This section is dedicated to an ongoing project to deconstruct the concept of a house. I am not an architect, so I'm sure all of what I'll discover will seem very simplistic to a trained professional. I'm doing this to better understand what a house needs to do and to be so that I can be more involved, and make better decisions, when the time comes to design and build my own house.
In order to set a context for my deconstruction, I need to share some points from my current philosophy of what a house needs to do and to be. This is mostly for my own benefit - to keep me focused on what I'm trying to achieve. I'm currently reading 'The Architecture of Happiness' by Alain de Botton. This book is helping to shape my current philosophy, but I want to inject some personal specifics into Alain's interesting and informative generalisations.
Firstly, I want my house to have minimal environmental impact. This ideal covers both the construction and running of the house. In terms of construction, this ideal leads into questions about: choice of materials; overall house size; and whether house spaces can have multiple uses, or uses in addition to their traditional ones. In terms of the running of the house, this ideal leads into questions about: minimal energy usage; the use of passive solar for heat and light; and self-generation of some/all of my ongoing energy needs.
Secondly, I want my house to be designed from the inside out. I have seen and inhabited far too many houses that have obviously been designed from the outside in. Each seemed to consist of a well-thought-out external shell which had subsequently been partitioned up and rooms stuffed in. The result might look good from the outside, but the interiors all had some measure of dysfunction. In my house each room will suit its purpose perfectly - its size, layout and position will be optimal. Then these ideal rooms will be combined in an optimal way, and only then will a shell be fitted over the top. I want my house to work for the occupants as well as the neighbours.
Thirdly, I have a long-standing belief about a lot of architecture these days - that it often only looks 'good' from a distance that replicates the scale of the plans as rendered on an A2 piece of paper (i.e. as it looked on the architects drawing board). Any closer, or further away, and the building begins to degrade in visual appeal. I admire architects like Gaudi for their ability to make a building look interesting from across a city down to touching distance, and all points in between. I want my house to have differing levels of detail that keep the building looking interesting no matter how close or far away the viewer is.
Fourthly, I love natural light - who doesn't? But I think plain glass is often an inelegant way to get natural light in to a space. Expanses of plain glass lose heat rapidly and can mean the interior is glary for much of the day. It also means anyone outside can see in and that you're obliged to live with your view, for better or for worse. I'd like to explore less direct sources of natural light: sand-blasted glass; light wells and skylights; reflected light; fibre optics; etc.
The first part of my deconstruction of a house involves an audit of the features of each room in my ideal house. The audit is structured in a similar way for each room so that comparisons and decisions can be made using a shared set of criteria (currently 'contents', 'energy requirements', 'normal usage times' and 'additional notes'). Once this audit is complete (or as complete as it can be) I'm hoping it will shed some light on what I need to think about next. By the way, an assumption implicit in my audit is that all rooms need some form of heat, light, ventilation and power - only exceptional items falling into these categories will be noted in the audit.
The Master Bedroom
- bed, queen size (1)
- bedside table/cabinet (2)
- wardrobe (2)
- chest of drawers (2)
- blanket box (1)
- clothing (2 sets)
- hanging clothes
- folded clothes
- mirror (1)
- clothes rack (1/2)
- electricity for bedside lighting (2)
- electricity for electric blanket (2)
Normal Usage Times
- 21:00 - 09:00
- Ideally gets morning and evening sun.
- Ideally visually and aurally isolated from the rest of the house.
- Ideally has a view of the (night) sky.
- Ideally can be made completely dark at anytime.
- Ideally near a toilet/bathroom.
- Ideally not bounded by any external wall (less night-time heat loss).
- Would be nice to have some level of home automation in the room: to switch the heating on; to open the curtains at a specified time; etc.
Sample Plan Notes
- Situated on topmost floor, with the foot of the bed (bottom) facing North.
- Triple-glazed glass ceiling instead of any windows in the walls.
- Roof-mounted blind system that can block or capture incoming light (including redirecting morning and evening sun down into the room, if desired).
- Short, internal window at the head of the bed, just below the ceiling, to share light with space behind the bedroom whilst maintaining room privacy.
- Each wardrobe contains a chest of drawers and a fold-out clothes rack.
- Double power point in or around each bedside cabinet.
- Bed headboard includes integrated personal lighting (LED-based).
- Bed folds up to South wall (without blocking internal window) to reveal in-floor storage compartments covered with a exercise/yoga mat.
- Need to address ventilation and general room lighting requirements.
- cook top/hob
- range hood/extractor fan
- cutlery, kitchen tools, knives, etc.
- towels, oven mitts, tea cosy, etc.
- plates, cups, glassware, etc.
- pots, pans, bowls, dishes, tupperware, etc.
- electrical appliances
- kettle, coffee machine, coffee grinder, etc.
- food processor, blender, juicer, etc.
- slow cooker
- dry goods
- baking items
- breakfast items
- alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
- pasta, rice, noodles, lentils, etc.
- tinned food
- herbs, spices, seasonings, sauces, oils, etc.
- root vegetables
- fridge/freezer items
- rubbish bin
- recycling bin
- 'compostable' bin
- coffee knock
- emergency supplies
- water (100l)
- rice, pasta, tinned food, etc.
- bleach, antiseptic, paper towels, tissues, etc.
- torch + batteries
- radio + batteries
- first aid kit, surgical masks, etc.
- camp stove + gas
- emergency contact information
- notice board
- computer (with wall mounted LCD screen)
- electricity for all electrical appliances, whiteware (, waste disposal unit) and extractor fan(s).
- gas for cook top/hob
- hot water for sink
Normal Usage Times
- 07:00 - 19:30
- Easy access to herb garden.
- No cupboards above work surfaces.
- Seamless joinery for easy cleaning.
- Roof-suspended cabinetry for easy cleaning.
- Natural light sources.
- Waste systems near where waste is generated or used (e.g. in-bench waste chute, waste disposal plumbed to outside compost bin, etc.).
- Highly specific storage facilities (e.g. plate rack, spice rack, tinned food rack, etc.) - lots of generic storage means lots of junk stored and lots of compromised storage.
- No storage or appliances on work surfaces.
- Mesh shelving so all dirt falls to floor.
- No corner units.
- Minimal use of drawers and cupboards. Need an alternative way to keep kitchen grime off stored items, however. Plus need cool, dark storage for some food items.
- Good vapour and odour capture, especially if open-plan, e.g. barrier 'wall' that extends part way down from ceiling around entire kitchen area with its own extraction/ventilation system.
- Sufficient well-located power points.
- 'Cul-de-sac' style - no thoroughfares.
- Mixture of work surface heights, specific to tasks (e.g. high sink bench such that the bottom, not top, of the sink is at normal bench height).
- Flexible lighting system to provide suffient, but not excessive, light for the job in hand.
Sample Plan Notes
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