Three things you should look for in your house plan
You’ve finally decided to build a house. You found someone to design it and, after several meetings you are looking at a preliminary set of plans. You have been asked to review them and confirm that you approve them as the basis for the final design. Well, all the rooms are there, and their sizes seem in line with your instructions, but you still feel a bit uneasy. This is a big decision, and you’ve never done this kind of thing before. So what should you be looking for? Here are three things you should look for before you approve the plans.
Public vs. private
Your residence is your private kingdom. Once through your gates, you expect to be in your own private world. But there is a very public aspect of your house. Every time you have a visitor you must automatically decide whether the visitor is a stranger, a casual friend or an intimate friend. Each will be offered a different experience of your house. Three items in the plan help define this process.
The first is the welcome a visitor feels when entering your castle. From their arrival to the entry, the path to the door should be clear and inviting. The door should not push them away when it is opened (for which it should open in and be protected from weather). Their entry should not disrupt the current activities in the house and the entrance should allow you to choose where in the house this particular visitor should be invited – the Sitting Room, the Office or the Family Room, for example. This is the traditional role of a Foyer.
Next, you should anticipate which spaces will accommodate which kind of visitor, as noted above. Some spaces will be for entertaining more formal visitors, others for more informal guests. This tends to create “zones” within the plan, even in so-called open plans. And the “family zone” should not be visible (or audible) from the “visitor zone”.
Generally, the Foyer, Sitting Room and formal Dining Room are often left for less intimate visitors, while the Family Room, Kitchen and Bedrooms are considered the family’s territory. Every family’s lifestyle is different, and your vetting of the plans must answer these questions for you and yours.
The flow of things
There are three “things” that must flow easily through your house. Get a pencil and draw the path of these three things on the plan to satisfy yourself that they have been considered. First, how will you move through the house from your arrival from work, from the entrance to your bedroom? Is it an easy trip? How will you serve dinner in the formal dining room? How will the children get to the refrigerator from the backyard?
Second is the flow of services. How would delivery and service people get to where they have to do their jobs?. And what about their equipment?
The third is the flow of air. Is the house designed to be naturally ventilated? Or must it be air conditioned most of the time? Natural ventilation requires openings on opposite sides of the building, with a way for the breeze to get across the plan. This is perhaps the costliest concern, since it will determine the cost of power for the life of the building.
Keeping the sun out
Old Bahamian houses, whether grand or mean, never allowed the direct rays of the sun into the house’s interior. That is one of the reasons they were so cool most of the time. Push-out shutters, porches and deliberately planted shade trees were the design tools used. While today’s designs may look different, the job of shading remains important. Those same devices, translated into today’s technology, are available to help you create comfortable, low-energy houses. As in the past, those “old” solutions also made the house enjoyable to live in.
Now, go look at that plan again!
- Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at www.pradesigns.com and like its Facebook page. The firm’s mission is to help its clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.