Somewhere in between ‘MacMansions’ and ‘Tiny homes’ there is a happy medium for most new homes. Reducing the physical footprint of a new home also reduces its ecological footprint.
The overall embodied energy is reduced through fewer construction materials and future waste is also diminished; energy consumption is lessened through reduced lighting needs and mechanical heating/cooling when required and overall finishes and furniture are decreased also reducing embodied energy as well as potential waste.
An important aspect of designing more compact homes is the concept of flexibility. Flexibility is synonymous with resilience, sustaining important levels of comfort while maintaining the varying different activities and needs of a household. Flexibility can be introduced at various points within the design of the house and household’s life-cycle.
The underlying critical aspect of designing flexible spaces is to understand how the household is going to interact with them. Integrating pull down beds for an elderly couple might be challenging, or the doubling up of study and eating areas for a family may create tensions at meal times. Therefore, keeping in mind the household’s current and future needs is imperative for integrating flexible strategies that work.
Flexibility can be integrated spatially, through product devices and furniture and by ‘future proofing’ expected or possible changes to the household or the home. Spatially combinations of activities can be integrated into one space which can be assisted by devices such as moving walls, the collapse of one spatial activity to unlock another such as kitchens integrated into a wall space, or using height as a way of dividing space whilst maintaining an open spatial quality.
Similarly, cleverly designed furniture can be used to integrate multiple uses such as tables that can change heights from low to high, forming side, dining and food preparation tables or furniture pieces that can be packed away when not in use, trundle and fold-up beds for example. An office space by Anne Grimes Architect turns into a guest room with a pull-down wall bed.
Flexibility and resilience across the life-span of the building can forecast future changes such as a household’s members expanding or contracting, different mobility or technological upgrades that may be required or even the changing climatic conditions that may be expected over the life-span of the building itself, beyond the current occupants own life. These could include the possibility of expanding or contracting a part of the house to facilitate these changes, through the ability for wall or floor additions/subtractions; leaving land space to extend/contract living spaces and/or provide future self-sufficiency capabilities such as edible gardens, water storage or chicken coops. Future services can also be planned into the flexibility of a home as Green Design do by integrating the wiring for future solar panels into the roof space, a minimal initial expense that significantly reduces future expenses.
Designing smaller, flexible and resilient homes can provide significant benefits to reducing the ecological footprint of a household’s daily sustainable challenges, changing behaviours of lifestyle through the design of the house itself.
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