7.1.USA-1-Horizontal-with-Figure Introduction to USA sketchbooks – farmhouses

America is simply awesome. We have abundant resources, a foundational spirit of self-reliance, creativity, and the desire to help those in need around the world to our best ability. When it comes to sustainable design, we can look in our own backyard for inspiration. This USA sketchbook series looks at our country through the work of some self-reliant Amish farmers, pioneering western ranchers, eighteenth-century builders, and New England homeowners. Plus, other chapters like “Big Cities” cover New York to Los Angeles, and the “Islands” chapter covers Nantucket to Hawaii.

I have had the great fortune of having terrific friends, many of whom date back to grade school. Beyond the countless interactions, fun over the years, and connections with our children, many of my friends have been gracious to host me as I have traveled across our great country, which has provided the ability for me to record the documentation in this book.

Farmhouses inspire rethinking.

USA 1 Highlights Relevant to Sustainable Design: farmhouses

We can learn from people who work the land.

The Amish community of the Pennsylvania Dutch is steeped in a low-tech and picturesque tradition. Living without petrol products, they basically live the way that people did more than a hundred years ago. The famous Amish barn raising has come to characterize their lifestyle. Teamwork, family, and materialistic restraint are some of their characteristics along with telltale thrift. A friend from Lancaster County accused me of the latter, using a familiar saying—“You’ve got deep pockets but short arms.”

As I studied the configurations of different farmhouses and their adjacent buildings, I learned that the seemingly arbitrary layout of the complexes actually followed a well-designed sustainability plan. Farm architecture is particularly appealing because it adheres to the underlying sense of the modernist credo “Form follows function.” The adjacencies of the farmhouse to the barn, the springhouse to the stable, the smokehouse to the outhouse, and so on, are critical to the success of operations. As well, each farmhouse typically has a large deciduous tree on the southern elevation. The tree serves to shade the house in the summer and welcome the winter sun into the house when the leaves have fallen. This type of attitude is appealing not only from a nostalgic cultural perspective but also as it relates to overall fuel efficiency. Natural heat gain and loss considerations are critical as we continue to burn through our global fossil fuels and increasingly rely on technology to substitute contextual design and seasonal forethought. I adopted this deciduous tree strategy on the south side of our house in Pennsylvania. For more, see the chapter “Sustainable Smart House” in part 3: “Commercial Impact.”

Author and illustrator: Charlie Szoradi is an architect, inventor, and the CEO of Independence LED Lighting. He writes about many other topics related to farmhouses through his extensive travels around the world.

If you have found this posting online, it is an excerpt from Mr. Szoradi’s book Learn from Looking that served as the inspiring seed content for this drawing share resource. For additional drawings and insights on farmhouses and rural architecture, we hope that you enjoy exploring LearnfromLooking.com. You can search via general terms such as sustainability as well as narrower terms such as farmhouses and Amish community.