Home Design Room Layout: Sketches Work Great!

Sketches on tracing paper in the preliminary design phase come in handy to see alternate room layouts and spatial relationships. Clients love the artistry involved and the human element to their design.

The client was unsure about whether to have the wood stove centered on the gable endwall or in the corner. The sketches were quick and extremely helpful in showing various furniture layouts as well as window and door options.

Current Home Design Trends

Trends in home design are moving away from specific rooms and space to materials and energy efficiency. This delightful (and beneficial) competition between neighbors, communities, and states to become more energy conscious and less dependent on fossil fuels has resulted in thousands of people reducing their carbon footprint.
Here are some of the current trends in home design:

  • 1. Reduce, reuse, recycle: More and more homeowners are looking to purchase recycled building materials to use in their new home. Timbers, siding, decking, trim, doors, brick, and stone are all great materials to reuse. Simple, bio-degradable materials are replacing resources that harm the environment.

  • 2. Here comes the sun: Solar energy systems, particularly solar hot water heaters and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to produce electricity are extremely popular. The current tax credit is 30% of the total cost (product + installation), with no upper limit. (see ENERGY STAR for details)

  • 3. Size and flexibility matter: Small home designs are more popular than the rambling, spacious mansions of the past. Homeowners are addressing changes in lifestyle by replacing separate dining and living areas with large, multi-purpose family rooms, and adding sliding or pocket doors which allow flexibility in living space. First-floor bonus rooms which can be used as a home office or additional bedroom address changing needs.

  • 4. Save a buck: Let’s face it: low maintenance is in. Popular low maintenance materials include green flooring, tankless water heaters, ENERGY STAR appliances. Low-maintenance landscaping using native plants has a positive effect on the site by reducing irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers – which means less time you will spend taking care of it.

  • 5. Accessibility: Universal home design address the comfort of people of all ages and abilities. Features that may be eliminated are spiral staircases, sunken or raised living rooms, and high cabinets or shelves. Wide hallways and low storage areas are incorporated into the home design without sacrificing the home’s beauty and appearance.

Going green makes $ense: with green technology and materials flooding the market, prices continue to come down, saving you money over the life of the material. Green home design is the start of the home’s life cycle – and undoubtedly its most important phase, as the home’s space, features, and systems are designed to work together as a whole for your benefit and comfort – and the environment’s.

Keeping a Green Home, Remotely

As seen in a recent online issue of The New York Times, soon you will be able to monitor the energy efficiency of your home on your cell phone, wherever you are.

The soon-to-be-released tool, called TREE (Tendril Residential Energy Ecosystem), will allow homeowners to turn appliances, heating, and cooling systems on and off from work, the theatre, or the kids’ soccer practice. Similar to a video game, TREE will integrate with a collection of tools to track energy consumption and broadcast the results to local and distant displays. If your electricity consumption rises above certain levels, a display will start flashing a different color, allowing you to decide which systems you can shut off.

TREE will compare your home’s energy consumption with similar sized homes in your neighborhood, make suggestions on how to reduce your energy, and predict how much lowering the thermostat will lower your bill. How's that for monitoring your carbon footprint?

TREE is expected to be released late this year. To read the full article, click here.

Lakefront Home Plans - NH

Here are green home plans for clients building a vacation home on their lakefront property located in rural New Hampshire. The property has an existing cottage, which will be torn down.

The new energy efficient home will be just shy of 2500 square feet, with 1530 square feet on the first floor and 950 square feet on the second floor. With three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, the home will have plenty of room for visiting children and grandchildren. The site plan shows the lakefront and proposed location of the home.

One of our clients' requirements was to have a first floor Master Bedroom with view of the lake. Planning to do a lot of entertaining, they also desired a large screened porch for enjoying evenings on the lake with protection from insects. Adding a one-car garage at an angle to the house allows for an extended dining area and nicely houses a walk-in pantry and mudroom / laundry. We're talking about a solar hot water system and possible solar photovoltaic system. All materials will be energy efficient and low maintenance - a must for a vacation / retirement home.

The entrance to the home is designed to have an unobstructed, straight view to the lake, which makes the open floor plan appear even larger than it is, and brings the outdoors into the home. The second floor includes a large home office with a walk-out balcony. Overnight guests have plenty of room with two bedrooms and a large bathroom. A generous storage area next to the stairs will come in handy to store seasonal items.

See more of my current work, including some timber frame homes.

Five Reasons to Use Solar Energy in Green Homes

Here are five good reasons to utilize a solar energy system in your new home:

1) Solar energy is clean and sustainable, which helps to protect the environment and does not contribute to global warming, acid rain, or smog

2) Solar energy reduces our dependency on power companies

3) Systems can be configured to meet virtually any power demand load

4) Advancements in solar energy systems have made them extremely cost effective. While costs for natural gas and petroleum continue to rise, solar energy technology continues to fall in price.

5) Most solar energy systems do not require any maintenance during their lifespan, and many carry warranties which cover their life spans of twenty to thirty years.

Still unsure? Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s website on “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy”. They have information, charts, and calculations to help you make the right decision.


Small Green Home Design

I met Pat and Andy at a Log and Timber Frame Home Show, and shortly after, they asked me to design their vacation / retirement home on their property in northern Maine. While they like timber frame homes, they thought it might be too much for this modest project.

Their project goals were:

  • Small footprint to minimize carbon footprint
  • Energy efficiency in all four New England seasons
  • Environmentally-conscious to minimize site impact
  • Low maintenance and durability, easy to open and close up
  • Security in rural setting
  • Take advantage of lake views
  • Possible addition in future

Translating their goals into an energy efficient, small home design was not a problem, as Pat and Andy had collected a three-ring binder full of notes, pictures, and ideas. The home design, at 1100 square feet, is both energy efficient and practical.

The plan is a passive solar design, with the first floor receiving the low winter sun in early morning and late evening under the varied depth of the porch roof. The second floor, meanwhile, has a moderate roof overhang and will always provide abundant light

Natural cross ventilation will come from the east, south, and west elevations. A cupola provides release for summer heat, and also adds to the architectural aesthetics.

The north side of the building includes a first floor laundry with a storage bench under the window. This is the most buildable side of the design, and will be the location of a future addition to the home.

A central stairway fits nicely in the small home design, eliminating the need for hallways and keeping the footprint to a minimum. Its openness provides natural light between floors and increases ventilation.

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