Don’t Judge a Design by its Facade

Design Review Board Comic

Courtesy David Friesen

Between the two of us, Jodi and I have presented our architectural designs to more design review boards than we can count. College attempts to prepare us for this kind of thing by putting you through several of them (then, they’re called “juries”) every semester. At the final jury we take the most criticism. The hope is that we learn from it and always feel challenged to be a better architect.

Later, in our real jobs, our juries consist of our client(s) and sometimes design review boards that are set up by municipalities, national organizations or neighborhood associations. These design review boards are usually made up of folks well-versed in architecture and design and they make sure guidelines are met. Typically, the guidelines address things like architectural styles, property setbacks, whether a house should have a porch or whether it can have a garage, materials and finishes permitted on the exterior of a home, the height of the home, window patterns, color and more.  Mostly, they address what’s happening on the outside, or the “look” of the building, which is very important.

A prestigious approval!

We recently received conceptual design approval for this house in the Serenbe Community near Atlanta, Georgia. The community website does a great job of promoting sustainability of current and future development, and promises that all homes are “built to the standards of the EarthCraft House Program. Excellent!

The house below, the one we’re designing and building with The Imery Group, is going to be the first “Proud Green Home” anywhere, will be EarthCraft House and ENERGY STAR (v3) certified and may be the first at Serenbe to be “Net Zero” which means it’s annual energy consumption will be zero.

Don't Judge a Design by it's facade

The Serenbe design review board is made up of a great group of people who really know what good design is. When we got their approval, it certainly made our day! We were honored to get their blessing!

It’s more than just a pretty face.

After reading the list from the board about what to prepare for final review, I wondered is that it? Are there no requirements to show how sustainable it is, or how we made it so energy efficient that the annual energy consumption will be ZERO?!?! Are they just taking our word for it?

Here is the list we received for the requirements for final design review.

DRB Comments

There are a lot of communities that promote and demand sustainability and energy efficiency, but who’s checking to make sure we do it? Design review boards need people well-versed in building science, energy efficiency and sustainability to keep architects and builders in check. It has to be given the same significance as the color, the scale and the “style” of the home.

Design Review Board Cartoon

Courtesy Roger K. Lewis


-written by Chris Laumer-Giddens, Registered Architect, Building Science Professional, HVAC Designer, Certified HERS Rater, and LEED AP

2 Responses so far.

  1. Lisa @TheDecorGirl says:

    Wow Chris, just the drawings look great. I can’t wait to see the final pics. Certainly you’ll keep posting about the progress? 🙂


  2. Absolutely, Lisa! And, thanks!
    We’ll be following this house very closely. There will also be a lot of attention paid to it on
    I’ll be posting plenty o’ pics and write-ups!
    Thanks, again!

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