Learning from the Past: Adaption & Simplicity

Let’s take a look at another vernacular house design and think about ways it relates to green home building for Bryan-College Station. Today’s building style under examination is the shotgun house. This building was a long narrow house normally built in urban areas of the South where lot size was also long and narrow. The structure was one room wide and several rooms long, with a small front and back porch. Sometimes there was also a porch along one of the sides as well. There was no hallway in the house, but all the doors lined up with each other so that when open a breeze would bring cool air through the spaces. Normally, the front space was a living room and the back space was a kitchen, with bedrooms in between. Occasionally, a partial second story was added to the back of the house. Overall, it was a very “no-nonsense” structure.

What are some green home ideas that we can glean from the shotgun house?

Firstly, we can take the idea of the importance of adapting a home to a specific site location. The narrowness of an urban site prompted the shape of the shotgun house. Similarly, green homes designed today should mold to their sites. Another idea to hold on to is the encouraging of airflow through spaces. Whether this pertains to natural breezes, air conditioning, or both, the intentional directing of air will make cooling and heating more efficient. Although the layout of rooms in a shotgun house may not seem very private, it brings up an interesting idea about zoning. By grouping rooms with similar needs and uses together, we can make a home more functional and reduce construction materials. For example, connecting or stacking locations such as laundry rooms, kitchens, and baths (which all use hot water) eliminates the need to pipe water all over the house.

With the shotgun house there is also a call to simplicity. Simplicity poses the question of how we can reduce excess space (thereby conserving space) without reducing comfort or privacy. This question is definitely one to ponder when considering building a new home and/or remodeling.