There is no doubt that sleek designs are the norm today, rather than the exception. Cars, phones, aircrafts, yatches and corporate buildings, are all designed and built with beauty in mind. But what about homes?
It is not easy to match the idea of machines, however efficient they can be, with beauty. When people first started using machines, these were cold, and designs responded more to their needs, not ours. In fact, they were ugly. That condition remained almost unchanged until materials started to evolve at a really fast pace because of computers.
Homes have been, for a long time, one of the areas we associate with beauty, independently of the diversity of design or the styles across the planet. We tend to evaluate a house according to our notion of beauty, and most of the time, we think whether we would like to live in a house by its overall shape, colors or interior design.
Even though we have learned about how, in some cultures, attention is paid also to other aspects, beauty remains one of the most conditioning aspects that we take into account whenever we think of a house.
But a home has to serve a purpose. First, it has to respond to the characteristics and needs of those who live, or intend to live, there. “Who am I?”, should be a good initial question, followed by “what do I intend to do there?”. Of course, those and other questions have to be made as a family. Second, a home should give me and my family a sense of place; a strong attachment to the location we have chosen. Third, a home should be the source of pride. Finally, a home should give a family a good service. Like many resources we take for granted, most of the time we fail to understand the services a home provides until they fail.
But that can be changed.
What is the value of efficiency in a home?
Without losing any of the romanticism of the meaning of having a new home, we can ask ourselves what and how are the services that a home should provide. Of course, a good architect can help us with this task, if for no other reason, because that is an integral part of their trade. But beyond that, because that architect must propose an optimal combination of beauty and efficiency. In a few words, a High-Performance Home.
For the first part, beyond our wants and ideas, the architect can explain points and enhance whatever we want through integration with the landscape or by proposing styles that we can identify with.
The efficiency part needs to be thoroughly worked from another standpoint though, because the idea is to make use of the best materials, create systems and processes, and integrate them to produce the best output with the lowest use of resources. Sounds like setting up a factory, right?
Well, definitely efficiency requires thinking in terms of outputs and resources, whereas beauty implies using another part of our brain. The best result should then be, seamless integration.
What do we attain with efficiency? The most important achievement of efficiency is that tasks can be done with less hassle than using a traditional approach, whether it is garbage treatment or disposal, water usage, ventilation or safety. Then, if properly done, operating costs can be lower. And of course, any repair, new installation or just a periodical review, will be made knowing exactly where we are and what we have to do.
Efficiency also means less noise, less heat and less damage to the environment. It is the best way of being socially responsible, since we have considered impacts from the design stage, which means a higher degree of harmony between our home and the systems around it. That is what High-Performance Homes are.
I want my house to be beautiful. That seems to be a no-brainer. But I also want my house to be efficient. The sense of leading a healthy life and being the best I can be, can only best be served through the combination of both.