A residence hall or dormitory conjures images of sterile, cookie-cutter hotel rooms, or poorly-designed college accommodations, or a room full of bunks with a bowl full of earplugs at the counter.
But it need not be that way. Using the earthship concept and connecting corridors, a dormitory can be unique, private, and tailored to individual needs. Thick inter-unit walls provide thermal mass and privacy. Bermed or partial underground construction dug into a south-to-west facing hillside provides an elevated base temperature from with to heat during the winter, and natural cooling in the summer. Light wells provide pleasant two-wall lighting.
The key is keeping the units in a single thermal envelope, with a central heating system, community bath, and common mini-kitchen.
For example, fluid heated floors could be adaptable to wood, vegoil, or electric heat pump, and can also be used for economical cooling in summer.
Other advantages are that multiple units could have internal connections to better accommodate families, and similar units can be used for short-term guest housing needs.
This style of housing is the most energy efficient, and fosters the greatest sense of community. But the flip side of community is that the close living may not provide the level of privacy some people prefer.
A townhouse shares many of the advantages of a residence hall, but with more independence between units. This independence comes at a cost, however, in that more services are duplicated in each unit, and fewer services are shared between the units. A common wall between units provides thermal coupling and reduces thermal loss.
This style is a compromise between residence hall and detached dwelling.
Fully detached dwellings represent the status-quo in North America, but is the most profligate of resources. With all four sides exposed to the elements, this style has the greatest thermal loss in the winter, and the greatest summer thermal gain. Without common walls, it is more difficult to share resources, such as heating systems. Without internal corridors, it's more difficult to share cleaning and cooking facilities. (Who's willing to punch through snow drifts to take a shower!)
On the other hand, this style is the most familiar to people, has lots of building support services available, and offers maximum privacy.
As the scenario with the best energy and facility efficiency, it would be nice if we could all agree on the residence hall pattern as the dominant paradigm for residence construction.
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