Architecture for Real Life?

December 21 is the first day of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere.  Is there any architecture that works in places that actually have SEASONS?

For example, now it is cold here.  I am grateful that I have low ceilings, so less to heat.  However, in the summer I want high ceilings.  (I know, ceiling fans… are universally ugly.  I hate them.) (#2:  Loves her some ceiling fans)

Maybe a cave.  My brick house is not doing it; the temperature lag can be a problem.  It takes a LONG time to heat up, but once it does it stays hot.  This is nice in winter evenings, but not in summer.  In summer it’s like sitting inside my own personal tandoor, slowly stewing at night and wishing I could take the roof off.  Though if I could, that would be wicked drafty in winter.  (#2  Mmmm basement living… I bet you’d like a bunker.)

Current solutions all seem to suck half the time (which half varies).  I fantasize about having a bed on hydraulic lifts:  in the winter I could put it up near the ceiling, next to the shared wall with the warm kitchen.  In the summer I could put it down on the floor, away from the kitchen wall and closer to the windows.

Does anyone have a sane way to build houses for 4-season weather?

14 Responses to “Architecture for Real Life?”

  1. Meg Says:

    Sorry, no sane ways to build houses for the four seasons, but you bring up some really good points. :-) I’ve just dealt with it – never really thought about it!

  2. First Gen American Says:

    I think the best solution is to have as small a house as possible, so that your climate control costs are minimized.

    I guess I’d also have it as insulated as possible.

    Here in the northeast, I’ve had days where I turned the heat on one day and literally had to do AC the next. You just can’t win. I’ve seen some really neat designs for tropical places, but nothing for year round awesomeness.

  3. Everyday Tips Says:

    Caves are too damp for me. I am chilled from October through April, so my furnace works harder than most.

    The thing I hate in summer is the upstairs rooms are too hot and the downstairs are freezing. I am sure some new insulation and maybe an attic fan would work, but other projects always seem to take priority.

    A smaller house (like Sandy) said may be your best option.

  4. Undine Says:

    “my own personal tandoori”–hah! Seriously, that’s always the way with a brick house.

  5. Undine Says:

    Sorry–the iPad corrects everything to suit its ideas of spelling and wouldn’t let me spell “tandoori” (the name of the oven) without the I.

  6. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma Says:

    Well, to start off, there is Earth-sheltered homes, kind of like a cave in a way but an actual house that’s built (usually) into a hillside. When dug in below the frost line, the exterior of the building stays about 65 degrees year round.

    Properly sized eaves will do wonders, as well. If they are the right length for your latitude, the will block direct sunlight from shining in the windows (and heating the house more) during the summer but allow it to happen in the winter.

    Higher r-level insulation, and triple-pane, low-e glass windows are going to help keep the heat and cool out of the house, especially with if you take the trouble to ensure the space is well sealed. You can then use a heat exchanger to get fresh air in without loosing the climate-controlled temperatures.

    If your looking for a new place, look for passive-solar or zero-energy designed homes. They are more expensive, but will pay for themselves with lower energy costs.

  7. bogart Says:

    We do reasonably well in the US SE with a ~1600 sq ft home that’s one story, half the square footage with cathedral ceilings and half without. We’ve got two heat sources (wood stove in the cathedral ceilings section, central gas furnace throughout) and a/c. But I suspect living in an area with relatively cheap energy probably helps (our electric probably averages $60/month, including summer a/c; gas is an unknown as this is the first year we’ve had it, but I’m guessing $300 for the winter; so far we’ve spent $100 for firewood and I’m guessing that will end up at $300 total for the winter, i.e., two more loads). So that’s in the range of $100/month for, well, everything, including electric stuff that has nothing to do with heating and cooling. Oh, and ditto my willingness to keep the house cool in winter and warm in summer, though DH resists the latter (fortunately we’ve got lots of trees, so good shade).

    Oh, but don’t get me wrong, our house is the picture of bad/shoddy design; it’s a passive solar “look” that faces … north. So whatever we’ve got, architecture’s not it.

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I think #1 may be on a plane, but I’m sure she’ll take all these into consideration once she finds a nice coffeeshop with internets.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    I second the insulation and good eaves. Also, if you have windows you can open at the top (or small windows near your ceiling), they can help the hot air escape in summer but be closed in winter. Drapes also help–close them to block the weather, open to let it in.

  10. Contest Winner, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and more Says:

    […] Architecture for Real Life? @ Grumpy rumblings of the untenured […]

  11. uhnw Says:

    Try living in Australia. Our houses are built for neither the heat nor the cold. Thus in summer its scorching (up to +40c) and in winter it freezes inside (down to +2c). At least we could build them for one extreme or the other.


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