every activity is paired up with the mood and personality of the person using it. That's why I can't do architecture for you, I can only help you find the way to do it yourself. So if you think you are ready to move forward with your project, take a look at the booking availability and book your first permarchitecture session.
10 errors to avoid when designing your sustainable home plan layout: part 1
Drawing to scale is an acquired skill and drafting by hand is, for a beginner, the best way to make rooms way too big. The generosity of the enthusiastic designer will give each bedroom at least 20% more space than it actually needs and the living room the proportion of a football stadium. So be sure to check your dimensions often and don't forget to furnish the rooms, even in the first drafts. Furniture will make big empty areas stand out. It will also give you a first glance at the circulation flows of the layout.
Try to avoid non-allocated space, but also stay away from too-small spaces, especially in the bathroom and kitchen area. Tip: When drafting your layout by hand, you can cut bits of paper to size for your main furniture elements. You can move them around your puzzle and play with them. Their presence also intuitively gives you a sense of how much space you need when drawing up a new room.
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 6
Even though they cannot offer the view to the outside that windows do, skylights and light-wells can bring light where there is no other way. Having just a skylight in a bedroom can be claustrophobic though, so don't overdo it. But in the case of the room too deep or too North, a good solution can be to bring some light from above. It can also help with regards to Alexander's idea, because it brings an additional direction of shade and our brains perceive objects better when they have more shade directions to calculate shapes from. A single light bulb from above is creepy, like in police questioning in movies. Portrait photographers use at least three light sources to bring out the best in the subject.
Of course, the reverse is also true: too many light sources erase all shadows, so the subject is indiscernible. A cool invention for natural light enhancement is the use of refraction to redirect light to the deep bits of a room. These magical helpers are called prism tiles and, as the name implies, are in the shape of a prism. So, like the Pink Floyd album cover, the light changes direction when it passes through them. Look it up, it's called anidolic lighting. And for those of your who are really into this sort of thing, here's an extract from an MIT course on daylight listing multiple "advanced fenestration technologies".
Bring more sunshine into your house: part 2
Brace yourself for the ABC of bio-climatic design: Face your living area spaces facing the sun, to soak up all the heat you can during the day. Add an eave above the said windows, long enough to block the sun in the summer as it goes higher and higher in the sky. Do not forget to place a comfortable day bed or armchair for reading right where the sun hits in the mornings when you want to read your paper, or in the afternoons for when you will be sipping tea. Otherwise, the whole thing was for nothing, in my opinion. Maybe your living room will have a fantastic view of the sunset, or maybe, like in my case with cold afternoons, you only have the mornings to rely on. So plan ahead, and design your February sunbathing into the space. You will thank me later.