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Thoughtful Home Design: From the Ground Up

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Thoughtful Home Design: From the Ground Up

Like the foundation of a house, a comprehensive site analysis lays the groundwork for thoughtful home design

It may (or may not) come as a surprise that the first step of thoughtful home design starts before a home is even conceptualized. During site analysis, information is collected about the climate, weather and physical environment. This data allows us to determine the practicalities, natural opportunities and constraints of a new home build.

Climate & Weather

We prefer to build houses that stand for a long time, and to do so it’s important to site the home with careful consideration of its immediate exposure and climactic context.

We live in a rainforest here in Metro Vancouver, where there is substantial precipitation. Considering how the site already handles water helps inform our process. We study the slope, permeability and drainage in place, looking for opportunities to nourish and replenish groundwater without creating flooding or stoppages.

By being aware of prevailing winds, and seasonal trends, we can position a home’s exposure to receive cooling breezes when they are welcome and repel cold gusts when they are not.

We study the sun and shadow patterns in order to optimize natural light, views and connections to the outside in a purposeful way. If we can begin with naturally positioned elements that allow the low winter sun inside, and shade the high summer sun, we take the pressure off of mechanical systems to do the work of heating and cooling. We help our clients enjoy the space - while saving money on utilities over years to come.

By looking at annual temperature fluctuations, even in our temperate climate here on BC’s south coast, we can gauge the effectiveness of thermal mass assemblies and help inform home design decisions such as window glazing and insulation.

Physical Environment

From topography to geology, the analysis of a site’s physical environment is done primarily to determine construction feasibility. This can identify hazards that could compromise a house’s foundation. On a sloped site, for example, attention would be paid to the risk of mass wasting, which could result in mudslides. Proximity to bodies of water could pose flooding hazards and in the case of fast-moving water, soil degradation.

Design decisions that follow this analysis will relate closely to the principles of design psychology that we employ.

This important start to our design work helps create the foundation for a home that is customized both to its natural context, and our client’s needs and desired experiences. Just like the physical construction of a house, thoughtful home design starts from the ground up.

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