Making Good Homes: Conditions and Challenges

by Rolf Kielman, February 21, 2013

At TruexCullins we’ve spent decades contemplating the necessary requirements for good places to live. Twenty years ago we designed a series of modestly sized, affordable and energy efficient homes for a statewide competition sponsored by Housing Vermont. Now, we are picking up that banner again, developing the design for a prototypical home that meets all of the requirements and expectations of a modern-day family in an affordable and efficient package.

First, let’s define the criteria. What are our basic needs for the places where we live? The basic components of a house in Vermont include spaces to sleep, prepare and eat food, and wash ourselves and our clothes. Beyond these human necessities, we place great importance on having a comfortable place to socialize and entertain. Conversely, our homes are increasingly places where we work and study. The spaces just outside our homes are also valued, whether it’s a porch for protection from the elements or a garden within which to grow food and play. Finally, an auxiliary building such as a garage or shed is added to store vehicles and outdoor equipment. All of these components have come to be viewed as essential parts of our homes.

Second, we must come to term with the challenges we face. Externally, the need for shelter from our environment is perhaps more challenging now than it has ever been. Our climate is demanding and unpredictable, from the cold of winter to the heat and humidity of summer. Global climate change has brought an increase in extreme weather events that test the endurance of our structures, from flood to drought to the frequently returning 100-year storm. Meanwhile, the cost of fuels is accelerating, in economic costs and environmental costs. The physical land and materials with which we build our homes are also increasingly rare and expensive to come by.

We look forward to addressing these challenges over the next several months, continuing our exploration of designs for homes that sufficiently meet our needs while abundantly filling our souls. Ultimately, our goal is a product that could be acquired in any number of forms: a set of complete architectural plans for purchase at a modest cost; a set of component parts available for purchase with a manual for assembly; or even a complete home, pre-made and brought to the site ready for placement and occupancy.

In the meantime, you can expect that we will share our thoughts, present some designs, and keep you informed of our progress. We hope you enjoy this creative journey.

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