The last two weeks have been crazy with college work and assignments. I had to finish two architecture design assignments. I’ve actually enjoyed one of them a lot: I had to design two cabins in two opposite climate types. So I chose to have one in a very cold climate and one in a hot arid climate. I also had to choose the actual area in the world where the sites would be placed.
I think my American friends would be happy to know that I chose two locations in the USA. Most other people chose locations here in Australia, but I wanted to be different and I do like the States a lot. Oh, and I didn’t think that Australia really had an extreme enough cold climate to challenge me (Hobart, Tasmania is cold, but compared to the coldest parts in the States it is positively mild!)
After a lot of browsing on wikipedia and google map searching I ended up choosing
Idaho Falls, Idaho for my (properly) cold climate,and
Fresno, California for my hot arid climate.
I haven’t actually been to either of these locations (would like to see it), though I have driven through a lot of California (Death-Valley, southern, coastal between LA and San Fransisco, and Lake Tahoe area), and up the western side of Idaho to Glacier, Montana.
Back to the assignment:
The whole point of this assignment was to impliment passive design principles (using no or minimal energy) to make a cabin comfortable in different climates. It is with this part that my girlfriend, Devin, and I had some interesting conversations. You see she is from Minnesota and is a firm believer in heaters and an electric blanket. I tried to explain with all my architectural and passive design knowledge how a house could be made more comfortable with the proper use of sunlight, thermal mass, insulation, passive solar heaters, etc. but the only response I would get is. “We WILL have heaters in our house one day!”
For the sake of the assignment I had to defend my ideas, though I think Devin might have a very good point. For a place which can go below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius)…Heaters please! So I guess we’ll have to come up with a compromise and just do both – very good design with all the passive goodies and Devin’s heater when they just can’t cope by themselves.
Then again I have never been very liking of cold weather so I’ll probably stay clear of Idaho Falls when the time comes to build our house one day. Maybe, California or Queensland Australia instead 🙂
Devin’s 5 degree (F) comfort zone didn’t help when it came to the hot climate either. I tried my best with thick high thermal mass (concrete) walls, insulated windows, evaporative cooling, and night purging with breezes…but the word “Air-conditioner” kept popping up from the background.
Here are the panels for my designs as well (sorry for the poor quality photos, had to take quick snaps with the iPhone). Feel free to comment on what I did, and if you have ideas how I could improve on these designs please share. (Please note: this was a passive design exercise, not an aesthetic or spatial use one)
So in order to support my or Devin’s views in keeping a house comfortable – please comment on your views, ideas, and experiences in living in such extreme climatic conditions.
If there is anyone here from Fresno, CA, or Idaho Falls…shout “YAY!”