Figuring out a floor plan

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The floor plan of a home can impact its energy-efficiency capabilities. Whether you build a large or a small house, a few general design principles apply:

I Go with a central design. Central designs, in which the home is oriented around a central nucleus, work much better than houses with wings, which are difficult to heat and cool and require more maintenance.

i Design your house with heat movement in mind. Open airways, for example, make a house seem more spacious, as well as ensuring natural air movement. Avoid long, meandering hallways and rooms with odd angles and high, unventilated ceilings. Basically, you want to exploit the chimney and greenhouse effects, and optimize the movement of natural breezes by venting appropriately (all of which are explained in detail in Chapter 13).

i Place rooms in such a way as to maximize the positives and camouflage the negatives. For example, a western exposure is typically hot and uncomfortable in the late afternoons and evenings, so putting the garage on that side of the house creates a buffer. Or perhaps the view from one side of the house is unattractive, in which case the garage should go there. You can also achieve a buffer from cold winter winds by placing the garage on the windward side of the house. Likewise, family rooms generally work best on a southern exposure because that's where your family is likely to spend the most time and get the most benefit from solar potential. Use screened-in porches to shade windows on the east and west sides of the house.

Consider time of day versus room usage in your layout. Are you in a home office all day? Do you want to wake up in the sunshine? A kitchen on the eastern front is nice. A master bedroom on the northern front stays cooler, quieter, and darker.

1 Arrange your windows strategically. Sunrooms and windows are always best on the south side, where they can take advantage of the sun exposure. By contrast, the light on the northern side of the structure is cold and dull; windows on that side don't allow any heat from the sun in but do let heat escape out. So put closets, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other such rooms, which can tolerate poor lighting and smaller windows, on the north side. By reducing windows on the northern exposure, you can increase insulation.

1 Use overhangs deliberately. Energy-efficient houses always have well-designed overhangs over the windows, porches, and doorways, particularly in the family room.

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