Thursday, October 22, 2009

Space Efficiency: Smaller Can Be Better

In the green building world, we believe the best way to limit energy use, reduce carbon emissions, and save money is to focus on efficiency and conservation. One excellent way to accomplish this is “space planning” -- designing spaces that maximize the effectiveness of the floor area they occupy.

The complexities of working out an efficient floor plan can be quite challenging, but when done right and spaces are stacked properly, the reward is a livable space with exactly the right amount of circulation, volume and storage. And, smaller space means smaller utility bills. A good space-efficient design can save 10 to 20 percent on floor area. Not only does that save on building materials and labor, it also saves on space heating and cooling costs for the lifetime of the home.

An exercise in space efficiency might be as simple as drawing out the furniture on a floor plan to make sure everything fits. Or, it could be detailing a Mud Room with benches, cubbies and pegs to maximize vertical storage in a small room. One of our favorite design elements – that also happens to save space – is the spiral stair, as it typically uses less than one half the square footage of a straight staircase.

Ideally, the best way to maximize the use of floor space is to look at it in 3D. We use 3D modeling software to build the space and then fine tune that model for space efficiency. Very often, this means a room carefully filled in with built-in storage options. It could also involve making sure that the space under the stairs is used wisely.

As in any integrated design process, one must not sacrifice aesthetics or functionality of the home to achieve space efficiency, but should rather balance it as one of the many design criteria.

When starting a new home design, addition or remodel, consider the layout carefully, identify honestly the functions of the rooms and be careful to maximize the use of precious floor space. It’s surprising how space-efficient you can become with a little creativity. And, you’ll be doing your part, as smaller, space-efficient homes with lower energy budgets will be the backbone of our New Energy Economy.

by Steven A. Novy, AIA
Principal, Green Line Architects, PC

published in Mountain House and Home, Fall 2009

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