Design The Massing Of Your Building To Save Resources


Yes, here we go, the fifth post to my little 'Home Building 101' is coming right up.

Indeed I promised and as things are, it is important to not just build but to build a home and if I might add build everything as 'green' as possible. So lets dive right into the massing of a building. I will be using sketches and design ideas we explored in my previous posts but it is for illustration only. You could, if you have, use your own house drawings and sketches and apply the following considerations to your design. Which reminds me, this step would also be part of the design circle which is maybe useful to you here too.


Designing the massing of your building right saves resources

Building Massing Options and Envelope Comparison Sketch by Heidi Mergl Architect
Building Massing Options, Comparing the envelope required for each house design


The massing of your building will determine the recourses of the build and how your building will perform - in regards to energy use - in the future. Take the sketches on the right, they are based on the layout studies we explored for the small footprint home and let's have a look at how these compare when looking at one of the green building aspects.


At first glance the massing of each building defines how much envelope (facade, soffit and roof surface) we will have. This in turn will result in vertical and horizontal surfaces that need to be build, insulated and finished when constructed.

In addition these surfaces fulfil a very important role throughout the year, provide shelter and keep the weather out. For every building it is crucial and obvious that in summertime this means avoiding that the internal spaces heat up too much as well as making sure that internal heat doesn't just disappear in winter.

This results in the fact that the more surfaces you have, the more material you will need and eventually how much energy will be needed to maintain your home.



Looking at the three massing options above, each option has the same amount of floor space providing key areas such as living kitchen area, bathroom and bedroom. However, they are arranged differently in plan to allow a comparison. 

Option 01 is a simple box whereas option 02 has a step in plan and option 03 stacks the various spaces on top of each other.

As a result 01 has the smallest facade (green outline) compared to 02 which has additional linear meters of facade (indicated in red) and 03 has even more additional envelope including soffit and roof surfaces. 


Trying to use the minimal amount of materials the choice is easy and one could just go with option 01. But here is the crux of it - this decision would be based on one aspect of the design alone and we need to look at the design with a wider overview of goals for the builds, regulations and, not to forget, the beauty of the building itself. Which means an isolated consideration isn't intended, instead a compromise and innovative solutions is to be developed by assessing all extremes. Therefore, maybe option 02 might work a lot better to capture the best sunlight and could provide greater benefits when running the building this could make it worth spending the extra money on facade and co. Or your site has some amazing views, a luxury which can benefit you in so many ways, but you only have access to them on an upper floor which form part of the consideration and option 03 would be the way forward.

Designing a building and getting the massing right is a very individual process and it is absolute important to get the balance right.  

Well, it is easily said, hardly done, but nonetheless true and the only universal rule I can provide with this post - don't lose the bigger picture when you are looking for the right solution.

Don't be shy, happy to discuss more, use my comment section below, happy weekend all, 


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