3100 sqft 4 Bedroom House, Arizona

3100 sqft 4 Bedroom House, Arizona (PDF) | 3100 sqft 4 Bedroom House, Arizona (JPEG)

  • David Pease

    Let’s just leave the elephant of a garage out of the equation for now. The position of the kitchen is by far the worst feature of this house. Moving it to the study area would mean only a short trip from the garage for groceries in and garbage out.
    Perhaps, if the stable of cars and golf carts is so important for the culture, a window beside the front entrance into the garage would highlight these important possessions and let a little more light in.

  • Grace

    So much wasted space! The family, when not out driving the cars or the golf cart around, will be huddled in the back of the house. The worse thing about this house, then, is unused, wasted space.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I think that too much space is the biggest problem. The designer wasn’t forced to be creative at all.

    Color me naive, but I’ve heard you mention more than once that West light is harsh. Why is that? Is it only because the day is already warmer?

    If heat is the concern with the West windows, wouldn’t another option be an interior/exterior pair of light shelves to keep the direct sun out and yet keep very good daylighting in?

  • Brad W

    When I look at this plan I just cannot help thinking what a missed opportunity. This is simply a box, easy to build, thoughtless.

    The house has no character – it has no soul.

  • James Scott

    I really bit my tongue on this one.

    1) The kitchen divides the house in half. A more open, creative and functional kitchen could really connect the house and brighten it right up.

    2) The staggered footprint of the house. I’ll bet there are neighbours on the north side as well. With no connection from the inside of the home to the area to the north of the dining room and study I bet the only use of that space is to give the lawn mower a work out. Another example of lost opportunity.

    3) Three cars and a golf cart, what’s up with that? I agree that everyone deserves the right to make their own decisions in life but try to make decisions that effect ‘The Whole Community” in a positive manner, not just the image at the local country club.

    At least the golf cart is parked close enough to the laundry, so there’s always a place to hang the ‘unmentionables’. And if you look closely there is a treadmill under some drying towels and dress shirts.

    Sorry, I can’t help myself. When I saw this plan the first image that came to mind is that of the aerial views of homes, roads, driveways, green lawns and pools stuck in the middle of nowhere. It could almost pass as a Ed Burtynsky “Manufactured Landscape”.

  • James Scott

    I could have written and re-written my sarcasm a number of times, and a few times I thought better of it, but my common sense lost out.

    One of the comments in John’s lateast post “Buildings should fit the lives of the people who live in them but buildings also last longer than their inhabitants.” really hits the nail on the head. This assemblage called a community and it’s inhabitants are convinced they are forever, but in reality change takes place much faster than we think.

    And with the changes that will take place in NA over the next few generations, will a house like this and ultimately the subdivision it inhabits be able to keep up?

  • Trish

    I live in Arizona. The West sun is unbearably hot – heat will radiate off the windows. Also, the sun will fade furniture that is placed near the windows. Most builders will include a covered patio off the rear entrance for shade. We have dark sunscreens to reduce the amount of heat coming through the windows. I hate using them, but the difference in room temperature is palpable (not to mention the air conditioning bills!) This family will need to keep the blinds/window coverings closed all afternoon because of the heat and glare. It will feel like living in a cocoon. So, I think the windows on the western exposure are the worst thing about this house.

  • James Scott


    What do you mean by ‘light shelves’?

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Light shelf examples from University Oregon and Construction.com


  • Doug Roberts

    The biggest problem with this house is that it is TOO BIG! We lived in a similar house in Oakville for several years and found that we hardly ever used the formal living room and dining room, even though they were much better spaces than the ones in this house. For years we in North America have viewed the square footage of our homes as a sign of status, so builders have continued to build larger and larger houses to satisfy our egos, but no one really knows what to do with all that extra “ego” space. As a result we end up with houses like this, which have rooms that make no sense and loads of wasted space, all of which needs to be decorated, furnished, cleaned, heated/cooled and maintained. Maybe there should be a law that requires everyone to clean their own home every week, instead of paying someone else to do it, maybe that would help to stop this “Hummer house” trend!

  • Trish

    Jim – Are the light shelves placed both inside and outside? What materials are typically utilized for these shelves?

  • ersie

    Hello good people! I wasn’t able to visit for several weeks, but I see I haven’t missed much in the way of bad design ;-).

    Leaving aside the garage (sigh!) as David has done I think the worst part is the distance of the kitchen/living room area from the entry points. Second, the connection between the front room and the kitchen. I’d take out that whole kitchen wall.

    So, what demographic group would be residents of such a development? Would there be young children/teenagers? Or is it more a retirement community?

  • Terri

    WASTE. That’s what’s wrong with this house. It starts with that humongous garage, the main room to greet the day; then it continues with the showcase living/dining room which serves mostly as a hallway/entry (without a closet), and then the family space is grand central with two doorways and a main staircase converging in the middle. A lot of action will happen here (of course it’ll have to be behind shades to escape late day heat while the air conditioner goes full blast.

    As for western sun and the south. I just returned from San Diego (back to Victoria) and noticed that if the home doesn’t have a tree on the south or west side, the occupant will usually have some some of shade blind in the window or a bamboo type of blind which hangs outside a foot or so away from the glass.

    Ultimately, the builders of this home had no regard for the climate of the locale.

  • Robert T

    My vote for biggest problem is the ridiculous garage.

    I also don’t like the location of the dining area at the foot of the stairs and so much a part of the circulation. I agree with John’s suggestion about separating the kitchen more.

    On a side note, in the past and in this excercise, I’ve seen John state that there is probably another house on each side 10 feet or so away from the problem house. While local codes vary, I think the minimum setback for a suburban type home is probably closer to 20 feet or so which would make the distance between homes around 40 feet.

  • Richard Robinson

    Jim, Trish – Perhaps you mean ‘bris soleil’ which are exterior overhangs or louvers designed to reduce direct sunlight from falling on glass.


  • Paul C

    That’s no elephant , that’s a mammoth. Sorry I simply can’t ignore the unbridled, out of control wild beast on the front of this building. Maybe not the number one worst thing, that would be too easy, but it HAS to be somewhere on the list. Sheltered parking is important in Arizona. However, this is not a narrow parcel and assuming even the narrowest of side yards, there is ample room to provide vehicular storage in a more thoughtful manner. The street would be akin to a sporadically landscaped self-storage facility which btw is where the only covered outdoor space is located. This plan has simply no regard for site context or human/community connection (maybe that happens only on the golf course). Is that correct, a nook and a dining? How bizarre. It is an built manifestation of a marketing shopping list, nothing more. The only thing missing is the ubiquitous kitchen island and end of room fireplace. No doubt available as options.

    Top 3 for me
    1. Lack of thought given to design
    2. Too big
    3. Placing homes within a light industrial complex

  • Trish

    Side yard setbacks in AZ are quite narrow. Many used to be as little as 5′/5′ and now many municipalities use 5′/10′ (minimum of 5′ on one side and 10′ ont he other) – for a total of 15′ between homes. This explains the predominance of block fencing – and why some homes have limited window placement on the sides!

  • Doug

    My biggest botheration with this floor plan is the wasted living room and dining room space on the south side. I have to pick this as the biggest error with this home because it is my design pet peeve and it is common with a high percentage of homes. I am a realtor in Calgary and see many hundreds of homes every year. I constantly see homes that have this redundancy with living rooms and family rooms and eating nooks and dining rooms on the same floor and often in a home where the lot dictates limited area or simply the house size cannot afford this luxury. For the most part the formal living room and dining room are rarely used. In most cases the result are small rooms and a crunched in eating nook. It drives me bananas to see all this delicious space that is wasted what remains is the left over living areas, the net result is a very fast home.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Hi Richard
    The idea in a light shelf is to shade the window from summer sun and to create an indirect light source at the same time. By bouncing the daylight off the lightshelf, the intenisty is less and the daylight penetrates deeper into the interior.

    To give full disclosure. I’m no expert. Just an avid reader interested in daylighting ideas.

    If this was a south face, you could probably use a light shelf and not need much of a shade, but given that the sun will fall below the angle of effectiveness for shading the lower section of the window, you’d probably need a shade as well.


  • Louis Pereira

    Oh to heck with the ‘light shelves’ and ‘botherations’…(i say that in jest! :)

    I would have to look at this WWWTH exercise from a Macro level and say that the worst thing about this house is its location -Arizona…sorry Trish :(

    If we were still grading these properties as part of these exercises, it would FAIL miserably soley based on SlowHome’s LIGHT score. This house exists only because of cheap oil and cheap land. In the future as this place morphs into either a slum or salvage yard, people living there (next to a golf-course no less) will discover why it’s a desert to begin with.

    Get out while you can Trish!

  • Trish

    Ersie – This house is likely marketed to “move-up families” not retirees. Typically (in Arizona at least) retirees are loath to purchase a two-story home. A three-car garage is desired by most families – two stalls for parking cars and one for storing “stuff” – as most homes in AZ have neither basements nor sufficient closet storage. I’m not saying I agree with this, but it is the reality of what the housing boom has created.

  • Belle, Toronto

    The top three things for me are:
    1) Location of the kitchen – too far from either entrance.
    2) As usual, the garage is the largest “room” in the house and in this case it’s far too large.
    3) Most of the windows face west so this house will cost a fortune to cool.

  • Volker

    I agree with pretty much all said… again, too me it seems a total, waste of space have that much garage space but I guess that is the way it is (at the moment). Perhaps if haveing no basement (as mentioned by Trish) and the need of more storage – hey why not going all the way, raise the building, use the ground floor just for storage – cars and all the stuff and start your living on the next level – perhaps similar to the design of the Villa Savoy by Le Corbusier. This way you could get your living space facing any direction you want without have the people from the street look into the room at all.
    Talking about the harsh west sun – why not looking at Brasil, Oscar Niemeyer did some outstanding work 50 years ago in Brasila – nice ways of shading windows, keeping the sun out.

    I guess one question that needs to be asked about these CC-Houses: Is the floor layout and the construction of the roofs really working all over the country – from Maine to Florida from NY to CA? All over the world people reacted to specific needs – F.LL.W did those nice prairie houses…


  • Kevin

    One concern I have with houses such as this one is that the neighbourhoods (very loosely used word) that are made to build these homes are developed with little or no consideration of solar orientation. It is humourous and tragic to me that the grid neighbourhoods of the earlier part of the past century tend to lend themselves to an easier orientation for maximizing solar use or exclusion, depending on the climate. Sadly still, that despite the planners and urban designers of the world attempting a grid (or modified grid) revival, the developers are still creating these terrible conditions that take a very skilled designer (and the time and money to hire one) to solve. I will stop now because the implications of all this are going to make me reach for the liquor.

  • John Brown

    What an interesting conversation. When I selected this plan I had no idea it would generate so much discussion about big issues (orientation, neighborhood, size, etc.) rather than all of the small clumsy details (angled wall at entry, no front closet, corner pantry etc).

    I found James’ and Paul’s discussion about neighborhood particularly interesting. It reminds us that these houses sit in a social context as much as they do a climatic one. Even as we concentrate on the internal workings of these places we have to also recognize (and ultimately address) the negative impact they have on our sense of community.

    Trish, thank you for providing “on the ground” reconnaissance from Arizona. It is really great to get that kind of perspective. I hope this happens more often as the viewership becomes more geographically diverse.

    Sifting through all of the comments I would summarize as follows:

    1. The oversized oversize garage.
    2. The plan that is simultaneously too big (wasted space) and too small (poorly planned details).
    3. The complete disregard for solar orientation.

  • John Brown

    Thank you for the question about solar orientation. West light is “harsh” because the sun is very low in the horizon for a long period of time. This allows sunlight to extend deep into the house and adds a lot of solar gain. While good in the winter in a cold climate it is bad in the summer as the low angle of the sun also makes conventional solar control devices such as awnings, trees, light shelves, bris soleil’s, etc. almost completely ineffectual.

  • ersie

    Not a specific comment to this house, but I just want to say how pleased I am that solar orientation has become such a big part of the discussion here.

    I’m attaching an image from a book about passive house design (in German — sorry I didn’t have the time to make a copy and label it in English) which depicts the limits of the daily track of the sun over the course of the year. Note that this is intended for latitudes of from 47N to 54N, Arizona is between 31N and 37N.

    PS. Trish: thanks for clarifying the target client group. I wondered because of the golf cart space…


  • Terri

    Ersie, thanks for the graphics which clearly define the sun’s transmission thoughout the year. I like the visual representation of this very specific element for design consideration.

  • Kevin

    Modifying my earlier comment, if a person were to not maximize the coverage of the lot on a house like this one, even with the terrible original conditions, a few big moves at the start would make it possible to have a great home. Even if you have to drive 2 hours to get to work. The first step is to sell the golf cart and one of the Hummers and pull the house away from the south property line to gain some ability to give some real southern exposure to the house and limit the size of the western exposure. The resultant house might not be 3100 sq. ft. so you might have to omit the bonus, flex and loft rooms (I am assuming that every possible room name is included in this house).