How to Design a Progressive House that Grows and Transforms?

The progressive house design of a house is the one that admits change; a house that grows as your needs change… You can definitely find one in nova city skymarketing .

If we think of houses that we know, perhaps in the house where we grew up, we can see how they have changed over time.

Due to a natural condition, people live linked to changes, and our own changes make us modify the place where we live.

I remember my child’s room well: the green colour of one wall and the decorations that my parents had put there.

Years later, I wanted to decide what things to put in and take out and the colours to draw on the green wall.

As a teenager, I only wanted privacy, to be alone, and together with my father, we had to literally close the door that connected my room with an ironing room.

When I was studying architecture, I needed my drafting table, a large desk for my first large computer, and a table to make models.

This time we took out the door that we once closed (literally again), and my room was expanded, incorporating the ironing room as a workplace.

It was a good place; I remember it fondly; I could sleep, eat and draw there, which is basically what architecture students do.

Today my 94-year-old grandmother occupies my room, and my parents and a “babysitter” take care of her.

I am sure that you also have a particular story of your child’s room, of the house where you grew up, and where you went on vacation.

All these stories have something in common: the change and the transformation that the different spaces underwent.

Why are our Houses “Static” and not Growing?

Most houses are not designed with the idea that they can grow or adapt to new needs.

As a consequence of this, we find ourselves with static houses, where it is often complicated and expensive to generate an interior modification or an exterior extension.

Some reasons why our houses are static are:

  • The type of materials used (very rigid materials and difficult to work with)
  • A house is designed thinking that our needs will never change
  • A house is designed with an “ideal” scenario in mind, usually larger than we need
  • Most “standardized” houses (which they sell to us) are not designed to accommodate change

An analogy that might help us move from the idea of ​​a static house to a progressive house is the following.

Let’s imagine 2 types of ships:

A large, heavy, space-demanding cargo ship requires high energy costs to move and a lot of work and money to maintain.

On the other hand, let’s imagine a light sailing boat that moves with the wind that needs little space and low maintenance costs.

To conceive a progressive house is to forget about the cargo ship and stay with the sailing ship.

A lighthouse that meets your current needs without excesses uses little energy, is economical, and is easy to adapt if conditions change.

To achieve this, design work is required and one should work very well with the variables that make a house ready to accept future changes.  

On the other hand, if you have a rigid and heavy house, it will be very difficult and expensive for you to carry out certain modifications or future extensions.

At this point, it is worth stopping and asking yourself:

Does it make sense to build a big house, with 4 rooms, 2 floors, 3 bathrooms, etc. if there are only 2 people who work all day and where one of them is constantly old?

Wouldn’t it be more sensible and intelligent to build a house for your current needs and foresee a gradual growth as your needs change?

How to Design a Progressive House?

Conceiving a progressive house is essentially a job of planning and design.

It is in the design stage where it must be very well defined how the possible growth of your home will take place.

A good example of understanding this idea of ​​progressive design can be found in the design of objects for children.

Children grow very fast, so it makes a lot of sense to have objects adapted to these changes.

This is a good example:

progressive house
You can see how an object is capable of responding to current needs but also adapting to the needs of the next 8 years of a child’s life

A chair/hammock designed by the Moodelli company, can be used from 6 months to 8 years.

You can see how an object is capable of responding to current needs but also adapting to the needs of the next 8 years of a child’s life.

In the same way, a progressive house will have to be specially designed for this to happen.

Now, if your needs do not change, nothing happens, the house does not grow, and in any case, it responds to your current needs and fulfills its function 100%.

Work with an Architect

I have always thought that the architect should have an educational and guiding role with his clients.

Like a doctor who should explain to us -in simple language- the origin of our disease, what are the alternatives to be able to heal ourselves, or the best way to live with what happens to us.

In the same way, the architect should give his clients options, different points of view, and design alternatives to be able to carry out the project on which he has embarked.

And what is more important: knowing that the lives of these people will change, and therefore, the design must be flexible enough to accommodate these future changes.

I do not think that this is not done due to the lack of technical knowledge of the architect. But rather because it is not a popular idea and it is not widespread enough.

There are two reasons that influence and are a kind of vicious circle:

  • Architects do not usually work under the idea of ​​a house that changes because their clients do not request it
  • Clients usually think of a “final house,” and that is the idea with which they talk to the architect

Of course, there are exceptions, and we can find good examples of houses that are designed under this principle.

A good example of this type of design is that of a house with 2 cargo containers, designed by the Costa Rican architect Benjamín García Saxe.

Strategies for Designing a Progressive House

To help you visualize this idea of ​​a house that supports change, we are going to work based on a specific example:

A couple: they both work, they have a dog, they would like to have 2 children (in about 4 or 5 more years), and they enjoy meetings with their friends and time outdoors.

Well, from this example, let’s see some strategies that can be considered when wanting to access a house design that admits change.

Start by making a list of your current needs and the “minimum” rooms or spaces you need to meet those needs

  • 1 large bedroom + closets
  • 1 work office / guest room + closets
  • 1 bathroom (includes washing machine + clothes dryer)
  • Kitchen
  • Living room
  • Multi-use outdoor terrace

Make a list of the rooms you would need for potential changes in your life and needs.

  • 2 children’s rooms
  • 1 guest bathroom (small)
  • mezzanine/loft
  • Laundry room
  • garage
  • Cellar
  • TV and game room

Once you have your progressive house planned, determine and prioritize the stages to build your house.

  • Stage 1:  One large bedroom + 1 work office/guest room + 1 bathroom + Kitchen + Living/Dining room + Outdoor multi-use terrace.
  • Stage 2: Two children’s rooms + guest bathroom + Garage + Cellar
  • Stage 3: Laundry Room + Mezzanine/Loft + TV and game room.

As you can see, this couple already has a clear idea of ​​how their house could grow as their needs change.

Now it is time to translate this plan, this idea of ​​progressive growth, into a design.

A design must be conceived in the same stages that have been defined.

The Design Work

The design work should be a reflection of the “growth plan” that you have defined for your house.

This work must be carried out by a professional with the technical skills to carry out this objective, which is usually an architect.

The design work is an important stage; it requires time, reflection, and the exchange of ideas between the client and the architect.

It can also become one of the most entertaining stages of the entire process of building your house.

Take the time you need, enjoy this stage and keep your mind open to new ideas and suggestions.

Now, some issues to consider in the design process:

  • Choose a simple or modular construction system
  • Choose different materials for exterior and interior walls
  • That the interior walls are made of light material that can be easily disassembled
  • Locate doors and windows in such a way that it is not necessary to change them when the extensions are made
  • That the structure is designed and calculated considering future extensions
  • Build from scratch some key parts of the house that can be costly, labour-intensive, and time-consuming to build:
  1.  Foundations
  2. Sanitation system (ducts and connections)
  3. You could consider building the entire roof of the house, and you are left with a large covered area for different uses.

A good example of this type of design work is being done by the La Panadería architecture studio.

They, through their “house more or less” project, promote, develop and understand housing as a constant process.

For them, the Casa more or less project: “is our attempt from architecture to open housing processes to citizens, to promote another way of collaboration between technicians and users.”

They have developed several housing prototypes under this idea of ​​growth and adaptation to different needs.

 Advantages of Designing your Progressive House

Choosing to build a progressive house has several comparative advantages over the idea of ​​thinking of an “ultimate” house as we know it.

Some comparative advantages between a progressive house and a definitive house:

1. You will have the budget for your “final” house separated by stages

This should be made clear at the design stage. You will have each stage defined with their respective budgets.

You will have the possibility of having an overview of the costs of your definitive house, and you will know how much you need to start and grow, which will allow you to plan in the medium term.

2. You will save on construction time and costs

Construction costs are always associated with the area you are going to build, the size of the house.

A large house will be more expensive than a smaller house with the same characteristics.

Also, by building a smaller house, you will need to invest less time in the construction stage.

3. You will be able to start building your house with a much lower budget than a “definitive” house.

By not thinking about a “definitive” house, or one that responds to future needs, you are going to concentrate on building a house that only responds to your current needs.

Obviously, the built area will be less and so will your budget.

4. You are going to develop a “smaller” project that will be more manageable.

The less built area, the more manageable and easy to tackle the project will be.

5. You will acquire valuable experience that will be useful for the other stages of construction.

Building a progressive house will give you experience and confidence, which will be essential to make the following stages of construction easier for you to plan and manage.


  1. The idea of ​​thinking of a progressive house is a very interesting optionif you have a tight budget and are looking for a cozy house where the quality of the spaces matters more than the number of spaces!

2. Obsessing over a big house with rooms you’re not even going to use can work against you. You will end up spending more money on something you don’t really need.

3. Do the exercise of visualizing your house in stages. You will see that it is a possible alternative to consider with the great advantage of making an economic investment in stages, progressively.

4. Remember that the design stage is key. The success of your project is at stake in the design and planning by stages.

5. Not planning will inevitably lead to improvisation. And improvisation implies a delay in the construction stage and a greater expenditure of money than you had budgeted.

In time there are alternatives to the traditional idea of ​​the big, definitive, and expensive house.

A progressive house can be an interesting option if you have a tight budget and want to live in a cozy and well-designed house.

For more ideas, please visit .

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