Shantytown houses in Soweto, South Africa, 2005
15th-century Hanging Houses in Cuenca, Spain.
House on the lands where a German farmstead was once active.

A house is a building that functions as a home, ranging from simple dwellings such as rudimentary huts of nomadic tribes and the improvised shacks in shantytowns to complex, fixed structures of wood, brick, concrete or additional materials containing plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems. Houses use a range of different roofing systems to keep precipitation such as rain from getting into the dwelling space. Houses might have doors or locks to secure the dwelling space and protect its inhabitants and contents from burglars or additional trespassers. Most conventional modern houses in Western cultures will contain one or more bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen or cooking area, and a living room. A house might have a separate dining room, or the eating area might be integrated into another room. Some large houses in North America have a recreation room. In traditional agriculture-oriented societies, domestic animals such as chickens or larger livestock (like cattle) might share part of the house with humans. The social unit that lives in a house is known as a household.

Most commonly, a household is a family unit of a few kind, although households might additionally be additional social groups, such as roommates or, in a rooming house, unconnected individuals. Some houses only have a dwelling space for one family or similar-sized group; larger houses called townhouses or row houses might contain numerous family dwellings in the same structure. The design and structure of houses is additionally subject to change as a consequence of globalization, urbanisation and additional social, economic, demographic, and technological factors. Various additional social and cultural factors additionally influence the building style and patterns of domestic space. A house might be accompanied by outbuildings, such as a garage for vehicles or a shed for gardening equipment and tools. A house might have a backyard or frontyard, which serve as additional areas where inhabitants can relax or eat.

Etymology

The English word house derives directly from the Old English Hus meaning "dwelling, shelter, home, house," which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic Khusan (reconstructed by etymological analysis) which is of unknown origin. The house itself gave rise to the letter 'B' through an early Proto-Semitic hieroglyphic symbol depicting a house. The symbol was called "bayt", "bet" or "beth" in various related languages, and became beta, the Greek letter, before it was used by the Romans.

Elements

Layout

Example of an early Victorian "Gingerbread House" in Connecticut, United States, built in 1855

Ideally, architects of houses design rooms to meet the needs of the people who'll live in the house. Such designing, known as "interior design", has become a popular subject in universities. Feng shui, originally a Chinese method of moving houses according to such factors as rain and micro-climates, has recently expanded its scope to address the design of interior spaces, with a view to promoting harmonious effects on the people living inside the house, although no actual effect has ever been demonstrated. Feng shui can additionally mean the "aura" in or around a dwelling, making it comparable to the real-estate sales concept of "indoor-outdoor flow".

The square footage of a house in the United States reports the area of "living space", excluding the garage and additional non-living spaces. The "square metres" figure of a house in Europe reports the area of the walls enclosing the home, and thus includes any attached garage and non-living spaces. The number of floors or levels making up the house can affect the square footage of a home.

Parts

Many houses have several large rooms with specialised functions and several quite small rooms for additional various reasons. These might include a living/eating area, a sleeping area, and (if suitable facilities and services exist) separate or combined washing and lavatory areas. Some larger properties might additionally feature rooms such as a spa room, indoor pool, indoor basketball court, and additional 'non-essential' facilities. In traditional agriculture-oriented societies, domestic animals such as chickens or larger livestock (like cattle) often share part of the house with human beings. Most conventional modern houses will at least contain a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or cooking area, and a living room. A typical "foursquare house" (as pictured) occurred commonly in the early history of the US where they were mainly built, with a staircase in the centre of the house, surrounded by four rooms, and connected to additional sections of the home (including in more recent eras a garage).

History of the interior

Floor plan of a "foursquare" house

Little is known about the earliest origin of the house and its interior, but it can be traced back to the simplest form of shelters. Roman architect Vitruvius' theories have claimed the first form of architecture as a frame of timber branches finished in mud, additionally known as the primitive hut. Philip Tabor later states the contribution of seventeenth century Dutch houses as the foundation of houses today.

"As far as the idea of the home is concerned, the home of the home is the Netherlands. This idea's crystallisation might be dated to the first three-quarters of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch Netherlands amassed the unprecedented and unrivalled accumulation of capital, and emptied their purses into domestic space.

Communal rooms

A traditional Finnish house from the beginning of twentieth century in Jyväskylä
Traditional house in Japan

In the Middle Ages, the Manor Houses facilitated different activities and events. Furthermore, the houses accommodated numerous people, including family, relatives, employees, servants and their guests. Their lifestyles were largely communal, as areas such as the Great Hall enforced the custom of dining and meetings and the Solar intended for shared sleeping beds.

Interconnecting rooms

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Italian Renaissance Palazzo consisted of plentiful rooms of connectivity. Unlike the qualities and uses of the Manor Houses, most rooms of the palazzo contained no purpose, yet were given several doors. These doors adjoined rooms in which Robin Evans describes as a "matrix of discrete but thoroughly interconnected chambers." The layout allowed occupants to freely walk room to room from one door to another, thus breaking the boundaries of privacy.

"Once inside it is necessary to pass from one room to the next, then to the next to traverse the building. Where passages and staircases are used, as inevitably they are, they nearly always connect just one space to another and never serve as general distributors of movement. Thus, notwithstanding the precise architectural containment offered by the addition of room upon room, the villa was, in terms of occupation, an open plan, relatively permeable to the numerous members of the household."

Although quite public, the open plan encouraged sociality and connectivity for all inhabitants.

Corridor

An early example of the segregation of rooms and consequent enhancement of privacy might be found in 1597 at the Beaufort House built in Chelsea. It was designed by English architect John Thorpe who wrote on his plans, "A Long Entry through all". The separation of the passageway from the room developed the function of the corridor. This new extension was revolutionary at the time, allowing the integration of one door per room, in which all universally connected to the same corridor. English architect Sir Roger Pratt states "the common way in the middle through the whole length of the house, [avoids] the offices from one molesting the additional by continual passing through them." Social hierarchies within the seventeenth century were highly regarded, as architecture was able to epitomise the servants and the upper class. More privacy is offered to the occupant as Pratt further claims, "the ordinary servants might never publicly appear in passing to and fro for their occasions there." This social divide between rich and poor favoured the physical integration of the corridor into housing by the nineteenth century.

Sociologist Witold Rybczynski wrote, "the subdivision of the house into day and night uses, and into formal and informal areas, had begun." Rooms were changed from public to private as single entryways forced notions of entering a room with a specific purpose.

Employment-free house

Compared to the large scaled houses in England and the Renaissance, the 17th Century Dutch house was smaller, and was only inhabited by up to four to five members. This was due to their embracing "self-reliance", in contrast to the dependence on servants, and a design for a lifestyle centred on the family. It was important for the Dutch to separate work from domesticity, as the home became an escape and a place of comfort. This way of living and the home has been noted as highly similar to the contemporary family and their dwellings. House layouts additionally incorporated the idea of the corridor as well as the importance of function and privacy.

By the end of the seventeenth Century, the house layout was soon transformed to become employment-free, enforcing these ideas for the future. This came in favour for the industrial revolution, gaining large-scale factory production and workers. The house layout of the Dutch and its functions are still relevant today. The names of parts of a house often echo the names of parts of additional buildings, but could typically include:

  • Fireplace (for warmth throughout winter; generally not found in warmer climates)

Technology and privacy

Traditional stone house in Serbia

The introduction of technology and electronic systems within the house has questioned the impressions of privacy as well as the segregation of work from home. Technological advances of surveillance and communications allow insight of personal habits and private lives. As a result, the "private becomes ever more public, [and] the desire for a protective home life increases, fuelled by the quite media that undermine it" writes Hill. Work also, has been altered due to the increase of communications. The "deluge of information", has expressed the efforts of work, conveniently gaining access inside the house. Although commuting is reduced, "the desire to separate working and living remains apparent." In Jonathan Hill's book Immature Architecture, he identifies this new invasion of privacy as Electromagnetic Weather. Natural or man-made weather remains concurrent inside or outside the house, yet the electromagnetic weather is able to generate within both positions. On the additional hand, a few architects have designed homes in which eating, working and living are brought together.

Construction

Some houses are constructed from bricks and wood and are later covered by insulating panels. The roof construction is additionally seen.
Two baracche(slum in Italian) near Oltre il Colle, Italy.
These homes are often illegally built and without electricity, proper sanitation and taps for drinking water.

In the United States, modern house-construction techniques include light-frame construction (in areas with access to supplies of wood) and adobe or at times rammed-earth construction (in arid regions with scarce wood-resources). Some areas use brick almost exclusively, and quarried stone has long provided walling. To a few extent, aluminium and steel have displaced a few traditional building materials. Increasingly popular alternative construction materials include insulating concrete forms (foam forms filled with concrete), structural insulated panels (foam panels faced with oriented strand board or fibre cement), and light-gauge steel framing and heavy-gauge steel framing.

More generally, people often build houses out of the nearest available material, and often tradition and/or culture govern construction-materials, so whole towns, areas, counties or even states/countries might be built out of one main type of material. For example, a large fraction of American houses use wood, while most British and a large number of European houses utilise stone or brick or mud.

Construction of a house using bamboo. Bamboo-made houses are popular in China, Japan and additional Asian countries, because of their resistance from earthquakes and hurricanes.

In the 1900s (decade), a few house designers started using prefabrication. Sears, Roebuck & Co. first marketed their Sears Catalog Homes to the general public in 1908. Prefab techniques became popular after World War II. First small inside rooms framing, then later, whole walls were prefabricated and carried to the construction site. The original impetus was to use the labor force inside a shelter throughout inclement weather. More recently builders have begun to collaborate with structural engineers who use computers and finite element analysis to design prefabricated steel-framed homes with known resistance to high wind-loads and seismic forces. These newer products provide labour savings, more consistent quality, and possibly accelerated construction processes.

Lesser-used construction methods have gained (or regained) popularity in recent years. Though not in wide use, these methods frequently appeal to homeowners who might become actively involved in the construction process. They include:

Energy efficiency

Thermographic comparison of traditional (left) and "passivhaus" (right) buildings

In the developed world, energy-conservation has grown in importance in house-design. Housing produces a major proportion of carbon emissions (30% of the total in the UK, for example).

Development of a number of low-energy building types and techniques continues. They include the zero-energy house, the passive solar house, the autonomous buildings, the superinsulated and houses built to the Passivhaus standard.

Earthquake protection

One tool of earthquake engineering is base isolation which is increasingly used for earthquake protection. Base isolation is a collection of structural elements of a building that should substantially decouple it from the shaking ground thus protecting the building's integrity and enhancing its seismic performance. This technology, which is a kind of seismic vibration control, can be applied both to a newly designed building and to seismic upgrading of existing structures.

Normally, excavations are made around the building and the building is separated from the foundations. Steel or reinforced concrete beams replace the connexions to the foundations, while under these, the isolating pads, or base isolators, replace the material removed. While the base isolation tends to restrict transmission of the ground motion to the building, it additionally keeps the building positioned properly over the foundation. Careful attention to detail is required where the building interfaces with the ground, especially at entrances, stairways and ramps, to ensure sufficient relative motion of those structural elements.

Bamboo is an earthquake-resistant material, and is quite versatile because it comes from fast-grow plants. Adding that bamboos are common in Asia, bamboo-made houses are popular in a few Asian countries.

Found materials

A traditional Kurdish stone house

In a large number of parts of the world, houses are constructed using scavenged materials. In Manila's Payatas neighborhood, slum houses are often made of material sourced from a nearby garbage dump.

In Dakar, it isn't uncommon to see houses made of recycled materials standing atop a mixture of garbage and sand which serves as a foundation. The garbage-sand mixture is additionally used to protect the house from flooding.

Legal issues

A house in Ontario, Canada
Houses might be repeatedly expanded leading to a complex construction history.

Buildings with historical importance have legal restrictions.

United Kingdom

New houses in the UK aren't covered by the Sale of Goods Act. When purchasing a new house the buyer has different legal protection than when buying additional products. New houses in the UK are covered by a National House Building Council guarantee.

Identifying houses

With the growth of dense settlement, humans designed ways of identifying houses and/or parcels of land. Individual houses at times acquire proper names; and those names might acquire in their turn considerable emotional connotations: see for example the house of Howards End or the castle of Brideshead Revisited. A more systematic and general approach to identifying houses might use various methods of house numbering.

Animal houses

Birdhouse made to look like a real house

Humans often build houses for domestic or wild animals, often resembling smaller versions of human domiciles. Familiar animal houses built by humans include birdhouses, henhouses and doghouses, while housed agricultural animals more often live in barns and stables.

Houses and symbolism

Houses might express the circumstances or opinions of their builders or their inhabitants. Thus a vast and elaborate house might serve as a sign of conspicuous wealth, whereas a low-profile house built of recycled materials might indicate support of energy conservation.

Houses of particular historical significance (former residences of the famous, for example, or even just quite old houses) might gain a protected status in town planning as examples of built heritage and/or of street scape. Commemorative plaques might mark such structures.

Home ownership provides a common measure of prosperity in economics. Contrast the importance of house-destruction, tent dwelling and house rebuilding in the wake of a large number of natural disasters.

Peter Olshavsky's "House for the Dance of Death" provides a 'pataphysical variation on the house.