What Kind of House Do You Drive?

Is your house a Yugo or a Mercedes? Would you rather your house was a Prius? How about a Tesla?

Before we talk about houses, let’s talk about cars. With cars it is generally considered obvious: you get what you pay for. There are quality levels associated with cars brands and price tags. 

But what does 'quality' mean?  Generally ‘quality’ in a car refers to the power of the engine, how solid it is, safety records, the beauty of the interior, and, of course, the overall driving experience. 

Traditionally, in America, ‘quality’ in cars has not been gauged by fuel efficiency, nor has it been measured by the amount of time the car spends in the shop. An Audi might get 18 miles to the gallon and be in the shop constantly, while the lowly Corolla gets nearly 40 miles to the gallon and goes for 200,000 miles with nary a trip to the mechanic.

In the last 10 years or so a change has been happening. The Hummer has been discontinued. Giant SUVs are becoming less of the norm. People are choosing energy efficiency, and not just to save the earth. Suddenly the Prius is a respected car. Why spend a fortune – never mind a good chunk of your time- at the gas tank? Why own a car that continually needs to go to the shop? Shouldn’t quality mean an awesome high-performance product that has exceptional efficiency and low maintenance and really is a flawless product on every level? (Hello, Tesla!)

Shouldn’t your house be the same? The great architect Le Corbusier thought a house should be ‘A Machine for Living’. Other architects have used the idea of bio-mimicry for their analogy. Basically the concepts are similar. A great machine like a living organism is a super-efficient, self-modulating, low maintenance system.

When people talk about ‘Green Building’ I think ‘quality’. I have even shied away from the term Green Building in recent years. To me, building green is summed up nicely by a term I learned form a Native American out west:  ‘walking forward into the past’. What if we use the latest technological developments in building and the old school knowledge of how to build well and create the most efficient and elegant ‘Machines for Living’ possible?

In the old days, a house was built of local materials, took advantage of the sun and any natural wind blocks, related to its natural surroundings and was insulated, cooled and heated appropriately for its climate. They worked as efficiently as they could with the technology they had and they lasted a very long time.

In the recent 60 years- starting with the mass production of the post war era- that was all lost. Suddenly the same exact house was built for every state in the nation. And then those houses just kept getting bigger and cheaper. Quality was lost and replaced by what I think is a very poor notion of what a house should be.

It’s time to turn things around. Start fresh. For many years now a lot of us have been guiding the residential building industry ‘forward into the past’. Our goals: optimal energy efficiency, longevity with low maintenance, coalescence with nature and inhabitant happiness. Like a living organism or a great machine, when things are done befittingly, they add up to a beautiful product. 

But doesn't it cost a lot more money? Not necessarily. When we design we focus on:

1.quality of construction = energy efficiency + low maintenance

2.excellence of spacial experience and use = smaller overall square footage

3.light and air quality= less energy use and higher indoor health and a naturally cleaner environment.

4. health, beauty and textural experience of materials and products = a well loved, longer lasting home.

All of these things if planned well and executed properly may result in no or little up front additional cost and a lot less operational cost over time.

We don't design huge houses. We design extremely high quality houses of more modest size. Yes we understand that traditionally the size of your house was a status symbol. For some that will always be true(think Ferrari). But for many the quality of your house and the amazing energy efficiency of your house is the new status symbol...like a really nice new BMW X6 Hybrid.