Our office continues to design and engage in construction administration services for a great variety of house styles in sizes from 3,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet. Clients ask us what general architectural features are requested frequently. Consequently we can see trends that can forecast the future of living space design. Dozens of conversations with as many clients, product manufacturers and builders make the items below are part of almost every project:
- Open/Brighter Living Areas. Whether large or small, the living level of homes have long since gone away from having a series of isolated spaces connected by small openings or doors. Architecturally speaking, as you open up the vistas by removing walls and barriers, the same amount of floor space seems to get larger. Additionally, around here, the sun shines into the south side of a building almost all day, and there is never any direct sunlight coming in from the north, so opening up the walls between spaces can allow that occupants are visually connected to the natural light. This also makes for brighter living, and natural light tends to elevate everyone’s mood.
- Blur the line between inside and outside. Many of our clients love the feeling of the ‘Tuscan’ lifestyle and we know there’s proven benefits to being outside. As the site constrictions permit, this means that to help improve the frame of mind, we integrate outdoor living by blurring the line between inside & outside by creating some (or all) of these elements:
- Windows and Glass Doors. This is the most obvious solution to make people who are indoor feel more connected to the outdoors. This can be as minimal as one large window opening or be as dramatic as a ‘four-seasons’ or a conservatory room. If these rooms are designed to have large opening windows (or removable), it helps to ‘blur’ that line even more!
- Interstitial Spaces. These are spaces that are formed ‘in-between’ other elements & usually refer to an exterior space confined between two or more sides of building components. These become more intimate outdoor space and can be further defined with an overhead pergola, or by creating vegetative walls with privet hedges (or similar) at the open sides of the area.
- Verandas. These are also called lanais, loggia’s or covered porches. These are usually wide enough to outfit tables & chairs, or lounging areas. They can become more personalized by adding a bar, bar-b-que, or a fireplace. These spaces are ideal for enjoying any day be it sunny, rainy, or the very frequent snow-filled under the protection of a roof.
- Fireplaces and Fire Pits. Everyone is attracted to a warm fire outside from early fall until late spring. Of course, in the summer time, who can resist toasting a marshmallow once in a while? A fireplace or fire pit can be the anchor of a great outdoor space, whether it’s under the protection of a roof or at the head of an uncovered sitting area.
- Energy Efficient Design Strategies. Whether a building has a small footprint or gigantic, minimizing the impact of the built environment we create is key to a good conscience design. Even for those who don’t appreciate the negative impact of inefficient design, EVERYONE can appreciate the rising monthly cost of heating, cooling and powering their homes and buildings. These are several ways to plan a more fuel efficient design:
- Orientation of the Building. We lay out houses to take advantage of the natural path of the sun which can serve to effectively lower the cost of artificial lighting and heating.
- Design Location and Performance of Windows. Windows should be a minimum of double pane and Low E. This helps to keep the hot side of the window to the inside in the winter, and to the outside in the summer. Large walls of glass can help to add solar heat gain to a house in the winter, but must be designed to be shaded in the summer by pergolas, overhangs or similar elements.
- Insulation and Vapor-Proofing. TThis is an easy way to make the house more comfortable, less drafty and more efficient. We almost always specify spray foam. There are different types for different applications, but they are designed to have zero off-gassing, and work as insulation and a vapor barrier.
- Geo-Thermal Heating and Cooling Systems. This is a system that employs vertical or horizontal loops of water that take advantage of the natural temperature of the earth to reduce the required amount of energy to heat of cool a house. These systems can reduce the cost of air conditioning a building up to 75%.
- Radiant Heating. This is a more efficient way to heat a building. It is a systems of tubes filled with heated water or glycol that run through the floors and/or walls of the building. There are two primary reasons for the added efficiency. 1. The temperature required to run this system is lower than with other more traditional heating systems. 2. The tubes are set into a ‘thermal mass’ of gypcrete or layers of plywood. Once the thermal-mass is heated up, it holds the heat longer than heated air in a more traditional system.
- Conditioning Equipment. Heating and cooling equipment can be specified as efficient as 96%. Modulating boilers are designed to be in use as absolutely little as possible to keep the building at timed set temperatures with the use of outdoor set-back controls.
- Lighting and Controlling Systems. There are numerous A/V controlling systems that can regulate the heating/Cooling systems and lighting use. L.E.D. lighting is used for the quality of light, the long life of these bulbs, and the greatly reduced amount of power required to operate them.
We will continue with other trends next time.