Benefits of the Front Porch Extend Beyond Function and Architecture

Steve Mouzon's graphic illustrating the relationship between porch height, depth and comfort.

The front porch may be one of the greatest gifts from the architecture profession. The benefits of the front porch continue to amaze me. If you are a devout reader of this blog, you may recall that I wrote about the front porch over a year ago, see The Front Porch and What Makes It Function. As a parent, the porch evolves as a place for play, gathering and relaxation. When my youngest child was a baby, I spent many hours of the day swinging on the porch swing. This was an amazing mechanism for soothing her to sleep, and a great way to meet the neighbors.

As I write this, I am relaxing on the porch while my kids explore the wide sidewalk lining the homes. The porch, its dimensions, and details are critical elements to a functional porch, but at least equally important is how the porch addresses the street. I mentioned the sidewalk earlier, it is a six-foot wide sidewalk that is located between eighteen-inches and forty-eight-inches horizontally from the front porch. The porches are typically elevated at least eighteen-inches and have a suitable depth for seating. While these dimensions are not optimum according to Steve Mouzon’s graphic for porch dimensions, they are effective.  To read Steve’s insight on Front Porch setbacks, height, etc., read Porches, Walkability and Sustainability.

The sidewalk’s depth is critical for an appropriate amount of play area and for social interactions. A comfortable buffer from the flow of traffic is also important. My street has a seven-foot wide “tree lawn” with 3-foot tall shrubs and street trees spaced thirty-feet on center. This buffer along with on-street parking provides a comfortable place for kids to play or ride scooters and bikes without the fears of traffic.

One more note about on-street parking, it is only as effective as the actual use of the parking. On-street parking is a premium element in traditional neighborhoods. An empty parking space in front of your home is often a point of contention. Residents in traditional neighborhoods complain about parking as much as they complain about dog poop. Personally, I don’t mind walking an additional 100-feet, which is the most that I have had to walk, for the luxury of having a street full of cars. For me, a street full of cars is the best traffic calming device that you can have on a residential street. If the only caveat is 100-feet of exercise, I will take it 364 days of the 365.

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