High Performance Homes have the capability to respond to people’s needs and wants, and provide them with an enormous change in the experience of what it’s called “being and feeling at home”. But, how do they manage to achieve that?
Basically by integrating materials, equipment and design into a system where ventilation, views, lighting, water provision and disposal, and many other features of the house, can respond to the needs of each member of a family.
Automation has become a common element in our daily lives, and houses are more and more adaptive / responsive to our needs. We can program what the house does to our convenience.
This is the key concept of a High-Performance Home, and it is the main difference with the conventional approach to home designing. Here, an architect, better yet, a designing team, looks for the optimal synthesis of all the elements that separately comprise and establish the character of the home. That is the real value of this still new approach.
Any construction, be it a building or a single-family house, has many elements. Some are working systems, like water or electricity, and many more are just elements that seem to be just there. But, here is the point. It is much more advantageous and efficient to start seeing our houses like complete systems.
A traditional approach is to understand a house as a convenient combination of disparage elements. Under that vision, houses work properly. And we can enjoy them. But if we want to give ourselves the pleasure and experience of a customized home that performs at the top level, then the key word is Integration.
Integration has to be present from the very beginning of the design stage, when the architect listens to us, studies the location, learns about materials, tools, appliances, and solutions. Then, a proposal starts to take shape. The house is a system, and sub-systems and other elements are put in place only if they contribute in an efficient way to the whole purpose of the design, which is our health and well-being.
A few aspects can be highlighted here:
The design takes into account all natural elements, like light, humidity, climate zone, soil characteristics, wind, flora and fauna. This leads to a proposal that minimizes risks, dangers and negative impacts, but at the same time, proactively uses the advantages of the place. The house is integrated not only to the landscape, but to the whole place, with its pros and cons.
It has always been necessary to integrate electricity and water systems. But even in that case, it basically means that water pumps or heaters use electricity.
A High-Performance Design is a completely different level of integration. First, the vision, the needs, the purpose, and the intended usage of the client will form the basis for the whole design, Secondly, all systems and elements are chosen or thought of, as functioning with respect to the whole house. Third, no equipment or materials will be chosen independently, because of its own merit, if they do not integrate well into the design.
One way to see this, is to think of aircraft design. It has to fly, be comfortable and beautiful, be fuel-efficient, but above all, nothing unnecessary will be part of the plane, because it can actually become a risk or a big burden in terms of operation. Add the word “quiet operation” to the mix, and no doubt we are talking high-end here.
This is probably one of the areas where the greatest advances have been made in the last years. Today, it is possible, at a commercial level, to include materials that even though modern, are not dangerous or risky to our lives. Thus, a good customized design for a High Performance Home, will use this advantage to work with the best in terms of durability, resistance, low-risk and easiness to put together into the project. And of course, better materials mean a better response.
The final design is always dependent on the client. As future owners, we are better qualified to understand what we want. We have the final say. But a good blueprint for a High-Performance Home will integrate, for our own confort and enjoyment, as many elements and systems as possible.
For a house to be a high performer, it will need to function the same way the best planes or ships function. Seamlessly.