Saturday, 27 August 2011

Houses I Liked

This photo's not tagged with a location, (the camera I bought before my travels has a gps chip, and about a million settings, it would take a year or three to learn them all. The gps eats battery life, so as the camera doesn't recharge off a car's power socket, I kept turning the feature on and off). However, I'm moderately confident it's in Senoia, Georgia.  I like a lot about this little house, the pastel colours, the wrap-around porch, the combination of curved and straight lines, the fancy detail-work, the white picket-fence, the surrounding greenery, even the brick paving.

I'll bet that tree out front was a fraction of today's size when the house was built.

This one I can be sure about, it's got a sign out front, Senoia Historical Society's H.Q. and museum. Again, like the colours, the busy roof-lines, the porch, the history. I'd guess the original house might well be the one in the middle, the porch house being built on at the front of the first as the original owner became more affluent. Just a guess, we didn't stop.

Love this. A very simple box construction, enlivened by a pillared porch with ornate detailing. Micro-house, but pretty in pink.

This one's not in Senoia, I think it might be Tomball, Texas, more modern, not a patch on the fancy ones above, but...

RDG's sister's place, a house built to look, externally, somewhat like a barn, but internally, an interesting mix of levels, full and half-height spaces. Vertiginous bookshelves. Top marks: I like it.

This one's a modern house, but incorporating a lot of those features I like, porches, decks, changes in roofline, levels, surrounded by greenery (RDG planned the landscaping, it's her professional qualification, Landscape Architect, clever woman!)
The house is built on sloping land, so there's a big basement below, Ha, yours truly looks at it, thinks "pottery, workshop!", the garage has space above. It's for sale, Newnan, Georgia.
And no. I can't afford it.

My aspirations might be better confined to a crumbling trailer-home in the woods.

So. All of the above are houses I like for varying reasons. Many are older houses, with history and stories attached, Porches are a factor. In the various parts of the country that I visited, a major factor for much of the year is heat. More modern houses seem to have very little thought given to passive energy efficiency, they rely on powered air-con totally.
But the earlier builders didn't have access to whole-house refrigeration, and so they designed their houses to take advantage of shade. Simply by building porches, in the sides facing the most of the day's sun, you can keep walls and windows in shadow, and dramatically reduce solar gain.
Energy efficiency matters as much in hot climates as it does in cold ones, and without getting into global warming and renewable resource preaching, it makes sense to build passive energy efficiency in, because both cooling and heating cost you money.  Yes, I appeal not to your sense of not despoiling the planet, because, let's face it, the reality is that most people don't really care, but we all would prefer to keep our money from being given to sheikhs so they can buy Ferraris, because they have the oil and we need it to keep our houses cool. Okay. That argument didn't work, but its 1:30 in the morning and my brain's slowing.
let it just be said, I have an interest in zero-energy-input building, passive houses, and my travels have led me to thinking a lot on the subject.
We humans are capable of building houses which require little or no electricity or fuel to stay warm or cool, at very little difference in cost from less efficient buildings.
Somehow, our current construction methods fall far short of what might be deemed desirable.

A story in the news, just before I left, was about deaths in the Houston area, related to the heat. It was said of at least two victims "They died because their air-conditioning units had been stolen". And the news report went on to say how poorer people couldn't afford the running costs. Which led me to thinking just how recent air-con really is, especially for the less well-off, and yet, Texas, the south, was colonised and thrived, long before refrigeration.
Maybe they died of heat back then too, of course some did, but at least they had the sense to build porches out, to shadow the walls of their homes, and designed their houses to allow passive cooling. Which seems not to be the norm now.
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  1. oooooo, I liked that yellow house, too! It's in Senoia. My sister's house is uber-cool. My parents' house - too much maintenance!! My fav is still the little pink house - I like the idea of building a small house but maximizing its interior spaces with built-in shelves and cupboards and things! Of course there needs to be pottery workshop and a car workshop, too, I'm thinking...


  2. I think I like picture number 2 the best, although I would bet you are wrong about the tree - it's at least 200 years old and can remember the area long before there were any house there, I'd wager. :) It may not have been hugely smaller either. It was big enough that they left it when the house was built.

    I agree with your passive heating/cooling assessment. A/C isn't that old, although the principle is quite old. I remember taking a drive through the South once for the purpose of just touring and photographing antebellum houses that have been restored and are open for tours. This would have been in Louisiana. St. Francisville and around Baton Rouge. (You really should force yourself off I-10 next time you go through there.) A couple near New Orleans. Anyway, I was struck by how they all had big porches on both stories, and huge double hung windows which would have be raised by the "servants" each day to get air circulating. Windows so big you would walk through like a door out onto the porch. On the wasteful end, fireplaces in every room practically.

    Incidentally, many of those big older houses had the kitchens in a detached building near the house, rather than in the house itself, due to fire hazard (and no fire department - very self-sufficient, no?)

    I guess I should have just said that I share your interest in passive energy.

    I find I can't stop here, though: I also remember reading - more recently, 1880s probably - that some of the wealthier nouveau riche had "weight and chain/cable devices" that ran from attic to cellar which ran a generator for electricity. How modern. But how ingenious. Like an 8-day clock, they would lift the weight again (hydraulically or with a chain fall, I suppose, and presto! Electricity for another week! Perhaps the high cost of fuel compared to then will drive us backwards toward simplicity.

  3. You boys forget to add that houses in hot, humid climates were built on post and beams - above ground - to let air flow beneath the houses as well to cool them. Not to mention the traditional dogtrot style that had a built-in breezeway through the center of the house.


  4. Not dogtrot. Shotgun. Jesus.

    Actually that wasn't for breeze down the middle was it? I thought it is because your lots are only about 6 inches wide. :)

    In nawlins anyway.

    But point well taken, and we could certainly design our homes a little more energy friendly today. Low fuel costs spoiled us and made us dumb at the same time. Too late to redesign a gazillion existing homes but should start being smarter on new ones.

  5. I think you're supposed to keep the dogs under the porch unless it is winter. Then they become blankets for the kids. :) Stories from my mama. But they were so poor they had to borrow neighbor dogs. :) Sometime have soubriquet tell the story of how Three Dog Night got its name. He probably doesn't know though...

  6. Oh my.
    Rdg, I like multiple rooms.
    Max: The tree would
    have been there, but less'n half as high and half as broad, I'll bet.
    Your story of the gravity elecricity?
    I don't buy it, light producing apparatus of the day required more power than todays, and generators were less efficient.
    Even with a huge weight, I can't see it producing an appreciable amount of power, electrical plant of the day required steam power or hydro, and ran arc-lights, the filament bulb was a cranky and delicate thing, which burned out in hours or at most, days.
    I remember reading about the separation of kitchens, and the reason for it, yet, as you say, every room had a fireplace and was lit by candles or oil lamps.
    I wonder if they stationed a servant on continual fire-watch in those rooms?
    rdg: Sheesh! I've sat on a bench on the porch of a dogtrot cabin, at Old Baylor, Independence Texas,
    Them posts and beams, well come on, I wasn't seeking to tell the whole story at once... sheesh.

    Max: shotguns is diffrent to dogtrots. She taught me all of that stuff. I'm not sure if you can have a dogtrot shotgun, can't see why not, but them dogs better git out of the way when they hear that shell rackin'.
    As for Three Dog Night, it depends whether warm beats dogbreath.

  7. Shotgun is for the west, Max - you know, you need to be able to open the front door and sight your gun all the way to the back door in one straight line - hence, the shotgun.




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