Blogs > Ed Binkley > February 2010

A Call for Sensible (responsive) Housing: Part One of Three: Making Smaller Bigger

This blog is the first of a three part series addressing what I see are some fundamental issues regarding a responsible approach to housing. Having designed many (very) large custom homes for celebrities, executives and sports figures…some with (near) no budget criteria…I now find the most satisfaction designing much smaller, more intelligent homes that address the real needs of homeowners today.
This first blog deals with the size of a house…and how small can a house be to feel big. The second blog will discuss options of systems building, i.e. SIPs, ICFs, value framing, CMU, etc, and the third blog will address green systems and technologies.
I do feel, however, green design starts with the programmatic design of the home; the initial part of the process that identifies an owners needs, wants, and goals. We discuss every aspect of daily life, including how they entertain, how many kids, pets, do they have frequent overnight or extended stay guests…who cooks…who gets up first in the morning, etc. It may sound trivial, but given the candid answers will make a difference in the ultimate size of your home…most typically one can live “better” with less space, and the extra work that goes along with having more space than you need. This holds true for maintenance, operating costs, etc.
In the world of housing are we really addressing needs in a responsible and conscientious manner? How do we, as building professionals, address what the 21st century definition of what a house should be? Is it business as usual, are we simply attempting to satisfy our conscious by “greening” our homes in the simplest and least expensive way possible?...or do we redefine what housing should be in order to better house residents in a sustainable environment that will provide a home, a shelter from issues of the past.
Why do we buy homes based on price per square foot when we don’t buy cars based on a price per pound? We buy a car based on comfort, economy, systems, reliability, price, etc, shouldn’t this be the same criteria for buying a home? We also don’t build a car by dumping all the parts in the driveway, so why should we build a home by dumping all the parts in the yard?..but that’s a future blog…
Housing needs to be redefined and we need to reinvent how we have addressed housing issues in the past. Buyers are fewer but more selective, better educated on green issues, more willing to define themselves as environmentally aware, and ready to just “do the right thing”.
One of my first considerations for design of a new green home is a very well defined program that deals with how the inhabitants really live, not the way they have always lived, or how others may expect them to live, but how they, the inhabitants, really live. Why design a home with rooms that are rarely used, why do we need three of four areas within our home to eat, and another two or three areas to live? And on a more subjective note, why do we need so much room to store things?...if we don’t have more space to store things, then we don’t have so many things to store that we rarely, if ever, use. Why do our children’s bedrooms need to accommodate a computer station, tv, many things that keep them from participating in more of a family environment, bedrooms that seem designed to encourage isolation instead of participation. Is it possible for a two car garage to actually park two cars because one half is not cluttered with “stuff”?...(typically a garage will hold one less car that it is designed for).
What I am getting at is, while the average size of houses is reducing, we still have a way to go.
If we can live in a 1200 sf home as easily as a 2400 sf home then why not do it?....consider the money saved and how we may better use those funds for…how about vacations?...

Posted: 2/11/2010 3:35:06 PM by | with 0 comments

About Me

Ed has been instrumental in responsive housing design since 1985, having been a partner with two national architectural firms in the past, he opened "ed binkley design, llc" in July of 2009. He has a strong focus on an affordable, green, systems approach to housing, which coincides with his development of “the shelter series”, a collection of small rapidly built homes that incorporate sustainable principles. Ed’s experience also includes work with national and international green housing programs and the design of several demonstration homes that highlight sustainable design principals. He is a frequent speaker at symposiums, contributing editor to national publications and has been featured on a variety of HGTV and radio programs presenting his green building philosophies. Ed has a strong belief that green design starts with a responsible program and client…and the end result is only as successful as that collaboration is strong.




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