The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live

The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live

Author(s): Sarah Susanka, Kira Obolensky (Contributor)

Publisher: Taunton Press

Hardcover: 199 pages

ISBN: 1561581305

ISBN-13: 978-1561581306

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When describing a favorite room in the house, do you find yourself using terms such as “expansive,” “formal,” and “spacious”–a marble foyer or a formal dining room perhaps? Or do the words “cozy,” “intimate,” and “warm” come to mind–a cheery little breakfast nook or a window seat complete with plenty of pillows and a breathtaking view? More than likely, you–like thousands of other homeowners–are drawn to the more personal spaces in your home, where comfort, beauty, and efficiency meet. In The Not So Big House, respected architect Sarah Susanka and coauthor Kira Obolensky address our affinity for the “smaller, more personal spaces” and propose “clear, workable guidelines for creating homes that serve both our spiritual needs and our material requirements.” The heart of the not-so-big house–which is not “just a small house … [but] a smaller house,” that uses “less space to give greater quality of life,” and is designed to not only “accommodate the lifestyles of its occupants” but also to express “our values and our personalities,” is discussed in chapter 1, entitled “Bigger Isn’t Better.” Susanka’s urging for homeowners to get creative with their space as well as loads of ideas to encourage that creativity are covered in “Rethinking the House” and “Making Not So Big Work.” Discussions of specific needs, such as a home for one and designing for kids, can be found in “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,” while “Dreams, Details, and Dollars” gets down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, looking at quality versus quantity, budgeting, and what “low end,” “middle ground,” and “high end” really mean in home design and construction. Lastly, the authors look at the home of the future, which involves simplifying, recycling, reducing waste, and using energy-efficient construction. With more than 200 color photographs, as well as floor plans and Susanka and Obolensky’s intelligent and lively dialogue, The Not So Big House is perfect for homeowners ready to rethink their space. –Stefanie Hargreaves

From Library Journal

Architect Susanka believes that the large homes being built today place too much emphasis on square footage rather than on current lifestyles. Here she shows how homes can be designed to feature “adaptable spaces open to one another, designed for everyday use.” She describes how to examine occupants’ lifestyles, how to incorporate the kitchen as the focal point of the home, how to give the illusion of space, and how, with storage, lighting, and furniture arrangement, a smaller home can be comfortably livable. Photographs of contemporary homes as well as those by Frank Lloyd Wright and other modern architects illustrate Susanka’s ideas and show the timelessness of the style she advocates. This thought-provoking book will be a good addition to architectural and interior design collections.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

Author(s): Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein

Publisher: Oxford Univ Press

ISBN: 0195019199

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Hardcover, 1171 pages

The second of three books published by the Center for Environmental Structure to provide a “working alternative to our present ideas about architecture, building, and planning,” A Pattern Language offers a practical language for building and planning based on natural considerations. The reader is given an overview of some 250 patterns that are the units of this language, each consisting of a design problem, discussion, illustration, and solution. By understanding recurrent design problems in our environment, readers can identify extant patterns in their own design projects and use these patterns to create a language of their own. Extraordinarily thorough, coherent, and accessible, this book has become a bible for homebuilders, contractors, and developers who care about creating healthy, high-level design.

Customer Comments 11/07/97, rating=9:
A Pattern Language presents a compelling case for the influence of space, buildings, and landscape on human endeavors. We often overlook this force, accustomed as we are to accommodating spatial limitations and design flaws. But try entering any room and ignoring the cues of memory and social constraints – you will doubtless be drawn to the window in the room.

Alexander and his contributing editors present a series of patterns that operate universally on the mood and activities of people using spaces. “Light on Two Sides,” for example, is a pattern describing the impact of light entering a room from two directions. Functionally, this arrangement softens light by cancelling the harsh shadows that arise from a single light direction. Emotionally, this makes a room more pleasant to live and work in, and may of its own accord encourage certain activities.

Alexander’s huge study of over 200 patterns is at once modest and sweeping. He details patterns with care, and offers sketches and photographs to illustrate them, along with an unassuming voice. Above all, he demystifies architecture itself, calling upon any reader to assume a role in the design process. Despite this humility, the significance of Alexander’s vision is always present. In the end, he is constructing a formula for social utopiaÐan architectural prescription for living well and wisely. From integrating children and senior citizens into the daily life of a community to revealing the advantages of mixed use commercial and residential zoning, Alexander proposes ideas that can successfully animate any town’s master planning efforts.

Read this book if you’re designing house, working with an architect, looking for a new house, or contributing to your city’s planning commission. You will doubtless come away with a heightened appreciation for the influence of space on your choices and activities.

Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home

Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American HomeAuthor(s): Sarah Susanka

Publisher: Taunton; First Edition edition (October 1, 2000)

ISBN: 1561583774

ISBN-13: 978-1561583775

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Sarah Susanka’s first book, The Not So Big House, created a movement that is changing the way people think about the American home. That groundbreaking book proposed a new blueprint for the American home: a house that values quality over quantity, with an emphasis on comfort and beauty, a high level of detail and a floor plan designed for today’s informal lifestyle.

Creating the Not So Big House is this blueprint in action. Focusing on key design strategies such as visual weight, layering and framed openings, Sarah Susanka takes an up-close look at 25 houses designed according to Not So Big principles. The houses are from all over North America in a rich variety of styles — from a tiny New York apartment to a southwestern adobe, a traditional Minnesota farmhouse to a cottage community in the Pacific Northwest. The description of each house is accompanied by a floor plan and several beautiful color photographs by Grey Crawford. Informative sidebars sprinkled throughout the book show how specific house features and clever design details illustrate “Not So Big” principles. Whether new or remodeled, these one-of-a-kind homes provide all the inspiration you need to create your own Not So Big House.

As an advocate of “less is more” in residential architecture and interior design, Sarah Susanka has emerged as one of America’s favorite home architects. As a result of the success of the Not So Big House and the new vision it holds for the American home, she was featured by U.S. News and World Report as one of 18 innovators in American culture. Susanka has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Charlie Rose Show, and numerous radio programs around the country. She is a former principal and founding partner of the firm chosen by LIFE magazine to design its 1999 dream home. Plans are available for all the houses featured in Creating the Not So Big House.

258 pages, 2000

“Sarah Susanka shows how to downsize the dream house without diminishing the dream.” –Washington Post

“Sarah Susanka offers us a more hopeful strategy for sustaining human development–just make life richer, not bigger….Improve your life and everyone else’s. Use the ideas in this book–not more square feet!” –William McDonough, FAIA, architect, educator, and winner of the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development

“In The Not So Big House, Sarah Susanka offered so much sound advice for those seeking comfort and beauty with a sense of proportion. Now, she has a new book with additional solutions to that all-important question–how do we want to live?” –Barbara Mayer, author of In The Arts and Crafts Style

“Susanka’s book, Creating the Not So Big House, shows how space can be small but beautiful and visually expansive….She has tapped into those principles that Frank Lloyd Wright used in his ‘Usonian’ Houses and has presented them in a very clear and beautifully illustrated format.” –Eric Lloyd Wright, architect

Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd Edition

Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd Edition

Author(s): G. Z. Brown and Mark DeKay

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Wiley; 2 edition (October 24, 2000)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0471348775

ISBN-13: 978-0471348771

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Shaped to the broad conceptual needs of the designer at the schematic design stage, this book presents the methods necessary for the efficient interplay of nature — sun, wind and light–and architectural forms–building groups, buildings and building parts — when designing buildings. The material helps architectural designers understand the energy consequences of their most basic design decisions and how to use energy issues as inspiration rather than as limits to be accomodated.

Sun, Wind and Light was developed for rapid use during schematic design. It clarifies the relationship between form and energy and gives designers valuable tools for sustainable design. It also:

* Applies the latest passive energy and lighting design research.
* Organizes information by architectural elements at three scales: building groups, individual buildings and building parts.
* Brings design strategies to life with examples and practical design tools.

Sun, Wind and Light features 109 analysis techniques and design strategies. Metric and inch-pound units are used.

The overall organization — from analysis techniques, design strategies, to strategies for supplementing passive systems — allows the designer to make sure, swift progress from the articulation of a strategy to its well-conceived rendering on paper. G.Z. Brown is a registered architect and professor of architecture at the University of Oregon. Mark DeKay is a registered architect, assistant professor of architecture at Washington University and a 2000 Fulbright Fellow to India. Illustrations by Virginia Cartwright, Mark DeKay, Chi-Wen Hung, Pallavi Kalia, Arjun Mande.

382-page book, 750 illustrations, charts and tables, 2001

The Passive Solar Design and Construction Handbook

The Passive Solar Design and Construction Handbook

Author(s): Michael J. Crosbie (Editor)

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Hardcover: 291 pages

ISBN: 0471183083

ISBN-13: 978-0471183082

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Publication date: October 1997

The only complete guide to passive solar design and construction

The Passive Solar Design and Construction Handbook is an unbeatable guide for architects and building contractors who want to satisfy the growing demand for passive solar residential design. A complete revision of the bible of passive solar design originally published by the U.S. Department of Energy, this is the only comprehensive guide to adapting standard building practices to current passive solar applications. It supplies detailed, step-by-step information on all practical aspects of passive solar design and construction and fills you in on all the latest advances in materials and building techniques–including the most recent findings on material and assembly performance. You’ll also find the latest techniques for computer simulation and energy analysis.

This timely and informative book:
* Reviews passive solar design principles
* Discusses the unique design opportunities inherent in passive solar homes
* Describes the various solar home types
* Introduces the principles of “whole-house” design
* Includes more than 300 illustrations, complete construction details and notes, and dozens of helpful case studies
* Explores important regional issues, such as termite shields, pressure treating wood, attic ventilation, and special structural requirements in seismic areas.

For building contractors, architects, and anyone interested in state-of-the-art passive solar construction, The Passive Solar Design and Construction Handbook saves hours of research and provides the complete, authoritative, up-to-date information that professionals need to take on a challenging job with confidence.

From the Publisher

The bible of passive solar design has been completely revised and updated. Extensive use of detailed drawings and case studies provide design and construction specifics. Includes updated information on material and assembly performance and computer simulation and analysis, plus the latest advances in materials and techniques.

Table of Contents
Passive Solar Fundamentals
Direct Gain
Thermal Storage Wall
Attached Sunspace
Convective Loop

Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Author(s): Bruce King

Publisher: Chelsea Green

ISBN: 0964471817

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Buildings of Earth and Straw : Structural Design for Rammed Earth and Straw Bale Architecture

Paperback, 169 pages
Publication date: April 1997

Chelsea Green’s The Rammed Earth House and The Straw Bale House chronicle the possibilities and realities of straw bale and rammed earth construction. Buildings of Earth and Strawfills in the gaps for professional builders, contractors, engineers, inspectors, lenders, and architectural students. It includes special construction requirements of earth and straw, design capabilities and limitations of these materials, and documentation of testing data for use in addressing the concerns of officials. This book offers the nuts and bolts of rammed earth and straw bale building techniques, and why they are so spectacular, durable, and earth-friendly.


“Bruce King has produced a book that is both long overdue and quite timely. While I find most technical books to be dry, uninteresting, and difficult to read, Bruce has managed to provide technical information in an accessible and entertaining manner. Although parts of his book will admittedly require engineering training to understand, even the uninitiated builder will find a wealth of usable material here.”
Bob Fowler, FAIA, PE, PBO past Chairman, International Conference of Building Officials, founding member, International Codes Council

“A revolution in environmentally friendly house construction is arriving. In this book, Bruce King explores the details and methods for building durable and safe earth and straw houses.”
Sim Van der Ryn, Architect, Educator, Author of Ecological Design


Table of Contents



Who Would Want to Read This Book, and Why?
Earth and Straw: Natural Companions
What We Will and Will Not Talk About
A Footnote About Bamboo…

Part One: BASICS

Abbreviations and Acronyms
Structures and Forces

Physical Forces That Act On Structures
Some Other Variables
Gravity Loads
Lateral Loads
In-plane Forces
Out-of-plane Forces
Earthquake Loads
Other Lateral Force Systems

Part Two: EARTH

The Material

Stabilized Earth
Rammed Earth
Stabilized Earth Mix Design–A Case Study

density and chemistry tests
compressive strength tests
moisture exposure tests
bond strength tests
fastener tests
admixture tests
absorptivity tests
erosion and wear resistance tests

Design in Non-seismic Areas
Design in Seismic Areas
Bond Beams
Lateral Loads
Analysis Method
Design and Construction Considerations

Stabilized Earth
Rammed Earth
Sample Calculations

Case 1: Seismic zone 2B

check h/t ratio
axial compressive stress at top of footing
Case 2: Seismic zone 4, wall cantilevered

check h/t ratio
horizontal earthquake load
compressive bending stress
shear stress
tensile bending stress in reinforcing
Case 3: Seismic zone 4, same wall restrained at top

horizontal earthquake load
design fc
compressive bending stress
shear stress
tensile bending stress in reinforcing
wall connection at top
Appendix E-1: Soil References
Appendix E-2: Soil-cement References
Appendix E-3: Sample Specification

Part Three: STRAW

The Material

Bale Variables
Bale Wall Types
Test Results–Straw Bale and Wall Properties

Bou-Ali test, Tucson, Arizona
SHB AGRA test, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ship Harbour Project test, Nova Scotia
Fibrehouse Limited test, Ottawa, Ontario

Load-bearing Straw-bale Walls
Gravity (Vertical) Loading
Lateral Loading: Wind
Lateral Loading: Earthquake
Non-load-bearing Straw-bale Walls
Design and Construction Considerations

Bales and Pinning
Wall Settling
Sample Calculations

Case 1: Load-bearing Walls

design for bale bearing and precompression
check plaster skin in compression
design for out-of-plane shear
design for in-plane shear
Case 2: Non-load-bearing Walls

design for bale bearing and precompression
design for out-of-plane shear
design for in-plane shear
Appendix S-1: Straw Panels

Pyramod International, Inc., City of Industry, California
Stramit, U.S.A. L.L.C., Perryton, Texas
BioFab, Redding, California
Meadowood, Albany, Oregon
Appendix S-2: California Straw-bale Code

Stabilized Earth
Seismic Zone Map of the United States
Unit Conversion Tables

Base Units
SI Prefixes
SI Derived Unites with Special Names
Conversion Factors


The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses

The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses

Author(s): Lester Walker

Publisher: Overlook Press

ISBN: 0879515104

ISBN-13: 978-0879515102

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The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses

96 pages
Rei Gift edition July 1998

From George Bernard Shaw’s writing hut to a tiny Cape Cod honeymoon cottage, here are 17 of the smallest, most charming retreats ever built. Award-winning architect Lester Walker explores the minute details of each tiny house, captured by plentiful photographs.

Customer Comments

Ron from New Brunswick, Canada , October 8, 1998
This Tiny Book of Tiny Houses packs a BIG punch! It’s hard to believe that such a small book is so big on content — not that there’s an abundance of it, but what you read will no doubt inspire you to want (to build) one of these quaint homes for your very own.

from Whidbey Island, WA , April 23, 1998
Simplify your life by downsizing your house! This book is a great visual treat. It shows you how people can live in very small places. It got me to build a 10′ x 14′ teenager’s cottage with my two sons. We had a great time, spent about $1400 and now have a get-a-way in the woods.

The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty

The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty

Author(s): Soetsu Yanagi

Publisher: Kodansha International Ltd.

ISBN: 0870119486

ISBN-13: 978-0870119484

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The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty

Paperback 230 pages
Revised edition
February 1990

This book challenges the conventional ideas of art and beauty. What is the value of things made by an anonymous craftsman working in a set tradition for a lifetime? What is the value of handwork? Why should even the roughly lacquered rice bowl of a Japanese farmer be thought beautiful? The late Soetsu Yanagi was the first to fully explore the traditional Japanese appreciation for “objects born, not made.”

Mr. Yanagi sees folk art as a manifestation of the essential world from which art, philosophy, and religion arise and in which the barriers between them disappear. The implications of the author’s ideas are both far-reaching and practical.

Soetsu Yanagi is often mentioned in books on Japanese art, but this is the first translation in any Western language of a selection of his major writings. The late Bernard Leach, renowned British potter and friend of Mr. Yanagi for fifty years, has clearly transmitted the insights of one of Japan’s most important thinkers. The seventy-six plates illustrate objects that underscore the universality of his concepts. The author’s profound view of the creative process and his plea for a new artistic freedom within tradition are especially timely now when the importance of craft and the handmade object is being rediscovered.

The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design

The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design

Author(s): Sandra Mendler, William Odell, Mary Ann Lazarus

ISBN: 0471696137

ISBN-13: 978-0471696131

Hardcover: 480 pages

Publisher: Wiley; 2 edition (November 29, 2005)

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This comprehensive guide is a real-world design tool for sustainable design. Assembled by the world’s largest architectural/engineering design firm — Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum — this book helps architects, engineers, planners, interior designers and landscape architects integrate sustainable design strategies into their work. Far from being an all-or-nothing proposition, it shows how sustainable design thinking can improve projects within the conventional constraints of budget, schedule and market demand. It provides practical guidelines that enhance real projects, including urban planning, site design, buildings, interiors and renovations. This book:

  • Demonstrates how real, completed, sustainable design projects are economically viable and increase client satisfaction.
  • Provides a clear road map for the integrated multidisciplinary design process that is critical to the successful development of sustainable design projects.
  • Captures the key principles of sustainable design in a list of “Ten Simple Things You Can Do.”
  • Provides concise checklists of issues to consider at each stage of the design process, followed by detailed how-to guidance.
  • Contains a detailed glossary of terms and a list of top print and Internet resources.
  • Covers issues and design strategies related to site planning and design, energy and water conservation, materials selection and specification and interior environmental quality.
  • Features twenty-four case studies of a variety of international HOK projects. 

The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling

The Solar House: Passive Heating and CoolingAuthor(s): Dan Chiras
Paperback: 286 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Green (October 1, 2002)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1931498121
ISBN-13: 978-1931498128

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Passive solar heating and passive cooling—approaches known as natural conditioning—provide comfort throughout the year by reducing, or eliminating, the need for fossil fuel. Yet while heat from sunlight and ventilation from breezes is free for the taking, few modern architects or builders really understand the principles involved. Now Dan Chiras, author of the popular book “The Natural House,” brings those principles up to date for a new generation of solar enthusiasts. The techniques required to heat and cool a building passively have been used for thousands of years. Early societies such as the Native American Anasazis and the ancient Greeks perfected designs that effectively exploited these natural processes. The Greeks considered anyone who didn’t use passive solar to heat a home to be a barbarian! In the United States, passive solar architecture experienced a major resurgence of interest in the 1970s in response to crippling oil embargoes. With grand enthusiasm but with scant knowledge (and sometimes little common sense), architects and builders created a wide variety of solar homes. Some worked pretty well, but looked more like laboratories than houses. Others performed poorly, overheating in the summer because of excessive or misplaced windows and skylights, and growing chilly in the colder months because of insufficient thermal mass and insulation and poor siting. In “The Solar House,” Dan Chiras sets the record straight on the vast potential for passive heating and cooling. Acknowledging the good intentions of misguided solar designers in the past, he highlights certain egregious—and entirely avoidable—errors. More importantly, Chiras explains in methodical detail how today’s home builders can succeed with solar designs. Now that energy efficiency measures including higher levels of insulation and multi-layered glazing have become standard, it is easier than ever before to create a comfortable and affordable passive solar house that will provide year-round comfort in any climate. Moreover, since modern building materials and airtight construction methods sometimes result in air-quality and even toxicity problems, Chiras explains state-of-the-art ventilation and filtering techniques that complement the ancient solar strategies of thermal mass and daylighting. Chiras also explains the new diagnostic aids available in printed worksheet or software formats, allowing readers to generate their own design schemes.