The journey of architecture began with the need for shelter. By the time the 21st century rolled in, the design of residence had undertaken an incredible journey, from the caves with wood logs to clean, sterile modern homes, and now even AI-controlled pod homes! Residence design is the staple product of many architectural firms, where its requirements, planning strategies, and elevational styles are almost solidified, to the point firms churn out residences like safety pins in a factory. But often, these fixed processes are based on preconceived notions about the occupant’s behavior and not actual feedback. Therefore, it can lower the quality of residents’ life resulting in them retrofitting the residence for a more comfortable stay. 

Here we look at some common points architects miss while designing a residence:

1. Lifestyle 

The contemporary spatial arrangement of bedroom-hall-kitchen has been standardized almost all over the globe. Though this one glove fits all approach might depersonalize the experience of most occupants. Often, architects don’t make an attempt to understand the needs of family members of various age groups and just follow the standard brief. For example, the residence of a couple in academia with two teenage kids and the residence of an athletic couple with a toddler might be different in their spatial requirements. One might need a fully-equipped study while the other might need a large lawn with a batting cage. An architect needs to design to accommodate the lifestyle needs of the owners, not just articulated aspirations.

Lifestyle  - Sheet1
A residence with 3 kids features a slide and reading areas ©
Lifestyle  - Sheet2
A video game center in a residence ©

2. Emotions

The architectural typology of a residence plays a huge role in our emotional life. It pertains to the feelings of safety, comfort, warmth, desire, and peace. Home is often a safe space for processing our experiences. The different rooms of the house might have distinct emotional associations for the user according to the type of memories people make there. Architects rarely consider the fact that a residence acts as a backdrop to crucial experiences of the client. The emotional effect of the residence can be controlled by the usage of material, the scale of interior spaces, and the colors. Well placed openings and connection to nature also play a positive role in the mental health of the residents. 

A living room exuding warmth with the use of textures and materials ©

3. Inclusive Design

Architects hardly use principles of inclusive design for a residence, but there is always a possibility of the residents aging or even meeting with accidents. In such cases, it becomes crucial that the house employs universal design principles for better usability in the case there is an elderly family member, toddler, or physically-handicapped occupant. Less variation in levels, use of ramps at crucial junctures, large spaces for circulation can improve the user experience of all groups. 

Inclusive Design
A disabled-friendly living area ©

4. Lifecycle Cost and Maintenance

In the attempt to design a creative magnum opus without reliable post-occupancy surveys, architects often disregard the life cycle cost of the residence. These issues extend to difficulty in maintaining the landscape features, furniture that might not be durable and sturdy, materials that don’t age well, or the daily cost of operation during the period the house is occupied. Ignoring these factors can, later on, create dents in the owner’s pockets and reflect poorly on the architect. 

Lifecycle Cost and Maintenance
Incorporating life cycle thinking in design ©

5. Utility

In terms of design, the utility spaces often last on the list of priority or an afterthought. The primary habitable rooms take precedence. Architects focus on them to showcase their creativity, and utility spaces get sidelined. The spaces, like the washing and drying area, generators, etc., play a crucial role in smoothening the lives of residents. Out of direct sight or not, they must be efficiently planned with taking all concerned services into consideration. The same applies to storage spaces. Oversight on storage areas leads to cluttered homes.

A well-designed laundry room ©

6. Context

Ignoring the context, in terms of intangible cultural elements, building morphology, and natural topography can lead to residences that stand at odds with their surroundings. Often, architects overlook one of these factors in favor of the creative flow, style elements, or indulging whims of the clients that are negotiable. Architects must educate their clients so that the structure adds qualitatively to the built environment and merges harmoniously with nature.

Fallingwater is one of the best examples of context-responsive residences ©

7. Security

Security is also an overlooked factor in residence design. The design must integrate seamlessly with the security solutions for the client’s convenience, ensuring that large fenestration and transparency don’t result in break-ins or the loss of assets for the user. Architects can work closely with the client and vendors to ensure that the residence is safe and private with well-placed security features.

We have moved into the age of smart security systems ©

8. Sustainability

In the present time of global warming sustainability, and green buildings are no longer the choice but requirements to cater to climatic change. Often sustainable practices are only employed if the client demands, but it has become the need of the hour for architects to educate the client about concepts like energy consumption, the carbon footprint of the building, and employ corrective measures.

Sustainable home ©

9. Flexibility and Additive features

It has been a well-established fact that families grow, and their requirements might increase. This fact is in contrast with the wish of architects wanting to create timeless architectural pieces. A residence requires scope for extension and certain flexibility. Architects can even produce comprehensive phased development solutions to maintain the residence’s architectural integrity in the long run. 

Flexibility and Additive features
Belapur Housing: An incremental solution ©

10. Passive Design Strategies

Architects often rely on HVAC services for climate control. The factors like sun path, wind chart, heat gain, etc. are often not taken into consideration for small residences, which later on incurs huge energy costs. Architects can turn to vernacular materials and techniques like Trombe walls, sunrooms, etc. to counter extreme climates and create comfortable interiors.

Passive Design Strategies
Passive solar design elements should be used ©

Pragya Shukla, a young architect, is currently practicing in city of Lucknow. Her interests include reading, hanging out with dogs and cruising the city for a good cup of tea. She aspires to write extensively on socio-cultural aspects of architecture and have a practice based on reasearch and social advocacy.

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