Living In Real Space: Environmentalist Residential Design
When designing a home, you can’t just consider the structure by itself. No home exists in a vacuum. Addressing the environment in which you are designing helps meet many goals, from efficiency to beauty to responsible building.
Environmentalist design, according to Paul Bahn, Project Designer at Desmone Architects, means “designing a home that benefits from its surroundings by mimicking them. When done tastefully you’re left with a beautiful residence where the house compliments the site and vice versa.” So, which elements are most important? Where do we take our cues for environmental design? It’s all about the natural movement of light and air.
Embracing the Sun
Artificial lighting accounts for 15% of all electricity used in the United States. Optimizing a building’s design for natural light is called “daylighting” and can lower a building’s need for electric lights. A designer can place energy efficient windows and skylights to let sunlight in during the day while keeping heat out in the summer and in during the winter, cutting energy costs.
Sunlight has a number of health benefits as well, from improving mental health to promoting bone health by stimulating production of Vitamin D. The environmentalist designer will take these benefits into account as well. One private home Bahn worked on was designed to maximize natural daylighting, because that was a health priority for the client. Starting with that requirement led to other improvements too – including in the area of passive ventilation.
Moving the Air
Passive or natural ventilation uses features of the surrounding landscape to move air through a building. On a hot day, you might open windows at opposite ends of your house to let a breeze come through. A building designed for natural ventilation includes features that follow similar principles.
As with daylighting, passive ventilation saves on energy costs by reducing the need for mechanical systems to regulate temperature and circulate air. Fewer moving parts means lower maintenance costs, in addition to the reduced energy consumption. Plus, air quality is higher because the air is not running through condensers, filters, and ductwork – all of which can contain dust and other allergens.
Environmental Design Makes Living Better
Keeping the environment in mind when designing residential spaces leads to better homes no matter how you look at it. Want to save money? Natural lighting and passive ventilation do that. Want to cut down on consumption and reduce your impact on the planet? There’s no better way than by designing your home to work with the landscape rather than against it.
Some people are interested in the economic benefits of environmental design, while others see it as an ethical issue. Bahn says those views are two sides of the same coin. “Whether trying to save on annual maintenance costs or trying to save the world, the results are the same. Once people see that they can enjoy a home that is more affordable, well-constructed and beautiful, it will simply become the standard for design and construction.”
At Desmone, we are excited to explore new ways to make homes work better with nature for all these reasons. To follow our journey, sign up for our newsletter below.