Good housework takes its form in part from the forces that operate on it. Climate and weather are two of the strongest protesters (there are no igloo in the tropics) where houses must be designed and built to prevent the detrimental effects of the world we live in. Mother of nature is always trying to tear our buildings down.
Climate and weather also affect the comfort of our homes, and we seek to maintain temperature and shave our homes at tolerable levels. Much of the design effort is dedicated to keeping heat in or out of heat, depending on the climate and the season.
This old house
Sometimes through American history, our homes have reflected – to a greater or lesser extent – our ingenuity to make our inner climate more secure.
Settlers in Deep South built a deep terrace around their low hose to scrape them from the strong sun and create
New Englanders built compact homes with small windows to protect them from the winds of winter and keep as much heat as possible . And prairie homes, often built of stacked eruptions, were half buried on earth to level out temperature fluctuations and to protect them from frequent violent storms sweeping the plains every summer.
Simple and effective methods like these were necessary because the fuel for home heat was limited. We build houses that preserve resources; We did not know how not existed.
It changed with the times of cheap and high power and natural gas for home heating and by introducing the first air conditioner for private homes in 1928. Suddenly, houses did not have to respond to their environment; Each home could easily be kept as hot or as cold as desired by mechanical means regardless of weather outside. Little thought was given to energy saving measures until the early 1970's, when the cheap energy we had taken as a matter of course became suddenly very expensive and the climate change houses we had built for decades became expensive to heat and cool.
But then it became a very cool thing. Architects and builders across the country began to revive "lost art" in the design of homes that responded to climate and weather. Antique ideas like earthquake and thermal were used again. New passive-cooling methods and unique ideas like the Trombe wall were invented.
And very interesting, they took a new exciting form in the houses that utilize low-energy technology. Suddenly there was something else beside the inspired design of Old World. It was a fun time full of inventions and experiments.
But this time was short-lived. In the mid-1990s, fuel was cheap again and energy-saving unique home design was all but forgotten.
Back to the Future
So it is not surprising that we now find ourselves in a circle, with rising energy prices and a revised interest in home energy efficiency. It is important concern at times when some studies show residential real estate that consumes up to 21% of the nation's energy.
Energy sources today differ from those they were 30 years ago. Today, emphasis is placed on technology rather than on design. New materials are methods that have been developed to make another kind of climate-blending design at home (and there are enough) better stewards of the energy they need to maintain human comfort.
However, technical solutions can be expensive as they require a higher level of common building materials. Windows has a "high-tech" glass with surface water, argon gas-filled spaces and up to three sheets of glazing. Heating systems are running more efficiently and can come out with programmable temperature and isolate ductwork. Solutions like these save you energy and are important factors in any home, but the technology should not be overloaded. We also need a better design.
What if instead of spending hundreds of dollars on high tech to keep the heat in the sun, we better prevent our windows from preventing direct sunlight from the first place? What if we used the elements of the house itself to shade those windows from heat radiation and UV rays?
Say we better use the Earth at a relatively stable temperature to stabilize temperatures in our houses, rather than exclude every square foot of the external surface of the world? Instead of having constant mechanical ventilation to remove heat and moisture, why not try to open the window on a shady patio and let the breeze cool the house?
And what if we opened our mind a little – did not think so much about fashion and resale – and allowed our homes to shape more with how they respond to the climate and environment we live in?
The surprising result could be interesting and beautiful homes that cost very little to heat and cool – just like old days.