On the journey to a better urban environment, one inevitably has to stop to consider building types because the issue is not whether or not we live together, but rather how close we live to one another. Most people, given a choice, would not live out in the wilderness in complete isolation. At the same time, people have concerns about their public and private sides to life and enjoy an array of possibilities in between. The American Dream in many ways may have been an over-reaction to the dense squalid urban conditions of nineteenth-century industrial cities. Hence, building type and quality have much to do with people’s perception of the environment around them whether they feel comfortable and safe or hemmed in and insecure.
Although in a sense we live in all the buildings we occupy for any length of time; buildings can be classified into two types: residential, and non-residential. Residential buildings are usually the ones we tend to spend the most time in and identify with personally (at least address-wise), so perhaps we need to consider what most people want or expect of home. Residential buildings come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from single family homes to multiple dwelling high-rise buildings. Since what we want and what we get is often different, let us focus on the ideal.
First, people look for privacy. A man’s home is his castle in the sense that once he has closed the door behind him, he is in a different world his own. Some architects have built entire design philosophies around the concept of the front vs. the back of a home and what it all means. In fact, the back is everything beyond the front wall of a home. This is what separates the public and more formal side of people from the more relaxed and real’ side of individuals. Fundamentally, home is a place to escape, to look after the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of people before once again becoming players on the larger stages of life. It naturally assumes a separation that is both visually and acoustically isolated and insulated from the world. Physically, people need to sleep, eat, take care of biological functions, bathe or shower, dress and undress, and simply relax. To get technical, there is a general expectation that this occurs in the comfort of an environment having a relatively constant ambient air temperature of 70 degrees, with continuous air flow for healthy respiration and the expulsion of various domestic odors and toxins.