Architectural Styles for Traditional Neighborhoods Also Offer Sustainable Solutions

By Don Browne

In architecture, it’s been said that the difference between design and style is this:

Design is the process of creating an innovative solution to a specific problem, and style is the method in which a design is executed.

In their book, Architectural Design for Traditional Neighborhoods, commissioned by the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI), authors Fernando Pagés Ruiz, Korkut Onaran, Ronnie Pelusio and Tom Lyon emphasize styles evolved from designs that responded to the cultures, geography and climate demands of the respective American regions.

The fact that these American styles were adapted to their environments makes this resource a handy playbook for architects adhering to what continues to be today’s most important design trend – sustainability.

By now, you’ve seen articles in a plethora of consumer and trade publications on modern homes that boast edgy styles like “earth sheltered,” “small or tiny,” adobe revival,” “rammed earth” and other appealing names as the best sustainable solutions in 2024 for your new home project. But a trip down memory lane that the VSI book offers will show you that the best sustainable solutions live in traditional neighborhoods and the American styles that defined them originally. We call it “New Urbanism,” but a review of Chapter 2: Architectural Styles demonstrates that we’re really going back to our roots to build a more sustainable future.

That’s not to say that these modern styles lack innovation, they just seem to be designed with the high-worth, single-unit homeowner in mind. We believe that sustainable homebuilding should have a much wider lens that factors in the entire neighborhood and the entire community for that matter.

You can still incorporate sustainable elements like solar power, passive heating and cooling, and eco-friendly materials (especially vinyl siding and other polymeric exteriors) into a traditional neighborhood approach. In addition to the material possibilities, a traditional neighborhood designed with the principles of New Urbanism allows for other sustainable solutions like less gas consumed due to third-place locality and greater pedestrian access to the things we value most.

And so, imagine what Folk Victorian, Farmhouse, Italianate, Foursquare, Prairie and many region-specific styles could mean for your next project, especially knowing that as a group, these styles are compatible and can be integrated into a single neighborhood. Plus, these combinations can be utilized to develop single-unit and multi-unit homes in the same block with beautiful symmetry. Each style identified in this chapter includes a background, characteristics and variations, and building massing and street presence, along with beautiful graphic images to help you visualize the possibilities.

Architectural Design for Traditional Neighborhoods was published by VSI and includes a Foreword by Andrés Duany, the founder of the New Urbanism movement. For a printed copy, visit our bookstore and order today!