Benefits of the Courtyard House Design
Traditional homes from across the globe have used designs with interior courtyards for thousands of years, but have fallen out of favour in recent generations. From the earliest example of a courtyard house in 6000BCE, to the ancient Roman Domus, to the Chinese Siheyuan and the Sahn of the typical middle eastern home, the courtyard house has a long history that crosses regional boundaries and spans many climactic zones. Recent research has focused on the many benefits of these traditional designs; these homes not only have sustainability advantages, like passive cooling, but also create major benefits for their inhabitants health and social life. Can we capitalize on these traditional models by incorporating courtyards into our modern architecture?
In warmer climates, courtyard homes are particularly sustainable, allowing for greater ventilation in the home and cooler spaces of outdoor refuge than the neighbouring streets. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on the growing trend of modern courtyard homes,
“Courtyards work with any style of home, from modern to classical, but the designs are particularly popular in warmer climates, where courtyards induce airflow. When designed properly, one end of the courtyard can be 15 degrees cooler than the other end because of cross-ventilation.”
This fits with data from a recent study out of the University of Seville, where researchers “developed a mathematical tool that for the first time assesses the complex thermodynamic behaviour of the courtyard”. This in-depth understanding of how the courtyard home functions can be applied to create the greatest eco-efficiency possible from these spaces.
Courtyards might not just make our lives greener- they may also make them happier. Donia Zhang proposes, in her book “Courtyard Housing for Health and Happiness“, that in multi-family housing, a courtyard can be a “central component to promote social and cultural health and happiness of residents.” In her research, she has collected both qualitative and quantitative data on courtyard garden house designs, and concluded that it is the combination of “a sense of privacy with a feeling of community” that is the reason for the social success of these spaces.
How can we adapt traditional courtyard spaces into our contemporary design work? In what ways can we utilize the inherit powers of the courtyard to improve our housing designs?