Well-Built Dumb Home

Well-Built Dumb Home

Proud Green Home Serenbe LG Squared

One of the smartest things ever said about building a new home, was about something dumb:

Well Built Dumb Home Mike Rogers Omstout Consulting

“A Well-Built Dumb Home beats the Smart Thermostat Every Time” – Mike Rogers, OmStout Consulting

Mike said this in response something I shared on LinkedIn, which was a blog post written by the British architect, Elrond Burrell, known for his PassivHaus musings, where he discusses 12 Things He Learnt From The Passivhaus Designer’s Manual. Here’s it is:

Well Built Dumb Home Chris Laumer-Giddens

The more that’s talked, taught and “learnt” about PassivHaus and/or Passive House, the more it should be noted that it’s just design and construction done well, and in concert, that gets a building to meet the requirements. Reading through Elrond Burrell’s post about what he learned from the Passivhaus Designer’s manual, you might see what I’m talking about. Relative to the expectations of most building codes and departments, and the people buying the homes, #PassivHaus and #PassiveHouse requirements “raise the bar”. BUT, the way I see it, it’s just a job well done

I received a “Totally Agree” from Elrond, and in response to Mike’s comment about the well-built dumb home, another well-respected industry leader, Robert Bean, whose musings about architecture, anthropology and radiant based heating, ventilation and air conditioning can be found on his weekly journal, Bean’s Blog, followed up Mike’s comment with:

Well Built Dumb Home Robert Bean

Because he did! The point Mike makes in his comment, and that Jodi and I agree with and practice every day, is that not a single smart technology will outperform or outlast smart design and craftsmanship. A smart thermostat will not outperform or outlast a perfect building enclosure.

Perfect Building Enclosure

Example of A Perfect Residential Building Enclosure

Pairing “dumbed-down”, very simple and user-friendly technologies in a home that lasts, and is comfortable and healthy for 500-years or more, will “win” every time. In the eyes of the “smart” professional, and more importantly in the eyes of the “smart” homeowner, the dumber the home is, the happier everyone is, and forever.

What Qualifies as “Well-Built”?

Well-Built, at least the way we see it, means spending more time and effort on the details during design, as well as more time in the field building those details. The investment goes in to making the house durable, comfortable, healthy, simple to use, and self-sufficient. In a well-built home, the interior environment is comfortable because of the “passive” nature of the building enclosure. In fact, there’s NOTHING the homeowner can do to change this. They don’t need to, it happens passively. Hence, Passive House or PassivHaus.  a)Passive House and PassivHaus are not the same as Passive Solar. Passive solar is allowing the sun’s heat to passively travel through glass to heat the air in the interior spaces of a home. This is a very different and separate practice, and it’s not appropriate for every climate. Passive House and Passivhaus approach is very specific to each climate, and works everywhere

In a dumb, passive home, when mechanical assistance is needed, it doesn’t require lots of training for the homeowner, that will likely be forgotten soon after it’s “learned”, for lack of practice. Just think of a foreign language learned in high school. Other than how to say “beer”, “wine”, “hello” and the random exclamation, do we remember much without practice? Yes, some do retain better than others. I’m just sayin’.

Idiot Proof is Not the Only Reason for a Dumb Home

Just this past week, one of our clients sent me this article in a text saying, “Here’s another good reason to AVOID “smart” technologies”.

The Government Just Admitted it Will Use Smart Home Devices for Spying, by 

While the goal of such “spying” is to track down the bad people, which, thankfully, none of our clients are, there is a looming concern that “Big Brother” has access to good people’s lives, too. Whether you care, agree or disagree with it, believe it to be true or not, this is a real thing for many who value privacy. The dumber the house, car, or any personal possession is, the happier some people are. This same client, in fact, said:

I want my home as dumb as possible

In Praise of the Dumb Home

I’m not the first to write about the “dumb home”. In 2014, Lloyd Alter, Mr. Treehugger.com, himself, wrote a very intriguing post about the overwhelming number of and complicatedness of available smart technologies. From Bosch wanting to Wire our Windows, to a Wi-Fi Connected Crock Pot. He includes some very good advice in his post, from Low-Tech Magazine writer, Kris DeKrees, that we also like to give to our clients:

Insulation of the body is much more energy efficient than insulation of the space in which this body finds itself. Insulating the body only requires a small layer of air to be heated, while a heating system has to warm all the air in a room to achieve the same result.

In other words:

Insulation: First the Body, Then the Home

Thanks for stopping by and reading today’s post! Now, let’s be smart and build a dumb home!

– Chris Laumer-Giddens

Chris Laumer-Giddens, LG Squared

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

a. Passive House and PassivHaus are not the same as Passive Solar. Passive solar is allowing the sun’s heat to passively travel through glass to heat the air in the interior spaces of a home. This is a very different and separate practice, and it’s not appropriate for every climate. Passive House and Passivhaus approach is very specific to each climate, and works everywhere

One Response so far.

  1. Phil Allsopp says:

    Good article and very good points. Major problem is the build itself. If aircraft, cars or smart phones were designed and built using the same disjointed and “build it on the cheap” mentality that pervades the construction and real estate speculation sector, nothing much would work and our world would be one heck of lot more dangerous than it is already. Our species deserves better and clearly needs to do far better than this.

    Its critical that architects pave the way to a saner, more efficient model for providing habitats of all types. To do this, the entire business and professional model of how architects operate and the spectrum of design, assembly and manufacturing they are actively engaged in has to be reshaped. Hoping that the construction and real estate sectors or government will “permit” this is not the way to go. I think some very bold, well capitalized moves are necessary and whole new categories of enterprises, jobs and careers can result…..and we don’t have decades to wait until the present day status quo catches up with the innovation that is coming our of design professionals daily.

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