By having a proper scale, proportion, careful location and lighting, any staircase can become a green design statement by itself.
Design discussions are not singular streams that can restrict themselves to one single theme. As we go along analysing one aspect, the other related issues emerge, demanding equal attention of analysis. As such it’s natural that discussing simpler and judicious stairs has lead to e-mail queries about efficiency involved in the staircase itself.
Such larger enquiry needs to look not only at structure or materials, but equally at the location of staircase, the overall design or even lighting it up. Only such a comprehensive approach to understanding architecture, both in its entirety and subtlety, can lead us to sustainable habitats.
The Green Sense series hopes to weave the weekly themes into such a larger overarching sensibility.
Mere eco-friendliness without effectiveness defeats the very purpose of design, and spatial locations greatly matter in this direction. Staircases need to be as conveniently located as possible, to minimise walking distances and reduce movement areas. In case the first floor works out better, the corner or end-locations could be considered.
Often people desire the stairs to be a style statement in the living room, with the space below for water bodies, artefacts or a dry garden. It works if the total built area can be stretched. Otherwise, locating the stairs in the dining or family area helps, where one can provide household storage or guest toilets under the stairs. In case of basements, of course, this storage also moves down to the basement.
In all kinds
In principle, running the stairs along a wall, with one side open, has many advantages over a staircase room with both-side walls. It facilitates carrying of large items; the width of stairs adds to room space; stairs becomes fully visible complimenting the image of the house; and it eliminates the need to widen the steps or leave a gap between railings. As such, stairs open to the side saves space, materials and money.
Curves in skylight
Incidentally, stairs along a gentle curve with an exposed wall behind and skylight on top not only appears great, but also functions well. In case of two or more floors, all of the skylight may not reach the ground floor, but an open riser design would let in soft light filtered through the gaps in the steps. The central area, flanked by the stairs, is ideal for an internal court lit from above.
Such staircase courts cannot function as double height spaces, connecting people and activities across the floors, but do wonders to daylight factor and indoor air quality. The court level can take dry gardens, informal seats or be a part of regular house activities.
Highlighting the functionality of stairs is not to undermine its possible aesthetic contributions. It is to caution ourselves about the futility of grand designs, wasteful consumption of wood and converting them into over-designed concrete monoliths. By proper scale, proportion, careful location and lighting, any staircase can become a green design statement by itself.