Vitruvius: The big three

March 24th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Firmness Commodity Delight

“These are properly designed, when due reard is had to the country and climate in which they are erected. For the method of building which is suited to Egypt would be very improper in Spain, and that in use in Pontus would be absurd at Rome: so in other parts of the world a style suitable to one climate, would be very unsuitable to another. For one part of the world is under the sun’s course, another is distant from it, and another, between the two, is temperate.”

This quote came from the “Builder’s Guide to Cold Climates” by Joe Lstiburek, which I am currently reading. Firmness, commodity, and delight are three key words for architects, since they encompass the whole profession.

We have consulted with several clients who had a house that just barely met the energy code in the interest of low upfront costs. In their existing homes, they’ve been tied to high energy bills and faced high remodeling costs to improve their building envelope, since they needed either to reside or re-drywall to add insulation. It gets expensive when you have to deal with all the details, trust me. I feel for these clients, since they bought a home that could have been better.

But I am also aware that new construction will see multiple owners or tenants through its lifetime. So, the low upfront costs of today’s house really only benefit the first occupants and penalize the generations to follow.

I contrast these homes to our recent project in Nerstrand, which gets top scores for each of the big three. It’s well built, beautiful, functional, fits its site, and will have minimal utility bills for the rest of its days. I think this is what Vitruvius was after, and it feels good.

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