From Our Webboard
What design features make a house comfortable?
Have plenty of windows for cross ventilation and the front living side of the house should face the south to get the sun in the winter to take advantage of the heat from the sun and the back non living area on the north where it gets the sun in the summer when it is warmer. Also in the winter the north side of the house is colder since there is no sun on that side.
We have high ceilings and low utility bills. Almost no energy is spent heating or cooling. We do not own a heater or a/c. Our home faces south with a large shaded veranda on the south towards the view.
The passive heating and cooling is about all we need. Inside our home rarely gets colder than 68F or hotter than 83F. The shaded south facing veranda is a blessing not a problem. The concrete and brick construction of the homes in the area provide decent insulation and mass for passive heating/cooling. There are a few days where a heater would be nice, but it’s not essential.
For us noise is a bigger issue than climate so don’t ignore that when designing a home (double pained or laminated glass). If anything the good climate provides freedom in design like glass door walls, skylights, and large verandas. The UV radiation is strong here, we ended up putting tinting on the 19 skylights in the living room.
Tough question to answer as it totally depends on your style. I like character in my home. So I have niches and wrought iron rectangular grilled windows. I am not a fan of really high ceilings because, for the couple of months that it is cool at night makes it very hard to heat. I face east but have no windows at all on the north side and am grateful because the sun blasts the north side all summer long. And, as stated above, cross ventilation and good fans are a must.
Our Chapala centro home faced south, was large and had three interior patios, which provided light and cross ventilation to all rooms. The north side had a full length veranda with screens and a doggie door. East and west walls were common with other homes. There was parking for two or more cars in a courtyard off the main street, plus two other garages off a privada, with space for three or more additional cars; an important consideration in Chapala or Ajijic, where streets may be crowded. We did add gas taps in several rooms during remodeling, but used only one radiant propane heater, on low, in the living room, as using the fireplace was too hot most of the time & good hardwood is very expensive.
North/South orientation. Windows in the right location to provide cross ventilation. We have a long hallway with doors at both ends and are grateful for the lovely breeze. (Just the same as when I was a child in South Louisiana!)
I like interior patios and we have several. I like skylights, we have several.
We happen to have a lot of storage capacity in the kitchen, which is great.
I will think I am in heaven if I can have an interior patio. We aren’t looking for a particularly large house, so I don’t know if interior patios will otherwise fit what we need. Of course it would be great for cat containment (I worry about them climbing plants against exterior walls, and escaping). Of course, sometimes the interior courtyard flooded in my Tunisian house, and water spilled over into interior spaces.
Comfort for me is the kitchen; I bake at least once per week and often will prepare meals ahead and freeze for those days when we just are too busy. We saw many houses that the kitchen was, shall I say, meager. New meaning for galley kitchen. For some that works but not me.
I like high ceilings for the feeling of space, many houses here with those. I like a nice large veranda and large garden space. And at least one room that is quite large. My house has all these. I also like an interior room that is open to the air where I can hear the rain. Those are somewhat common here too, not, unfortunately, in my little slice of heaven. My house doesn’t have windowed space open on the south where the sun can burn it’s way in. I am grateful for that. I think windowed space on the north would be ideal for allowing light. A light house is important to me. Mine has skylights that bring in the light quite well.
For me a covered mirador is essential. A place to keep cool on hot days. A great view. And a place to hang my laundry if it is raining (otherwise I use my clothsline). Cross ventilation in the house is essential. As is openess and brightness. I need privacy from the neighbours on my property and a good view.
Hmmm – those lovely breezes, especially in the summer. We too have the super high ceilings and walls of glass. On those walls the “shear” fabric billows with the breezes. Also lots of green around to clean the air, our community has many mature, gigantic trees- over 40 years old. Many people from the town and lakeside take a deep breath of air when they visit, or deliver, – and it is not because we smell nice, or are burning some magical incense. To check for breezes, look for the buzzards circling above – they are gliding the thermals, they know where the fresh air is.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com