If the idea of a new house is an interesting possibility, but not yet something that occupies a large number of your waking hours, which of the several hundred books at your local bookstore will be the most helpful?
To get you started, read John Connell's Homing Instinct: Using Your Lifestyle to Design and Build Your Home
(McGraw-Hill, 1998). The author is both an architect and the founder of Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont (www.yestermorrow.org). The school runs intensive workshops in design and construction for both professionals and non-professionals.
Intended for a lay audience, Connell's book is free of jargon, and his writing is so engaging you will find yourself reading about foundations and framing with great interest, if not gusto. The sections on The Site and The Building (with chapter headings like "Walls and Wallness" and "What Works and What Doesn't: Looking at the Interconnected Effects of Gravity, Temperature, Moisture and Ethics") will be more riveting after your house starts to go up, and you want to understand what you're looking at. At the beginning stages of your new house project, the section called "The Program" will be more helpful.
To arrive at the right design for you, Connell says, you need to start with the big cosmic questions -- Who are you? Who would you like to be? -- and then gradually home in on a real house. The "Bubbles and Storyboard: Diagramming Your Program" chapter walks you through how to make a bubble diagram. Most architects in their initial discussions use these with clients to illustrate various functional relationships and how the house might relate to the site.
Many architects will caution against thinking about a design before you have a building site, but I think working out which spaces are more important to you and which ones are less so will make the architect's job easier. And once you've established what the spaces and their relationships are, these can be physically configured in any number of ways, depending on the building site you end up with. (The Sacramento Bee
From the Back Cover
A uniquely personal, state-of-the-art guide to designing and building a home, Homing Instinct considers not only the roof, but the sky...not only the placement of plumbing, but where the first light of dawn will enter the building...not just ease of maintenance, but your home's impact on the planet. This richly detailed, forward-thinking book can help you create a house that perfectly expresses who you are--physically, emotionally, and spiritually. See how things really work, from foundation and framing, to plumbing and electricity, to selecting the right materials and products. Understand the latest construction options. Resolve questions of cost, durability, design, intent, and self-expression. Master architectural fundamentals and effective building techniques.