Explore sustainable design and building practices by designing and building a scale model of a small home.


Teams: All activities are completed individually until the ‘scale model’ section of the unit.  Then, there can be groups of 2 or 3 students.


Design / Draft a passive solar home that is 500 to 1000 square feet or under.

Time: 2 weeks – from design to model completion

Step 1: Homework (20 pts)(Each person does this individually)

  • Go home and count EVERY single thing in your house. (At least try for 10 minutes). Then, on the Google Docs file that came with your assignment, -write a 10 to 20 sentence summary of this experience, your thoughts, ah-ha moments/ideas, frustrations, etc. Next, find and write the definitions of the words Necessity and Luxury.  Please include a ‘list’ of the top 5 items that you think are absolute necessities and 5 items that you believe to be luxuries. Conclude your writing with a sentence or two of why you think this assignment was given at the beginning of a unit dealing with designing a home.   Make sure you follow Google classroom procedures to hand in this assignment.

Step 2: Home Facts (15 pts)

Each person does this individually

Do a search and find some ‘facts’ about the American home industry. Find at least 3 and list them on a Google Docs page using bullet points.  Include the web address for each fact.   Some example facts to look up might include: “What’s the average size home now.” “What was the average size home in 1940? 1960?” See more ideas for facts here. Aim for at least 3 to 147 facts

  • Please put items in a bulleted or numbered list for easy reading
  • Please include a web address for each fact.  Do NOT use the google search page as the link.  Go to the actual page.
  • To turn this in, go to your Google Classroom and look for the assignment under ‘Classwork.’

Step 3: Questioning and Gaining Perspective

(Each person does this individually)DrivingArchitectureSM

  • Start a Google Doc and name it your class #, followed by your last name and ended with ‘essential questions’ (Example:  8B2 Smith essential questions)
  • Start creating a list of essential ‘questions’ that will not only help guide you throughout this project, but act as a focal point for work.  It’s intended that when new questions come up in your mind you will add them to this list.
  • Please put items in a bulleted or numbered list for easy reading
    • Example: “How is square footage calculated?” or “How many bedrooms can fit into a 1000 sq ft home?” “Where’s the best location for a washer/dryer?” “Why do the windows belong on the South side of a house in the northern hemisphere?”
  • You should constantly add to this list as the project progresses.  Start with about 3 questions and try to end up with at least 25 to 748.  This will be graded 3 times throughout the project


Step 4: Example Floor Plans (30 pts)

(Each person does this individually)

Look at all the following floor plans below that have passive solar principles and designed by real architects. In your composition book, quickly sketch the floor plan of any 2 of the plans listed below, labeling all rooms and their dimensions, if they have them. Note! You are copying someone else’s design, not creating your own at this point.  You are studying how rooms are organized and why. 

Be neat, but quick. Put the title, “Example Plan” in large letters at the top each page. Study the plan carefully. In 2 to 5 sentences, written right next to your sketches in your composition book, summarize any observations you have about how ‘space’ is organized and used in an efficient way. (15 pts per sketch / 1 period)

Goal? To study/observe how architects use space. These homes are super efficient with their use of space. Notice the dimensions of the rooms. Observe the lack of walls and hallways. See where bathrooms are placed and where washer and dryers are located. Note the number of and the placement of closets.

Pearlson: River Road Project NEST: Florence Street Lanefab: Two Birds
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Step 5: Practice Sketch Showing ‘Flow’

(Each person does this individually)Arch-exampleFlow4

  • For each of the two floor plans you sketched above, draw in ‘flow’ lines (different color, if you can) for the movements listed below. So….when you’re done, you should have 5 separate lines on each of the two floor plan sketches.
    1. Going from the kitchen to the living room
    2. Going from the main bedroom to the bathroom
    3. Going from the kitchen to where laundry is done
    4. Going from a ‘closet’ where a vacuum cleaner would be kept
      to vacuum the living room
    5. Coming in from the outside, putting away your coat and boots into a closet and going into the kitchen to make some mac and cheese
  • (Click here for examples)

IMG summer and winter sun angle
Image from Design Coalition

Info:  What is a passive solar architecture?

Step 6: Floor Plan Design Basics and Guidelines

Look over the following ‘tips’ for design before sketching your own design

Step 7: Design Your Own – Sketch and Flow (30 pts)

homesketchesSMThen, each person should create (sketch in composition book) their own, unique floor plan for a passive solar 400 to 1000 sq ft home. Include

  • Dimensions of each room (Length and Width).
  • Show math calculating general square footage, listing and adding up all the rooms.
  • Include compass headings with South on the bottom of the page
  • Include ‘flow’ lines.  Include any other flow lines you think are important.  A legend for these would be nice.
  • Include:  2 doors to outside; window and closets in bedrooms; Washer/Dryer; closet for living room / entrance (for coats)
  • Keep rooms with water close together
  • LARGE South facing windows

You may be asked to re-do your initial sketch and if so, again show the teacher.

Step 8: Floorplanner (150 pts)

(Each person does this individually)  Do this section ONLY after you draft has been graded.

From your own sketched design, you’ll now create a 3D version using a website called Floorplanner. Make sure you’ve gotten the ‘OK’ from the teacher

  • Here is the rubric on how I’m grading this assignment:   Expectations / Checklist . Best to first read this checklist BEFORE starting!
  • Log into Floorplanner using your mywlake google email as your username and your normal password.  Do NOT sign up for an account.  Accounts have been made for you.  If you can’t get logged in tell the teacher immediately.
  • Your floorplanner file should be your class period designator followed by your LAST NAME.  For example:   8B2 Smith
  • Start with watching a short video on how to use floorplanner
  • Get feedback from the teacher or other students at your table as often as you wish.

Step 9: Building the Scale Model (100 pts)

This is a group activity.  Once this has been started, any personal floorplans not finished become homework and all effort goes into building the model.     Click here for directions

Step 10: Presentation and Self Evaluation

  • Start with your goal and how/why it aligns with the goal of the project
  • Include: key essential questions, example site of where you got background information, show depth of your body of knowledge, show sketches and drafting file and scale model prototype.
  • This presentation is a simulation. Pretend you are trying to ‘sell’ your idea/design to another company, group, etc. (Like Shark Tank)
  • All group members should participate equally
  • Please don’t read off the webpage – read from the heart/soul

Miscellaneous Links

Yann Arthus-Bertrand: A wide-angle view of fragile Earth Look at our worldly possessionsLook at our worldly possessions
6 Tiny Living Principles Everyone Should Try The Tiny Home Moveme
Less is more – the Tiny Home Movement Why You’ll be happier in a small home
8 Good Reasons to Choose a Smaller Home The psychology of the tiny home movement
8 Reasons to Downsize your life