Beyond Beds and Baths: The Characteristics of a Great Home

What makes a great home? Is it the number of beds or baths that a home has? Is it how big the yard is? These are some of the basic characteristics we compare when looking at and discussing homes, but these aren’t specifically what makes a home great.

A home in the most basic sense is a shelter; we all know it’s so much more, though. A home must have a healthy environment and have fresh air. Otherwise, it’s a hostile environment that will discourage wellness. A home should also provide thermal comfort. If this weren’t important, we would live under canopies in the open air. A home should also be bug/pest, smoke, and dust free.

All these items sound nice, don’t they? Nobody is asking for a home that makes them uncomfortable or sick – Zillow hasn’t added this as a selling point. We need a home, but we don’t have to stop at a pretty good home; we want a great home.

Unfortunately, many homes built today are built ‘to Code’. Most builders aren’t telling you that the Building Code is the worst home they’re legally allowed to build. Yes, building codes have come a long way from where they used to be but they’re still not asking much.

That’s where Passive House comes in. This is a measurable standard that can provide designed performance through proven computer modeling. We can build a digital version of a home before a shovel is put in the ground and determine how much energy the house will require as well as many other metrics.

So, what makes a home great?

Back to the amenities, let’s outline the amenities of a Passive House because as we mentioned earlier, those are characteristics we care about even though we don’t necessarily get to ‘check the box’ on a listing:

  • Continuous, Fresh, Filtered Air – no matter the outdoor conditions.
  • Thermal Comfort – even on those frigid nights and sweltering days.
  • Healthy Environment – no mold/pollen/etc.
  • Bug and Pest Free – sorry, no mouse motels.
  • Calm and Quiet – Loud planes/helicopters, raucous cars/motorcycles, and your neighbor’s loud mower are a thing of the past.
  • Less Expensive to Operate and Maintain – Nobody asks for energy bill increases, but they will continue to rise.
  • No Condensation on Windows

What if we told you that you could have all this without a huge premium? That sounds too good to be true, but luckily for you, we have a similar bullet point list that provides us with the steps on the ‘how’ to achieve those characteristics.

Let’s jump in – don’t worry, we won’t dig into the nerdy details just yet.

#1 – Tight envelope with no leaks or drafts.

If someone tells you that your house needs to breathe, run. Run away from them as fast as you can.

As a human, YOU need to breathe but your house does not. It doesn’t have lungs. If your house is breathing, then it’s allowing in things that we don’t want: cold air, hot air, humidity, bugs, pests, odors, toxic gases, and more.

Your house does not need to breathe. Read on…

South Exterior Elevation - Back40House - Pendleton, IN - HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles, Christopher Short, Indianapolis Architect - WERK | Building Modern, Paul Reynolds, Construction Manager
New Modern House 3 - high velocity HVAC

#2 – Fresh Air System.

This will ventilate your house. Wait! You just said that our house doesn’t need to breathe. That’s right, the house doesn’t need to breathe, however, because you do, we need to ventilate and provide fresh air.

A fresh air system means we control when and where the air enters/exits, and it allows us to filter it and also pre-condition it. People don’t typically open their windows when it’s 15 degrees out because they needed fresh air.

#3 – Thicker insulation.

We need to resist the heat loss (winter) and heat gain (summer) so we’ll need to wrap a thicker blanket around our homes. This pairs with the next point.

Broad Ripple Modern Craftsman Renovation
Continuous Insulation Detail - G BLOC MIXED USE Development - Broad Ripple North Village - Urban Infill - Indianapolis

#4 – Eliminate thermal bridges.

Thermal bridges are ‘short circuits’ for heat loss/gain and increase the risk of condensation in your walls which in turn increases your risk of mold!

The best way to describe eliminating thermal bridges is by comparing mittens to gloves. When you wear mittens, you are completely encapsulating your fingers, while gloves individually cover your fingers.

Now imagine the framing in your walls. Most homes are built with insulation between the studs, but with a slight modification, your walls could be more like mittens than gloves, thus keeping you more comfortable.

#5 – Higher quality and higher performance windows.

Windows are often the forgotten component of a home when it comes to performance, yet they have an overwhelming effect on the performance and comfort of the home.

No, this doesn’t mean we need to eliminate all your windows. A windowless box could certainly be a home but that’s not very enjoyable.

This point could be its own discussion, but we’ll keep it simple for now. We can improve the performance of the windows, and this will have a positive effect on the comfort of the home.

Oversized Window Installations Complete (Views) - Back40House - Pendleton, IN - HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles, Christopher Short, Indianapolis Architect - WERK | Building Modern, Paul Reynolds, Construction Manager
Rear courtyard surrounded by EIFS recreation and living wings, then 2-story brick-wrapped bedroom massing - Compound Style Home - Rural Modern House - North Central Indiana

#6 – Thoughtful design.

This includes but is not limited to the position and orientation of the home on the property, but also the shape and proportions of the home. Like windows, this is its own discussion point but this is one of the tools at our disposal to create a great home.

If you’re ready to take your home to the next level, reach out to us today. These steps can be applied to a brand-new house or an existing house.

As your trusted advisor, we’ll help lead you on the journey to create a home that’s not just good, but truly great.