Anyone who knows me or has read any of my posts here, knows that I am not generally a fan of large expansive homes. I’ve talked often and passionately about McMansions and the Suburbs, but when a recent opportunity to submit a proposal for a LEED certified home in the Grand Caymans scrolled across my screen I said “well, pfft, YEAH!”, knowing full well that the two greatest challenges that I face in this project are:

1- to design a single family home, 3br and 3bth, 2 stories and coming in at approximately 4,500 square feet, and

2- designing a home this large to be a off-grid sustainable residence.

While I’ve certainly been involved with residential projects this large, I’ve never designed one myself, but intellectually I know that the process is the same no matter the size. And this is what I want to talk about in, what I hope will be, a series of posts on the process of taking the sketch and schematic ideas of what this house can be and creating the necessary documents to present to the client who will ultimately move forward with construction.

The Process:

Much like any good architect, I begin any design process with the gathering of information. This includes site information, climate, sun path, immediate surrounding context (both architectural and ecological), etc.  Once I have that information it’s a matter of combing through it to get an understanding of the pieces and parts you’re working with.



sketch 1 – site info and program



sketch 2 – site and elevation massing

Once you understand the pieces and parts it’s important to discuss with the client not just programmatic requirements like “how many bedrooms/bathrooms, etc”, but also how these spaces should work together. Questions that I’ve talked about before like “do you entertain a lot” or “do you like your privacy, do you like to get to know your neighbors” and so on. These types of questions can lead the client into discussions about how it is they actually live, not just the stuff they want in their home. Which, ultimately, is the only way you can begin to design a home like this. The danger is to simply oversize everything you would normally have in a typical home. Below are the preliminary sketches that were my initial impressions of the clients requirements in response to the specific site. These plans are in the earliest stages of development, but I think there are some important steps that have been taken already and I’m excited to continue the process moving forward.



sketch 3 – first floor concept plan



sketch 4 – second floor concept plan

As always, I welcome any and all criticism. Don’t hold back, I REALLY want to know what you think.



Lisa Saldivar