A house is a house is a house. They typically include spaces for sleeping, cooking, and all the other tasks involved with living. The walls are vertical, the floors are horizontal, and the roof is somewhere in between. It’s a great place to keep you and your stuff out of the elements. The interiors become a reflection of the tastes and design sense of the inhabitants, and the exterior is a reflection of the tastes and design sense of the developer. So is there a problem designing and constructing a house – the interior as well as the exterior and any green features – that is too unique?
And by unique I don’t mean style. Visit any recent New Urbanism neighborhood (despite its location within the country) and you’ll find Victorians adjacent to Tudors adjacent to Georgian adjacent Egyptian adjacent to Santa Barbara adjacent to Inuit. What I mean by unique is a construction method that’s part ad-hoc and part regionalism. This method saves materials from being placed in a landfill, responds well to the local climate (thus saving energy), and saves lots of money. It sounds like a win-win situation, but could you get it financed?
The largest influence on our cities and neighborhoods isn’t designers, or building code officials, or contractors, or even city planners – it’s the banker. All of our stores and homes and offices follow the golden rule – he who has the gold makes the rules. Everything we build has to be financed, and the bankers lending that money don’t like different and unpredictability.
This article is a great example of being too different is not financially feasible, at least in the eyes of a (gross generalization) banker. It’s the reason that for the last twenty years our neighborhoods look the same, our strip malls look the same, and our office buildings look the same. (Funny how the primary engine for capitalism has led to a built environment that embodies a communistic appearance of sameness and blandness – just my two cents.)
A house should be as unique as the location it’s built and its inhabitants, despite the golden rule.
This goes back to the introduction of Sarah Susanka’s “Not So Big House” ( the original book)–she mentioned how hard it was to get a construction loan because her house plan didn’t have a formal dining room. She finally got the loan by getting the loan officer to talk about his own home and how frustrating it was to have a party–everyone gathers in the kitchen and not the dining room. When those words passed the loan officer’s lips, he understood what Susanka was doing…and approved the loan.
I find it amusing that mortgage companies are clinging to anachronistic set of rules of “what is a house” when there’s nothing typical anymore about houses and housing. They way they look, what people do in them, and how we pay for them is changing, and the valuation of the mortgage business will need to catch up to that. If they don’t, I’m betting that the same ingenuity that built the tire-wall house will also find a banker-free way of financing it.