Porchtastic: Living in Season

Living in season asks us to “entice people outside, where they get more acclimated to the local environment, needing less heating or cooling when they return indoors,” according to Steve Mouzon via treehugger.

Howard Blackson dares us to live outdoors where “we can again connect with our climate and place — another step towards unsealing ourselves from our hermetic suburban environments.”

I always think of these two when the hot summer days roll around, and I busily open windows at night and close them in the morning to acclimate un-air conditioned space. And yes, it gets hot in Winnipeg. Winnipeg may be the third coldest city of its size on earth, but it’s also one of the sunniest.

What makes it tenable are a couple of things: old, shady trees and plenty of porches. Most houses in our neighbourhood have at least two porches and many have three or four. Designers of these century homes often alternated porch location, so that our largest porch is in the sideyard, while our two neighbors are each on the front. Large trees and shrubs provide some privacy.

Just like the measure of livability for a public space, a well-used porch usually turns out to be a place where you can live, work and play. Or eat, read and write. Or talk, sip, and listen. Or sleep, paint, and dream.

Having a variety of porch sizes tends to provide a number of solitary or convivial options, always welcoming the family out of doors. A few years ago when we lived in full body refrigeration in the summer, I would sometimes get the “It’s too hot” excuse from our son when a walk or bike ride was offered up. Now the breeze of the outdoors is welcome.

So on the back of your design envelope, make sure to jot yourself a note to remember the porch. Even if you’re in a winter city like Winnipeg. They’ll be thanking you for generations to come.

Eat, work, talk. Porch redesign by Susan Henderson and Steve Mouzon.

Eat, work, talk. Porch redesign by Susan Henderson and Steve Mouzon.

Read, sleep, listen.

Read, sleep, listen.

Eat, sip, play.

Eat, sip, play.

Paint, dream, read.

Paint, dream, read.

Hazel Borys

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Comments

  1. I’m a porch lover, too. I have lots of happy memories of playing on my grandmothers’ porches and the large one we had at our family lake home. Meals were shared, flower boxes lined the edges, and laughter was abundant.

    What changed? America started building everything inside of a homeowners association. HOAs have driven people inside so as to avoid and social contact with their neighbors. Many of us have learned that a neighbor today becomes an enemy with the next board election when that former friend now has the power to fine, lien, and foreclose on your home! Every neighbor is your business partner in a non-profit corporation and many get drunk on their newly-acquired power when becoming an HOA board member and friendship literally has no meaning.

    Porches, patios, picnic areas, and pool parties are avoided because we’ve learned the risks of interacting with the neighbors is a phony and insincere relationship that very few of us have time to be wasted on. Not to mention when you become the target of the board everything you ever shared about your life will become fodder for the attorneys in the courtroom.

    This is my first and will be my last HOA experience. Every neighborhood I have lived in there were friends to be found and social events to be enjoyed with them. HOA living has taught me that becoming a hermit is more or less self-preservation. I pull in and hit the down button on the garage door before I exit my vehicle.

  2. Nice blog Hazel!

    There was a movement in Chicago and elsewhere about a century ago to do away with the 19th century idea that “night air” caused disease (“malaria” was a rubric derived from “mal” and “air” at a time when air was believed to be a “miasma” that caused disease). While window screens could help prevent or hold back the critters in the air that actually carried disease, fresh air at night resonated with social norms for better cities. Diurnal cooling should be taken more directly account in designing cities and neighborhoods

    What sprung up in the public health movement was a design idea: build sleeping porches for both single and multi-family buildings. This was both a new construction and a retrofit idea that took hold; by the late teens, the Il. Department of Public Health was reporting annual stats on sleeping porch production, and you can still see the results today

    If I recall correctly President William Taft had a sleeping porch added to the White House, and even earlier Benjamin Franklin told future president John Adams “don’t be an ass, open the window if you’re having breathing problems.”

    This dovetails with our extended conversation regarding human health response to environment; and in this case, is kind of a precursor to the more contemporary fusion of design and health action to promote physically active places

    Air conditioning as we know it was developed in the south for industrial purposes: excess humidity caused mold in crop processing, tobacco drying and in printing mills. What an engineer named Carrier did was merge early ideas of ventilation, temperature control and dehumidification, and it became known as air conditioning. It’s been credited with reducing infant mortality, but was certainly responsible for the excessive decentralization over time in the US. There are good experiments being conducted in alternative means of dehumidification, and temperature control can often result from a variety of heat island mitigation strategies, both green infrastructure (you mention tree shade) and changing the albedo or reflectance of both a building and what surrounds it.

    Another strategy is to accustom people to wider swings in temperature and humidity. There’s plenty of evidence building that it’s healthier to do so, implying that current temperature maintenance requirements in building codes are another sacred cow waiting to be re-pastured (or maybe pasteurized…)

    Scott

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  1. [...] blocks, and play sheds are the first steps toward a walkable winter city, as well as allowing us to live in season year round. These urban forms are available only by negotiation and not by right for most of North [...]

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