Thursday, April 12, 2012

What does a house do?

             May is upon us and as part of the HUD Sustainable Community Project it’s time to start talking about our homes, buildings, architectural styles, and community design concepts (beauty, functionality, or utilitarian). Antithesis Research working with the Spokane Indian Housing Authority has sent out about 200 “Housing Element” surveys to residents of the SIR with self-addressed postage paid return envelopes. We will also be asking these same survey questions, which will help direct the future of housing design, at various locations around the reservation just in case you did not receive one of the mailings. But what’s the point of discussing housing or architectural styles? Not only are homes important tools that help us survive Mother Nature in relative comfort, our homes can be built in such a way that they advertise something about the occupants and related community
                A house is a building designed to sustain human life. This concept is important because it points out that houses do the same job as some other familiar structures designed to sustain human life: our bodies (see figure 1).
               The human body, the original house, sustains human life by providing four basic functions.  First, it’s a self-supporting structure that defines an inside (you) and an outside (the world). This structure is an interconnected network of bones—your skeleton—that creates a space for your heart to beat, lungs to breath, and stomach to digest.
              Second, the body maintains a stable temperature inside in the face of fluctuating temperatures outside. Our bodies accomplish this in two ways: (1) by creating temperature—heat through metabolizing foods, and cool through sweating, breathing, and other heat-dissipating maneuvers—and (2) by storing heat, especially in the wonderfully efficient heat sink that is the water that makes up 70 percent of our mass.
              Third, the human body creates a separation from outside elements that could damage us. For example, our skin keeps out unfiltered water and air, and our immune systems fight off invading pathogens.
              Finally, the body maintains a constant connection, or exchange, with the outside.  Oxygen, food, and water come in while carbon dioxide, urine, and feces go out in a constant cycle that must be perpetuated almost completely uninterrupted from the day we are born to the day we die.  Thus, the body is a miraculous house delicately and exquisitely crafted to create space, regulate temperature, and maintain a constant separation from and exchange with the outside.
              Initially, the body was all the house we needed. But as we started moving about the diversity of landscapes and environments, peoples encountered climates that pushed our bodies beyond their job descriptions. We then used our brains to come up with ways of augmenting our bodies. Clothing was an innovation, a second skin, that allowed our bodies to maintain a stable interior temperature while exposed to lower outside temperatures. Housing was another, more ambitious innovation developed to help our bodies sustain human life in the difficult climates and environments we encountered.



            Thus, from a functional point of view a house sustains life by mirroring and augmenting the four basic functions the body provides: (1) A house is a self-supporting structure that defines an inside and outside. (2) A house maintains an interior temperature that sustains human life in the face of exterior temperatures that wouldn’t. (3) A house creates a separation from the outside that protects both the house and its inhabitants from destructive forces. (4) A house allows the constant exchange with the outside that its inhabitants need to survive.
            Historically, housing developed slowly within particular cultures and in response to specific climates and environments. Using materials from the site and techniques developed out of long experience with an exact location and climate, each culture around the world crafted a unique style of housing from the fabric of their surroundings. The traditional housing approaches were specific to the culture, climate, and environment from which they emerged.
            With this in mind, you as a community member have an opportunity to provide us with important feedback on your current housing conditions and concerns, as well as, helping to define future housing for the Spokane reservation.  Let your ideas, opinions, and comments be heard in this process.  Completed surveys are confidential.  As with previous surveys the responses are compiled and the results are provided in the Rawhide Press, community presentations, the Sustainable Community Project website, blog and Facebook page.
           Your participation is valuable to the process.  Please take a few minutes to complete the Housing Element Survey.  If you need more room for comments, feel free to use the back of the page.  If you have questions or would like clarification on survey questions, feel free to contact Antithesis Research staff at 258-7100 or stop by our office (in the old R Store) at 6201 Ford-Wellpinit Road.  Arrangements can be made for us to pick up the completed survey at your convenience. We will also make an attempt to go door to door to distribute/collect surveys at the end of April. Due Date: April 30th 2012.
Shawn Brigman, Antithesis Research

 


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