Essential Architecture- Search by building type


A ranch style home in Salinas, California.

A house is a building typically lived in by one or more people. The word "house" may also refer to a building that shelters animals, especially in a zoo.

It generally has walls and a roof to shelter its enclosed space from precipitation, wind, heat, cold, and other elements.

The social unit that lives in a house is known as a household. Most commonly,[citation needed] a household is a family unit of some kind, though households can be other social groups, such as single persons, or groups of unrelated individuals. Settled agrarian and industrial societies are composed of household units living permanently in housing of various types, according to a variety of forms of Land tenure. English-speaking people generally call any building they routinely occupy "home". Many people leave their house during the day for work and recreation but typically return to it to sleep or for other activities.



A suburban neighborhood in San Jose, California.

The developed world in general features three basic types of house that have their own ground-level entry and private open space, and usually on a separately titled parcel of land:

Single-family detached houses - free-standing on all sides.
Semi-detached houses (duplexes) - houses that are attached, usually to only one other house via a party wall.
Terraced house (UK) or row house (also known as a townhouse) (USA) - attached to other houses, possibly in a row, each separated by a party wall.
In addition, there are various forms of attached housing where a number of dwelling units are co-located within the same structure, which share a ground-level entry and may or may not have any private open space, such as apartments or flats of various scales. Another type of housing is moveable, such as houseboats, caravans, and trailer homes.

In the United Kingdom, 27% of the population lived in terraced houses and 32% in semi-detached houses, as of 2002. In the United States as of 2000, 61.4% of people lived in detached houses and 5.6% in semi-detached houses, 26% in row houses or apartments, and 7% in mobile homes.

Archaeologists have a particular interest in house shape: they see the transition over time from round huts to rectangular houses as a significant advance in optimizing the use of space, and associate it with the growth of the idea of a personal area.


A Nalukettu traditional Kerala house

Some houses transcend the basic functionality of providing "a roof over one's head" or of serving as a family "hearth and home". When a house becomes a display-case for wealth and/or fashion and/or conspicuous consumption, we may speak of a "great house". The residence of a feudal lord or of a ruler may require defensive structures and thus turn into a fort or a castle. The house of a monarch may come to house courtiers and officers as well as the royal family: this sort of house may become a palace. Moreover, in time the lord or monarch may wish to retreat to a more personal or simple space such as a villa, a hunting lodge or a dacha. Compare the popularity of the holiday house or cottage, also known as a crib.

In contrast to a relatively upper class or modern trend to ownership of multiple houses, much of human history shows the importance of multi-purpose houses. Thus the house long served as the traditional place of work (the original cottage industry site or "in-house" small-scale manufacturing workshop) or of commerce (featuring, for example, a ground floor "shop-front" shop or counter or office, with living space above). During the Industrial Revolution there was a separation of manufacturing and banking from the house, though to this day some shopkeepers continue (or have returned) to live "over the shop".

Inside the house


Floor plan of a typical "foursquare" house

Many houses have several rooms with specialized functions. These may include a living/eating area, a sleeping area, and (if suitable facilities and services exist) washing and lavatory areas. In traditional agriculture-oriented societies, domestic animals such as chickens or larger livestock (like cattle) often share part of the house with human beings. Most conventional modern houses will at least contain a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen (or kitchen area), and a living room. A typical "foursquare house" (as pictured) occurred commonly in the early history of the United States of America, with a staircase in the centre of the house, surrounded by four rooms, and connected to other sections of the house (including in more recent eras a garage).

Ideally, architects of houses design rooms to meet the needs of the people who will live in the house. Such designing, known as "interior design", has become a popular subject in universities. Feng shui, originally a Chinese method of situating houses according to such factors as sunlight and micro-climates, has recently expanded its scope to address the design of interior spaces with a view to promoting harmonious effects on the people living inside the house. Feng shui can also mean the 'aura' in or around a dwelling. Compare the real-estate sales concept of "indoor-outdoor flow".

The square footage of a house in the United States reports the area of "living space", excluding the garage and other non-living spaces. The "square meters" figure of a house in Europe reports the area of the walls enclosing the home, and thus includes any attached garage and non-living spaces.[citations needed]

Modern house-construction techniques include light-frame construction (in areas with access to supplies of wood) and adobe or sometimes rammed-earth construction (in arid regions with scarce wood-resources). Some areas use brick almost exclusively, and quarried stone has long provided walling. To some extent, aluminum and steel have displaced some traditional building materials. Increasingly popular alternative construction materials include insulating concrete forms (foam forms filled with concrete), structural insulated panels (foam panels faced with oriented strand board or fiber cement), and light-gauge steel framing and heavy-gauge steel framing.

More generally, people often build houses out of the nearest available material, and often tradition and/or culture govern construction-materials, so whole towns, areas, counties or even states/countries may be built out of one main type of material. For example, a large fraction of American houses use wood, while most British and many European houses utilize stone or brick.

In the 1900s, some house designers started using prefabrication. Sears, Roebuck & Co. first marketed their Houses by Mail to the general public in 1908. Prefab techniques became popular after World War II. First small inside rooms framing, then later, whole walls were prefabricated and carried to the construction site. The original impetus was to use the labor force inside a shelter during inclement weather. More recently builders have begun to collaborate with structural engineers who use computers and finite element analysis to design prefabricated steel-framed homes with known resistance to high wind-loads and seismic forces. These newer products provide labor savings, more consistent quality, and possibly accelerated construction processes.

Lesser-used construction methods have gained (or regained) popularity in recent years. Though not in wide use, these methods frequently appeal to homeowners who may become actively involved in the construction process. They include:

Cannabrick construction
cordwood construction
straw-bale construction
geodesic domes
wattle and daub

Thermographic comparison of traditional and 'passivhaus' buildings.

In the developed world, energy-conservation has grown in importance in house-design. Housing produces a major proportion of carbon emissions (30% of the total in the UK, for example).[citation needed]

Development of a number of low-energy building types and techniques continues. They include the zero-energy house, the passive solar house, superinsulated and houses built to the Passivhaus standard.

Legal issues
A bizarre feature of UK law is that new houses are not covered by the Sale of Goods Act. When purchasing a new house the buyer has less legal protection than when buying a new car. New houses in the UK may be covered by a NHBC guarantee but some people feel that it would be more useful to put new houses on the same legal footing as other products. In the US, many new houses are built in housing tracts, which provide homeowners a sense of "belonging" and the feeling they have "made the best use" of their money. However, these houses are often built as cheaply and quickly as possible by large builders seeking to maximize profits. Many environmental health issues are ignored or minimized in the construction of these structures. In one case in Benicia, California, a housing tract was built over an old landfill. Homebuyers were never told, and only found out when some began having reactions to high levels of lead and chromium.

Identifying houses
With the growth of dense settlement, humans designed ways of identifying houses and/or parcels of land. Individual houses sometimes acquire proper names; and those names may acquire in their turn considerable emotional connotations: see for example the house of Howards End or the castle of Brideshead Revisited. A more systematic and general approach to identifying houses may use various methods of house numbering.

Animal houses
Humans often build "houses" for domestic or wild animals, often resembling smaller versions of human domiciles. Familiar animal houses built by humans include bird-houses, hen-houses/chicken-coops and doghouses (kennels); while housed agricultural animals more often live in barns and stables. However, human interest in building houses for animals does not stop at the domestic pet. People build bat-houses, nesting-sites for wild ducks and other birds, as well as for many other animals.

Houses and symbolism
Houses may express the circumstances or opinions of their builders or their inhabitants. Thus a vast and elaborate house may serve as a sign of conspicuous wealth, whereas a low-profile house built of recycled materials may indicate support of energy conservation.

Houses of particular historical significance (former residences of the famous, for example, or even just very old houses) may gain a protected status in town planning as examples of built heritage and/or of streetscape values. Plaques may mark such structures.

House-ownership (home-ownership) provides a common measure of prosperity in economics. Contrast the importance of house-destruction, tent dwelling and house rebuilding in the wake of many natural disasters.

Peter Olshavsky’s House for the Dance of Death provides a 'pataphysical variation on the house.