The future has arrived for smart houses. With an iPad we can set the temperature down to 70 degrees, dim the lights and lower the shades. We can seal out the weather–and the world.

But does this make us feel better? Beyond a lower electricity bill, do smart houses make us any happier?

I think it’s time to consider the not-so-smart house. Take this house in Charleston, SC for example. It’s known as a Charleston Single. Singles were built for two hundred years using the following principles:

  • Make the house face south or southeast.
  • Make the house one room deep (the single) so that every room gets daylight on two and sometimes three sides. Open the windows and get cross ventilation.
  • Use high ceilings so that light can penetrate deeply, and so that cooler air collects at the floor.
  • Add porches.

These make for happier and more comfortable spaces that take control from the thermostat and give it to the occupants.
The Charleston Single, treasured today, shows us that orientation and building mass can contribute far more to happiness than all the technical gizmos in an Amazon warehouse.

It’s the porches, stupid.