Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Compact Houses"

I pulled one of my favorite books off the shelf recently for our next LIGTM book club selection. The book is "Compact Houses" by Cristina del Valle, and it focuses on "over fifty houses, each with no more than 1,300 square feet, that are unique for their versatility and ingenuity, and that offer many clever solutions for designing a compact house" (p7).

The book is very well laid out with excellent pictures, cross sections, floor plans and diagrams. You can't build off these plans, but they certainly would be a good start and a great source of ideas.

For years I have been entranced by modern architecture, particularly modular or pre-fab buildings. I would like to have a custom house that is quick to build, made of modular parts, and yet modern and attractive. This type of architecture is commonly found in magazines like "Dwell" and is all over the web, although I tend to rarely find these types of buildings in reality, since they often are impractical when people just want to build what commonly sells.

Some of the houses are as small as 300 feet; it seems that around 800 feet or so is when they become practical for a couple or a very small family (maybe a couple and a dog). The floor plans often feature a lot of natural light & windows and are well integrated into their lot lines.

The house on the cover is my favorite - a single family home and studio in Falkensee, Germany and built in 2003; this house is 1292 feet. I don't know how practical the "all windows" side is, but it certainly looks cool in the book.

I was saddened that so many of the cool houses were in Europe and Asia; very few were in the United States. I don't know if this is something to do with our building codes or the innate practicality of Americans, but I wish that we had more of these in the USA.

If you have a coffee table this is a fun coffee table book; for $35 it will start enough conversations to make it all worth while.

While we try not to talk too much politics here at LITGM I find it odd that more of those that profess worry about the environment don't move into smaller houses; this is the best way to limit your "footprint" as well as to consume less energy. I just like them because they are cool and eye-catching.


Jonathan said...

That is a neat house on the cover. But. No privacy unless they curtain the windows, and then the house loses any spacious feeling it had. Big windows let out heat unless they are double-paned, and let in noise. Maybe it would be OK in a sparsely populated area. Oh yeah, easy to break into. But maybe it's OK. To each his own.

I see pictures of these neat little apartments and houses where everything is arranged perfectly. Then I wonder what happens if the owner decides to get a dog or take up woodworking or buy a big TV or keep a couple of bicycles inside. Everything is so finely tuned and fitted that you'd think the whole place would become cramped and cluttered if you made an unexpected change. Too much work for my taste. I'd rather have some extra space so that I don't have to think about this stuff.

Carl from Chicago said...

Ah... I have a plan for that. A "compact house" in the front and an out building in the back. The out building has a bar, maybe a place to play guitar hero, and ATV or two, and all the rest.

The front house is for show and for sleeping

johnnyj said...

That house is appropriate if you like to be watched...

I'm sure that they're economical if you bought a piece of land and had it wheeled in.

Yeah, You'd have to add on the back of it.

jonathan said...

Definitely an outbuilding with the stuff you mention, and a garage and workshop. Plus the backyard shooting range and barbecue area. The outbuilding would be made of reinforced concrete. I would sleep in it too.

Dan from Madison said...

I also admire these teeny tiny houses. The only way I could do it now is to start over without a wife and kids. Maybe keep the cat.

I think I could live very comfortable with 1200 square feet, with a small out building for my bike. What I would lose out big time though is there would be no place for my workout equipment. I have a treadmill, weight bench, and heavy bag for MT workouts. Need a basement.

Great idea, but tough to implement. And yes, all greens should be forced to live in tiny spaces to practice what they preach. But it is the same as anyone who hates the USA or participates in a demonstration with a giant paper mache Bushitler on their head. No matter how much they hate the USA, they never leave. The rubber never hits the road.

Dan from Madison said...

A site that features a LOT of these types of houses and a lot of other sustainable things is www.inhabitat.com. Once in a while they say somthing snarky about politics, but generally stay away from it and concentrate on recyclable items and concepts. I like it a lot.

Annie said...

No freakin' way.
I even close the blinds to clean my real guns. Can you imagine what kinds of calls SWAT would get if neighbors (or even a passerby) saw my family having Airsoft matches in the living room? By the way, I don't think any of those rooms could be long enough to do that!
That's my fix when I can't get to the range!

johnnyj said...

kind of like the kid I interviewed during the WTO riots, he was holding a "ban Nike" sign...

Guess what kind of shoes he was wearing..?

Gerry from Valpo said...

No problem for me to live in a house that size as long as it is attached to a 4000 sq.ft. garage =)