Holly and I had talked about how we liked L-shaped or U-shaped houses with courtyards that would allow you to be outside but have privacy. That’s where my research on floor plans started. My stepfather, one of the early leading architects in environmental design, took me to see several Frank Lloyd Wright houses and I was captivated, especially by the Fallingwater house.
I worked for his design-build company in high school and college and learned a lot from him. So, when it came time to design our own house my research included revisiting FLW designs and floor plans. I found this L-shaped plan for the Jacob’s house built in 1936. We liked the open living/dining/kitchen (which I opened up even more) and the bedroom wing of the house and of course the possibility for a courtyard inside the L shape. I modified the plan to our needs and ease of building in Nicaragua. Also I made many modifications to the window placements and roof to adapt it to the tropical climate (see the cool roof post).
Then I added a long workshop/bodega that completes the U-shape with an inner courtyard. The U-shape is oriented like a funnel that captures the offshore breezes (as it turns out, too well) and the notch in the back funnels the onshore wind into the courtyard. Many windows on both sides of the predominant onshore/offshore wind pattern provide ample ventilation. I designed the house to not require air conditioning and we are comfortable without it. Other passive cooling feature include large roof overhangs and the addition of a partially shaded courtyard dipping pool. The pool maintains a cooler temperature (sometimes too cool for Holly and Luna) than ambient air during the day and the offshore wind picks up this cool air and brings it into the house.
There were many other design considerations that went into the house, some that were particular to our needs that would be different for another client or another piece of land. It’s important that each design be specific to the client and the land and for new custom designs that is where we start the process.
How will you live in the house and interact with the outside environment? Contact me to ask about designing an environmentally integrated home. firstname.lastname@example.org