How can you build efficient Urban communities, homes, and businesses?

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Light, space design, color, and view

Humans are highly influenced by their environments, including light, space design, color, and view. Historically, low-income homes have been designed more for function than "feel." But there is no real obstacle to designing low-income homes with all the right "feel" if you make it a priority.

Skylights, light tubes, and windows facing the right direction get you halfway there. But it would also be helpful to do some studies in which volunteers are asked to spend a short time in various room/home designs to record how they feel. Some designs are simply better than others -- far better -- yet I doubt there have been rigorous studies to determine which ones work best.

A sample of what I am talking about is that people want some degree of privacy, but humans are more comfortable when other humans are at least nearby and can be detected. If you build homes so some windows face common parks or look toward other homes that have porches, windows, and activity, and so long as those things are far enough away to keep the noise down, you have a good arrangement.

You also want to design homes to easily "bring the outdoors in." That might include self-watering planter boxes with drip irrigation, inside or outside the home, with porches, some greenery outside all windows, and visibility from common areas to the outdoors.

Tests could also be done to determine the color schemes that are most pleasant for people. This is better than the current method of "paint it your favorite color"

Also, paint should be low VOC type that doesn't off-gas its fumes for eternity. That's important for health.

See Kanye West's project that seems to put a high value on the "feel" of the home at a reasonable cost of construction:


A popular architecture book from the 70's called "A Pattern Language" goes through these solutions and why they feel better. A lot of the decisions involve urban design, and groups like the New Urbanists have studied it for the last 30 years. We can also make the rules more dynamic so they generate neighborhoods instead of fixing them into a master plan. The challenge is to outline the shared concerns like privacy, noise, and traffic, in a way that gives maximum flexibility as long as you respect those parameters. So instead of prescribed setbacks from property lines, which standardizes all the houses, the rule might be a proscriptive rule that says you can't violate your neighbor's privacy in specific ways, such as no windows facing their private yard for example -- something more fine-grained which doesn't limit better house configurations unnecessarily. Optimal solutions shouldn't be limited because of lazy thinking and overly strict rules in one area. Informal agreements could also work as a streamlined variance process when the rules are not well-defined or they need to be broken.

To Scott Adams
Thank you for bringing this project to my attention with the amount of prominence that it deserves.

The website didn't let me use my name so I tried a name I thought would not have been taken.
Even though the error message said I was using forbidden characters.

Similarly, have ambiance music playing in the surrounding area. Use a type of music that has proven to reduce stress.

Quote from ScottAdams on July 30, 2018, 5:20 pm

See Kanye West's project that seems to put a high value on the "feel" of the home at a reasonable cost of construction:


This is apparently a Classic Roman layout. If it has fire-walled common walls between the units, that's it. A very defensible urban space.

Quote from freebeard on August 10, 2018, 10:09 pm

This is apparently a Classic Roman layout. If it has fire-walled common walls between the units, that's it. A very defensible urban space.

Yes, these layouts were great for many reasons that responded to human needs and desires. If the framing of "defensible" isn't salable in the modern age there is still plenty to love about the layout. And with fully bulldozed blocks it would be possible to reinvent the American Row Home by going back to the Romans.

Here are some pros and cons I can think of:


  • Centralized with light coming from the interior. Good if it has to be multi-unit homes. They could be built in row homes or Quads with no back yard, but exterior space in the center of the home.
  • Good separation of public and private with centralized communal space.
  • Kids bedrooms aren't upstairs or out-of-sight
  • Scalable to increase number of bedrooms, second story, etc.
  • Defensable - Secured front wall with limited windows needed.
  • Quiet from noise of city streets
  • Able to have a front room with a store-front window that could be an office or small business.


  • Too much isolation from neighbors?
  • Easier weatherization in warm, dry climates.

Yes, these are great ideas. I almost forgot the idea of a porch. When I was young, in the 1970's, nearly everyone in my neighborhood sat on their porches at the end of the day, usually after suppertime, and conversed. They would usually talk until it got too dark, but there would always be a few of us who would remain until even later. It was a wonderful feeling. People don't do that much anymore today.

I grew up in PA. and because of the weather, we would only get to do this from May to October, sometimes a little longer, but not much. I always thought it would've been great if there was a way to do it all year long. Possibly, with an unconventional design, this may be possible.

But the most important point is...we have to get neighbors talking to each other again.

Architects really should have an opensource database of these rules. It's easy coding because they're all related. The principles for laying out houses are the same for laying out rooms and laying out furniture. Activities are plugged into the spaces and adjusted for specific adjacency and privacy requirements. People could use the system to make their own decisions instead of hiring professionals who are removed from the actual site and the client's needs. The homeowner would just input their site, program, budget, and context, and immediately get back designs. Since the knowledge of architecture and urbanism would be accessible to everyone, we wouldn't use rigid blueprints and building codes that standardize houses into cookie cutter "safe" developments that look fake. We would have organic-looking neighborhoods that are more adapted to the site and to the people, like in Europe. It would be more beautiful, more authentic, and more meaningful because people would have a say in how they lived.