Throughout the seven thousand years of known human history, between the tropic of Cancer and the sixtieth northern parallel the vanguard of human progress has ever been found. Notice the fortieth parallel. Every turning-point in world history, every present-day commercially important metropolis, and every politically influential capital is located within a few hundred miles of this line!
Here the world's thinkers have been born and here made their marks. But it would seem that always our last thought has been for the physical advancement and comfort of men. For instance, balanced rations for live-stock of all kinds were perfected, taught, and used decades before our own children began to be properly fed. That simple, wonderfully effective sun-trap, the ordinary cold-frame, was invented and applied to the vegetable kingdom a hundred years before sun-parlors for vegetable-eating mortals were considered useful.
Do you ever reflect how few weeks of the fifty-two we northerners really must avoid direct sun rays? In the latitude of Boston, June 20 to August 10 is about all - 50 days out of the 365, with many chilly mornings among these. Eight months every year we live by sunshine - if we can get it.
Therefore, sunshine in every room in a building is one of its greatest needs. The house wherein this chat is written is such an one. Facing about 30 degrees south-to-east, its broadest side looks squarely toward the winter sun. Early mornings, the same sun hits two sides. But more, by late February, in bright weather, the sun shines into every window daily - on each of the four sides in its turn. Even closets and storerooms, having windows of their own, are so reached and purified. The relation of this house to the points of the compass is seen in Figure 10.
1 Adapted from "A Place in the Sun," House Beautiful, October, 1925. Reprinted by permission from the House Beautiful magazine.
Fig. 7. - Here the house faces squarely east and the dining-room will have the morning sun, but the porch is on the wrong side for a sunroom from September to May.
Fig. 8. - Here the plan is reversed so that the living-room will receive sun most of the day, but the placing is not as yet ideal.
Fig. 9. - Here with the house turned end to the street, the living-room is broad side to the warming, welcome sun but there are still several windows that the sun does not reach in winter.
Fig. 10. - With this arrangement, by late February every window admits some sun daily.
By March 20, no matter in what state or latitude one lives, the angles of the sun's rays - beginning due east at sunrise and ending due west-daily sweep the full southern half-circle, 180 degrees. Yet if this house were set facing squarely east - its northwest side thus being turned due north - that whole north side would get no winter sun whatever. Equally bad, in summer, its south side would be pounded all day by the sun; whereas, set as indicated in this diagram, this sunny side, beginning soon after 2 p.m., now stands in the shade nearly all the hot afternoons. Even the southwest side of the house gets less sun as this angle, because it is a slanting sun.
Finally, thus set, a house is as nearly oriented - turned squarely east-as it can be, and will wholly avoid the hot, morning sun on its north side, in summer.
Of course if one is so heedless as to crowd a dwelling-house vulgarly close to the "veranda line," its front line must, to look passably well, conform with that of the street. But given a deep, wide lot, to face one's house so-and-so, just because the street is at that angle, is as silly as was the Colonial notion - that every dwelling must be erected four-square to the points of compass.
Now let us look at Figure 7 - a position of the house, facing east, commonly referred to as "ideal" - and see if and wherein it really may be bettered. True, the kitchen quarter is on the shady side for morning work, and for afternoon leisure or callers, the front rooms are then on the shady side. But the fine, roomy veranda is on the wrong side to be available as a sun-parlor from September to May.
In these same months, one would be especially glad to get sunshine in the living room, a dining room being closed most of the daylight hours, but notice how the best rays of the winter sun strike squarely on only the "closet" quarter of this house.
In Figure 8 the plan is reversed and the improvement in room arrangement partly corrects the above objections, and locates the ice-box where it should be. Yet, taken as a whole, it, too, is far from ideal.
Figure 9 is much better. With the house set thus with its end toward the street, we have the living room turned broad side to the warming, welcome winter sun. True, if one's house is squatted close to a neighbor's on the south line, his buildings will totally cut off the low-slanting, winter sun - without doing this in summer, when needed. But assuming a roomy lot, this position catches one-third more winter sun than either Figure 7 or 8, the sole remaining objection being that there are still several windows which the sun's smiles never touch, or reach only when the accompanying summer heat forbids their use.....Figure 10 is the best of all. This need not make present house-owners dissatisfied. It is more than probable ideas herein suggested will cause them to rediscover good features in their own dwellings which had previously caused discontent. But each month a thousand couples plan and study to build, rebuild, or build on, and probably 85 per cent of these could be better advised than they are.
The diagrams here discussed by no means exhaust the possibilities, nor can the best pretend to be omni-useful. Yet suggestive they are where one normal-mindedly craves his physical "place in the sun."
And now a word of warning. For one to tilt his own house on a diagonal (as in Figure 10) in a row of similar-sized houses on narrow lots - where the others all regularly face the street, is worse than advertising one's individuality to a ridiculous extreme; it is to offer a gross affront to neighbors, ruining the appearance and layout of the whole street - considered as a unit.
The house whose position suggested this article is situated 125 feet back from the street-line, on a lot 120 feet front X 400 feet deep - containing more than an acre - and flanked by similar-sized lots each side. Wide spaces, large trees, and landscape artistry - all contribute to a picture suggesting pleasing individuality - not incongruity.
But for pity's sake, let us soon and forever have done with formal rows of huddled holdings of real estate! There are miles of smiling vistas on perfect roads but ten minutes by automobile beyond these vulgar sheepcotes where thoughtless thousands still huddle. There we can express our individual preferences in the placing of our houses and capture our full share of the sun's rays.
[Note. - As to the amount of sunlight that should be provided for each home, the authors, Wayne D. Heydecker and Ernest P. Goodrich of "Sunlight and Daylight for Urban Areas" state: ". . . , The chief element in sunlight which is known to be effective in killing disease germs is the short or ultra-violet rays, in which wave lengths ranging from 2900 A.U.1 to 3100 A.U. are known to be the most potent. Not much information is available at present, however, as to the amount of exposure to those rays which is necessary for health promoting results and for the destruction of germs; and the problem is complicated by the fact that for the most part these rays will not pass through ordinary glass of the kind that is at present in common use, nor will they kill bacteria after passing through such glass to anything like the same extent as they will where the exposure is to direct sunlight."
In regard to the minimum standard that should be set, the authors state: "What can then be regarded as reasonable - reasonable from the standpoint of the amount of land space required about buildings? The most obvious answer to this question, and the one which would involve assumptions of least uncertainty would be a standard which would call for approximately the same amount of land space per unit of building occupied by a single family as is now called for in common practice in the residential areas in the environs of New York. After considerable experimenting and calculating with different periods of time, ranging from a few minutes to an hour of sunlight penetration at noon on the shortest day of the year, it was believed, .... that one-half hour or its equivalent of such penetration could be secured for each living and sleeping room without using more land per single family house than is now the common practice, - that is without using more space per house than is at present used for each dwelling on the usual 40'X100' lots in blocks 200'X 600' on 6o' streets and 100' avenues. This was then taken as the basis of a practicable and workable standard the more exact statement of which would be as follows: Every dwelling and tenement should be so located and so planned as to provide in every living or sleeping room at least such an amount of direct sunlight or its equivalent as would be supplied by the sun shining for one-half hour at its maximum, or noon intensity through windows of the prevailing dwelling-house size, facing South at the winter solstice, December 21st" (Regional Survey of New York and Its Environs, VII, 157, 158-159).]
Consider the following before selecting the general location for the home site: (1) land values, (2) future city growth, (3) transportation facilities, (4) fire and police protection, (5) sanitation provisions, (6) zoning ordinances and building restrictions, (7) condition of streets and roads, (8) desirability of section of the city.
Consider the following before selecting the specific location: (1) desirability of neighborhood, (2) nearness to schools and playgrounds, (3) provisions for water and gas mains and sewage disposal, (4) condition of streets, sidewalks, and alleys, (5) prevalence of nuisances including noise, traffic dangers - particularly if there are children in the family.
Consider the following before selecting the individual lot: (1) character of soil, (2) drainage, (3) shade trees and planting, (4) location with reference to sunlight and prevailing winds, (5) cost: Proportion of total cost of house and lot, (6) title to property, (7) method of buying.
The trend of the city's growth should influence to some extent the amount to be paid for the site, for although the site is to be selected for a permanent home, the resale value of the property should be considered.
1 Angstrom Units.
Fig. 11. - Lots are usually made 100 feet deep and as narrow as possible. The man who buys has up to now troubled himself very little about the shape of his lot. Reprinted from Primer of House. (Courtesy of Arthur Holden and Workers Education Bureau Press.)
Some ratio should exist between the cost of the house and the lot, although it is better to build a cheap house on expensive property than vice versa. It rarely is possible to obtain all the desirable points in selecting the home site, and in deciding upon one of a number of lots the location and site should be finally selected which are best suited to the family's needs and desires.
Even though the lot is ideally situated there are still many problems to be considered in properly placing the house on the site for prevailing winds, sunshine, view, and attractiveness. Sunshine in every room is most desirable but not always easily obtainable. There is no known law by which houses may be suited to sites. In placing for attractiveness the profile of the house undoubtedly is the most important consideration. Certain types of houses, however, have been developed to conform to general characteristics of many environments. The natural setting of a house should be kept intact and the house designed for it.