thick walls

7.8-7.9 Thick walls have multiple advantages

7.9.USA-3-detail-a thick walls – Highlights Relevant to Sustainable Design:

We can rethink using hills for efficiency and building thick walls.

This sketch illustrates a Pennsylvania “bank barn,” which is typically dug into a hillside. The design allows for animals to freely enter and exit from the bottom level, while the farmer can work upstairs. Whether it is thrashing hay that drops down to feed the animals or wheeling the tractor into the upper-grade level, the farmer can work more efficiently. The bank barns are thus two-story buildings without stairs. As well, the ground temperature below the frost line (typically about three feet) is a constant in the midfifty degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 degrees Celsius), so the animals do not freeze to death in the winter or die of heat stroke in the summer.

The window detail in the center shows the thickness of a stone wall. The level of distinction between inside and outside is “insideness,” and the size of the window jamb visually contributes to the condition. The thick wall provides a greater quality of insideness than thin walls. A jamb is the exposed molding or framing around a window or door. This jamb is angled in plan (wider on the inside than the outside edge of the wall) to allow more light to reflect into the room as it bounces off of either side of the jamb.

For additional information on bank barns see:


For additional information on thick walls see:



The figure outline in this image is for scale to illustrate the size of the fold-out field drawing. The descriptions of certain key elements and insights are included with the accompanying drawings in this section.

Author and illustrator: Charlie Szoradi is an architect, inventor, and the CEO of Independence LED Lighting. He writes about many other topics related to thick walls 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 thick walls and insulated wall design, we hope that you enjoy exploring You can search via general terms such as sustainability as well as narrower terms such as thick walls, bank barns, and window jambs.

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