Here are some early exploration sketches by our architecture team that helped inform the eventual design of our house.

This Site Climate and Views study showed the path of the sun relative to the property during the winter and summer months. Heat gain is a major design consideration for an Arizona home. The sun’s path played a major role in determining the orientation of the house and placement of windows. It also determined the location of rooms within the house. The bedrooms were all placed on the east so they received less afternoon sun exposure and were more comfortable when it was time to go to sleep. In our previous house, the rooms were all on the west side and weren’t shaded by anything, so they were particularly hot in the evenings.

You’ll also see a note on the study that shows the direction to the “Temple View.” One thing we love about the property is its proximity to the Gilbert, AZ LDS temple. We feel it helps us keep the family focused on what’s important. Unfortunately, the neighbors trees block the view from most angles and made it difficult to create a view from the house. To avoid making things unnecessarily complicated, we decided the temple view wasn’t that important after all. We can always meander over to my sister’s house and catch the view from her kitchen sink!

These Sun Blocking Strategies sketches further explore methods of keeping the blazing sun off of the house. It also shows an early concept for how our house and my parents’ new house would sit relative to each other. At the time, we were hoping that a neighbor would sell us some land for a new access road coming from the west side of the property.

We’re actually working on a landscape design at the moment, so this was a good reminder that we need to plan for trees on the west and south sides of the house.

As you can see in these structural explorations, we initially planned to build the house using heavy timber post and beam construction plus SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels). In a lot of ways, you actually pay for the structure twice with this approach, though. The SIPS are relatively expensive and provide the structure you need for the house, so the posts and beams are redundant. Ryan, the architect, suggested a post and beam look for the main living area and a straightforward SIP approach for the rest of the house. Then we decided to ditch the post and beam look altogether and just go with SIPs. In the end, though, we had a REALLY hard time finding framers who were willing to build with SIPs. We ended up with typical stick construction instead. I hate how long it takes for better techniques to take hold in the construction industry.

Next came some exploration of our space requirements and adjacencies. We had some very specific requests about the flow of the house, but Ryan and his team provided some excellent guidance, too.

Finally, came some exploration of house shapes. We were very open to some unique approaches here. But we also learned that the more unique the shape, the more restricted we would be in the flow of the house.

In my next post, I’ll show the very first design concepts Ryan’s team delivered.

Dustin Smith

Author Dustin Smith

Dustin is the father of four awesome kids and works as a consultant and entrepreneur in the entertainment attractions industry.

More posts by Dustin Smith

Leave a Reply