This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol1", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
In presuming to write upon the principles which should underlie the planning of buildings, whether they be simple cottages or elaborate mansions or great cathedrals, it is necessary to disclaim any right to dogmatise.
Any one writer can only describe things as they appeal to him; but there may be many circumstances which may render his premises incorrect, or his deductions may be faulty. The subject is not one which admits of mathematical proof. Arguments, and it is believed strong arguments, will be put forward in support of the systems of planning which are to be recommended here; and an endeavour will be made to avoid the illustration of anything to which serious objection can be raised. Still, that which is right to-day may not be best to-morrow, - it would not be well if it were so. Development and improvement should, nay must, take place, and if what is here written should in the smallest degree assist such development along the lines of reason and common sense, all that is desired will be accomplished.
In the case of residences of all descriptions the principal necessity is to secure direct sunlight, at some time at least of each day, to as nearly as possible every part of the interior. Pleasant outlooks arc also in the highest degree desirable; but although these may, on a balance being struck, have to give precedence to a desire for convenience of internal arrangement to suit the conditions of the inhabitants, sunlight, and ample sunlight, should in all cases be arranged for.
It will thus be seen that the aspect of a site, and the views to be obtained from it, are, or should be, prime factors in determining the plan of any residential building to be erected on it, however humble it may be.
It naturally follows that, as variations of aspect and of prospect are unlimited, so are also the possibilities of planning, each problem having to be thought out for itself if anything like successful results are to be obtained, the site being first visited and considered carefully with a view to utilising it to the best possible advantage, not merely economically, but with regard to the health, comfort, and pleasant existence of the future inhabitants of the building.
Extreme economy is also essential in a very large number of cases - economy not only in first cost, but in future working upkeep, and these economies are often antagonistic to one another. Where a small addition to the initial outlay will result in a more than corresponding reduction in the cost of maintaining or repairing the building, the additional money may be well spent; but such economies are more often to be effected by careful planning than by reduction of first cost. And this first cost, too, depends largely upon the plan.
Unnecessary passages and waste space of any kind has to be paid for, while awkward roofing, involving the use of flats or of difficult trimming and cutting, is extremely costly in comparison with any advantage which is gained.
It is thus evident that, even in buildings of the very simplest and most ordinary nature, there are so many considerations to be observed, some of which are necessarily in conflict, that considerable skill is necessary in order to devise a plan which shall best meet the needs of any individual case. This is accentuated if a building is desired that shall be pleasing to the eye, in harmony with its surrounding, and architecturally suitable both internally and externally to the purpose for which it is intended.
In no class of dwellings are the conditions so simple as in workmen's cottages, yet the opportunities for variation are endless, and it may be safely said that the ideal cottage, under any one of the numberless differing circumstances possible, has yet to be designed.
Primarily, they must be cheap. They must cost little to build, so as to offer a reasonable return upon capital expended when let at a rental such as the tenant can afford, and this is necessarily small. The unskilled labouring man, whether in county or in town, earns so little that every penny which can be economised is of importance to him. He can, for instance, afford but one fire as a rule, unless it be a copper fire for washing, occasionally. This means that one room must serve all ordinary purposes of living, meals being there prepared and partaken of. Any additional room set aside as a parlour is valueless, being out of occupation except on rare occasions, and the space it might occupy is much better thrown into the general living room, making it large enough for comfortable occupation even by a large family.
Although a married couple without children, or with one young child, may do with two bedrooms, one for themselves and one for an occasional visitor, yet it is generally considered that at least three bedrooms should be provided in every cottage, one for the parents and one each for the male and female children respectively. These should all be large enough to contain full-sized double beds - and a small room in addition is, if obtainable, often most valuable.
A small wash-house must also be provided, together with a larder, a small store for fuel (often arranged beneath the stairs), and an earth- or a water-closet, according to whether the cottage be in a purely agricultural district or in one having a drainage system.
For economy's sake, cottages are rarely built singly, but rather in pairs or in rows of three or more, reducing as much as possible the proportionate amount of outside walling to each, which is both expensive to construct and tends to produce a cold house. For the same reason, chimneys are grouped together and arranged upon inside walls, that all the heat generated may be usefully employed, and not merely serve to warm the external air.