Small is Beautiful (and sustainable)

Eliminating excess can be one of the most sustainable things you can do and maybe a great goal for the new year.  If you think of the elegant designs of old wood sailboats every square inch is used in an interesting and creative way, the bigger a sailboat gets the less efficient it is to operate – a larger crew is required to run the ship. A house can be thought of the same way.

My family and I live in a 900 square foot home.  I feel that this is fairly modest size for a family of 3 with two large dogs, but even with this relatively small scale I am constantly amazed at how much time we spend cleaning, painting and just doing general upkeep around the house.    I could not imagine having a home that is 3000 sqft or more.  We would be slaves to the home or we would be required to hire a bigger crew.  It stops being efficient for the way we want to live our lives.  Not to mention the efficiency of the building, energy and water wise.

Which does make me think back to Sailboat design.  My grandparents lived on a sailboat for over 30 years.  People always thought that it must have been so difficult to live on a 36′ boat for that long, but when you were on that boat you understood the appeal.   We used a lamp to keep us warm at night, the space was so small it didn’t take much energy to warm the whole space.  A small solar panel on the deck of the boat provided all the electricity needed to turn on the lights at night.  We spent no time picking up the place, our time was spent sailing and taking advantage of the outdoor unconditioned spaces where the breezes whipped through and took away the heat of the day.  We bought fresh produce from local markets about every other day – because there was no place to store bulk items, but this also kept us eating fresh produce all the time, not to mention the fresh fish that was consumed.  There was a place for everything on their boat – you never had to look through a junk drawer to find a calculator or deck of cards. The boat was designed to work with the environment, apart from the minimal gas that was used to get in and out of the marinas – we used the sun and the wind to get around. I am not saying we should all live on sailboats, though I was starting to convince myself! A building that is designed with the efficiency of a sailboat would be an elegant building design.

When the design of a building is considered holistically and excess is eliminated, elegant solutions arise.  For more information regarding holistic building design, drop us a note! We would love to hear from you.


About clarkrichardson

Clark Richardson Architects practice design with the goal of creating contemporary architectural experiences through form, sustainability and detail. We specialize in green building, sustainable residential and commercial design and have architectural studios in Santa Fe and Austin and a design studio New Orleans.
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