Beat The Heat: Original Green Architect Steve Mouzon Says, "Condition People First"

Another in our series on how to design with climate in mind.

They say that the real estate market is finally recovering, and that builders are beginning to build again. If this is true, it would be wonderful if this time they could do a better job of it. Some builders, like KB Homes, are trying to build greener by putting solar panels on the roofs, the "Gizmo Green" approach. But is there a better way?

Architects Steve and Wanda Mouzon looked at the suburban prototype from a different angle, for a design competition in Texas they entered for fun, knowing that they couldn't win. They hated the program, which "was classic Gizmo Green, focusing solely on better equipment and materials, and inexplicably banning several passive measures. " So they offered their critique of the program.

One of the most important principles that Steve discusses is the idea of Conditioning people first. He writes:

Briefly, the idea is that if you entice people outside, they get more acclimated to the local environment, needing less heating or cooling when they return indoors. We did several things in SmartDwelling II to entice both the occupants and the neighbors outside. First, we designed the entire site as either outdoor rooms or passages.

Each outdoor room and passage has distinct uses. The Inner Court just off the Keeping Room is the outdoor living room. The Master Garden is a small, very private outdoor room just off the master suite where the parents can have a bit of time to themselves.

Note the T shaped plan. This house is small, at 1042 square feet, but it doesn't feel it.

Building a smaller footprint starts many virtuous cycles. For example, smaller floor plans are much easier to cross-ventilate because they are small enough that you can give every room windows on at least two different walls, enhancing air flow. And light from two sides isn't just more beautiful, it helps to daylight the room so that you likely don't need to cut on the lights until evening.

A steel roof is used, and not just for looks.

The roofing is a major passive cooling device. Mill-finish 5V Crimp metal roofing was the predominant roofing material for many years in the South because it bounces roughly 90% of the sun's heat back up to the sky before it even gets into the building envelope.

I love how every inch of the property is used, either for activities or for growing food, with a front yard full of amber waves of grain. Builders could learn a lot from studying the Smart Dwelling at Mouzon Design.

Beat The Heat: Original Green Architect Steve Mouzon Says, "Condition People First"
Before you condition the air, how about conditioning the people to the climate? Architect Steve Mouzon shows us how.

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