Some architects say that a green home is a small home. That is not necessarily true. This is your home we’re talking about and if it doesn’t work for you it won’t make you happy. So, let us rephrase and say that a green home is an optimum-sized home.
The first step if you build from scratch or do a major rebuild/extenstion is to sit down with your family and prepare a perfect plan. Everything needs preparation and planning to succeed but when it comes to building a house, it is absolutely essential.
You will need a bedroom for each family member. Don’t raise your eyebrows – everyone needs a private space to develop a harmonious personality. Temporary loneliness is bliss; it allows us to put our thoughts in order and to prepare for the next day.
Kitchen/diner, lounge, utility room and at least one storage room – essential. You might also want to add a study, games room, a separate diner, guestrooms etc.
Don’t worry if it all looks awful now. There are ways to fit an unbelievable number of rooms in a medium size house:
- Try to go up. Build as high as you can. Check with your council, what is the maximum height of residential buildings in your area.
- Try to go down. Basement is a totally underestimated space. Forget about dark, wet, low-ceiling basements. Have you been to London? (I highly recommend if you haven’t) Look at the traditional town-houses… Belgravia springs to mind first, but they are everywhere. They all got proper lower ground floors. You can use yours for a garage, games room, utility room, storage space, sports room and even an office. Just make sure you insulate the lower ground floor properly and plan for some windows for natural light.
- If you’re not building in a protected area, avoid pitched roofs. If you go for a flat roof, you get rid of awkward loft crannies. A top floor with straight walls will give you one or two extra rooms for the same price. Besides flat roofs are easy to build, they still give opportunities for using rain water collectors and makes roof gardens possible. Using modern techniques there is no reason to go for archaic pitched roofs! Look at the pic – they could build bespoke houses in early 30s.A roof garden is a perfect solution for extra-small building plots besides turf or soil provides great insulation. Prepare to take extra care with your flat roof – you’ll need loads of rubberoid and tar… and somebody who has done flat roofs before. Please don’t DIY the flat roof even if you think you know what you’re doing. If properly constructed, a flat roof vs pitched roof will use less material, and just think about all that extra space you gain! Crikey!!!
However, speak to a local architect or advisor because if all houses in your area are with pitched rooves, you might struggle with your modern build.
- If open-plan layout is not your thing consider a ground floor with a transformable living space. Sliding walls is a great way to have more rooms than there actually are.
- Concentrate on local and green materials. You can always compensate the size by using green materials and proper insulation. A big eco house built of certified wood and insulated with wool is much greener than a small conventional house that leaks heat and poses a health risk because of the materials used.
- Remember that two-level rooms are a waste of space and they take more energy to be heated/cooled so, unless you’re totally obsessed with two-level rooms, rather go with a decent ceiling height and fit another room upstairs. You can apply a feeling of open space by installing French doors and planning your garden properly.
So, don’t build small, build smart!
Pic of that tremendous Scottish Art Deco house snatched from Jack Deighton.