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Managing Sound and Light by Smarter Landscaping and Architechture

Updated on July 26, 2014

I AM SURE Whoever Remodeled the 1333 Himeji Castle in 1601 Would Love This Article.

How many buildings around you today would last 750 years in any shape? The 1601 remodel looks good after 400 years. My 1980s kitchen doesn't.
How many buildings around you today would last 750 years in any shape? The 1601 remodel looks good after 400 years. My 1980s kitchen doesn't.

Not Sure About Design Choices Being Made For Us These Days. It's Almost This Bad.

Smarter Planning!... Wut Fer?

With GPS, basic astronomy, and a touch of trigonometry, the world is your oyster for those of us who want improved methods of designing buildings & landscapes regarding

  • Use natural sunlight, (morning sun, vitamin D from UVB rays, shade on west, open to south)
  • Manage away man-made noise (traffic, aircraft, mowers)
  • Enhance natural sounds (e.g. morning songbirds, ocean waves)
  • Use prevailing winds to cool home
  • Capture rainwater to water plants
  • Use gravity to move water and waste away
  • Maintenance-reduced lawnscape (eliminate constant mowing, trimming, leaf collection)
  • Build to last 100 - 500 years using brick, stone, properly mixed concrete, etc.
  • Place carved keystones, designs, etc. where traffic is highest
  • Make temporary walkways, then pave the actual paths used after a few years for patterns to emerge

Natural paths are curved, that's OK!

Walkways vary in width (did you ever walk in mud when path seems too narrow?)

Wider, more heavily used paths require more robust materials, proper drainage, etc.

Above 50 deg., UVB reaches skin, Vitamin D is Made, Disease Risk Drops.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Compromises from Bygone Eras Influence Design Everywhere!

If you follow me you know I'll stand up for tradition even when nobody else seems to. You should also know I'll be the first to call out an accepted practice of epic failure guided by logical fallacies, hyperbole, self-enriching conflict of interest, politics, psychological tricks, stereotypes or paradigms, and yes, the unlimited capacity for human stupidity.

With regards to materials:

  1. Cheapness pervades especially in hidden supporting structures.
  2. Rectangles rule, even though technology allows for curvature now more than ever.
  3. Homogeneity is common, but why do all sides need to use the same material? Logically it either drives up costs on one hand while driving down local quality on the other.

Shapes & Layouts

  1. Alignment to street or compass lines instead of sun, wind, noise, slope, views and obstacles.
  2. Rectangles rule, one side is sunbaked, another is smothered with shade
  3. The most prominent feature displayed can be something unappealing like a garage.
  4. 99.9% of yards are unused, chemically treated, power mowed, useless patches of grass.
  5. Campuses almost always have sidewalks that don't get used, ever, while muddy trails are cut by hundreds of passes by the real pedestrians through the 0.01% of the grass (or mud!).

Minecraft - Fewer Curves than Legos!

Fewer curves than Minecraft? Only the Local School Lunch-Lady can make that claim.
Fewer curves than Minecraft? Only the Local School Lunch-Lady can make that claim. | Source

Material Solutions


  1. Choose materials that last 50 or 100 years unless you want to be just another profligate mal-administrator of resources! A stinging indictment of character (maybe someday).
  2. Ever notice natural and artistic masterpieces aren't made up entirely of squares and rectangles? Mass production of building materials such as boards began when rectangles were mass-produced, but angles, grooves, and curves had to be hand-cut. One example close to me of technological improvement: Raymond DeWalt invented the radial arm saw, making setups relatively quick and precise (I should know, I'm a DeWalt!). Today, given 3D printing, a chamfered parabolic dodecahedron ain't no thang.
  3. Europe demonstrates how an expensive material choice such as cobblestone pavers (while aesthetically pleasing) almost always become the least expensive choice in time. So the front of a home facing prevailing winds, traffic, and sun, calls for stone, right? If matching material on all sides would be cost-prohibitive, then don't! What's so precious about homogeneity? Are you homo about materials? Show craftsmanship on one side, but skip the gargoyles and stained glass on the alley-side.

Shapely Solutions For Everyone.

Some things in life, unlike fashion, are predictable. Include them in designs if your IQ soars anywhere in the triple-digits.

  • the elevation of the sun. Block and filter undesired heat (western summer sun) and photo-aging UVA rays (elevation < 50 deg.). Otherwise allow in vitamin-producing light containing UVB rays (above 50 deg. angles). Make use of Eastern sunrises for heat and waking purposes.
  • Consider the use of mirrored or white surfaces to harness sunlight. Why have black roof shingles in Florida? Greek towns exclusively choose white rooftops after centuries of hard and brilliant deduction. Oh you have central air? Never mind, I bow to your superior intellect.
  • If solar panels make sense use them. You don't need to know how the elliptical orbit around the sun plays into it, there's an app. We don't need to know about what that figure 8 on the globe is all about - unless you're an insanely curious autodidactic Physicist like me.
  • Reflect crap into space. Jet noise, terrorist blasts, barking dogs dampening your mood? Do like the Dutch did around Amsterdam's Schiphol airport! Another smart, happy, and tiny nation does something worth watching. Reflecting it straight up results in a 10 db decrease! That's a 10x decrease in jet noise, better than relying on the curve of the earth, wasting real estate, moving the deaf people there (sometimes our ideas suck!).
  • acoustic chambers in underground cities (PA system), amphitheaters, sound proofing glue, drywall, anchors, disconnections, carpet, corkboard,

Soundscaping - Sounds Super Smart. Let's Reflect Noise.

StarlightReflex Approves of Soundscaping ideas like this.
StarlightReflex Approves of Soundscaping ideas like this.

Built to Last

The Patsy Clark Mansion is great, but could be even better!
The Patsy Clark Mansion is great, but could be even better!


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