Home design is closely related to the planning and design of the community in which the home resides. For the past six decades
there has been a steady decline in the design of communities and homes that meet the needs of the people who will eventually
reside there. I believe that there is too much homogenization of cookie-cutter plans being indiscriminately plunked into cookie-cutter
developments that are not sensitive to the environment, the topography of the land and the geographic location of the site.
It is time that we as design professionals return to the practice of working with developers and home builders to create livable
communities within our specific regions that make for more comfortable living in a more humanized environment. It doesn't
cost any more to create a sense of place in our communities so that individuals and families can feel at home and that home
is a welcome retreat from the outside world. However, this is a team effort that requires the cooperation of all three members
of the team: the developer, the builder and the design professional. I believe that there is far too much animosity between
these three parties as to who is in charge of the project and that the person holding the checkbook wins the battle. It should
not be a battle of building the fastest, least expensive per square foot house to "get the most bang for your buck." We need
to put the families' needs first and design/build what is best for them.
The stereotypical three-bedroom, two-bath, two-car garage home may work well for most average families, but it does not work
for everyone. Many clients come to me asking why there are no four- and five-bedroom homes on the market in urban areas. The
answer is that most builders and developers do not market to that small segment of the community, and I believe that they
should be flexible enough to address their needs for the appropriate percentage of that population.
Most builders, developers and design professionals are not targeting other segments of the population: those with physical
disabilities and low-income families. You can learn more about how I am addressing the needs of the disabled in the "Universal
Design" page of this site.
I would like to cite two examples that can help change the way we create our lifestyle environment. The first deals with the
community itself and the second deals with the homes within each community.
For many years, developers have been building subdivisions that all look somewhat the same and without much reasoning behind
the design process. For example, there are literally thousands of baby-boom generation subdivisions on flat terrain that have
winding streets, cul-de-sacs and gated entrances with only one way in and the same way out. It may make them seem more private,
but after a while, many people get tired of living there and want change. So they move to another similarly designed subdivision
with the same type of layout and same types of houses, just a different location. Emergency, safety and energy efficiency
are given little or no thought and homes are randomly placed on lots irrespective of orientation and continuity of design.
It also puzzles me that new subdivisions are built by bulldozing all the trees, which are the habitat of much wildlife and
their homes are replaced by ours. Replacing those trees takes years, even generations and the damage done is irrevocable.
In flat terrain areas, communities should be laid out in traditionally historic fashion as was done for centuries before the
automobile began its stranglehold on our lives, choking our sense of neighborhood. Remember, the root word of neighborhood
is "neighbor." How many of us who live in these twisted subdivisions take the time to get to know and appreciate all our neighbors?
Most of us barely acknowledge their existence.
A community designed for a flat location should not be designed and built the same as one for a hilly location, a lakefront
or seaside location, a mountainous plateau or a river valley. Each community should be designed and built with respect for
The second issue relates to the homes designed and built in these subdivisions. National builders move in, build what they
have built everywhere else in the country without regard to the culture of the region, make their profits and move on. They
need to be educated and sensitized to the needs of the regions where they build.
Does it make sense to build a Cape Cod cottage in Albuquerque, New Mexico? No! In fact, it makes no more sense to do that
than to build an adobe pueblo in Hyannis or Nantucket.
Most regions of the U.S. (and most other countries for that matter) have their own unique cultural flavors that make them
unique and different. However, we have become so mobile and transient that we seem to feel that if we move from Brattleboro,
Vermont to Phoenix, Arizona that we have to take our culture and lifestyle with us and force it on the community where we
move. That includes the homes that we want to live in when we get there. Well, it just doesn't work. People who wish to move
from the snowbelt to the sunbelt must learn to accept the culture and climate of their new environment without trying to fit
the proverbial square peg into a round hole.
Many out-of-state clients come to me (here in Florida) and ask me to design a home for them that's just like the one they
left in upstate New York, Michigan, Ohio or some other northern climate. They just don't understand that living is different
here in Florida and the homes we design and build must also be different in order to cope with the different climate and natural