The benefits of courtyards within your design?
Fraher & Findlay
By Lizzie
May 2020
Environmental Design:
We have used Courtyards in a number of our projects as we believe that they are a strong solution to both design and environmental challenges across all types of projects. A priority in all of our work is a sustainable approach to building. This promotes the environmental quality of an internal space, by reducing negative impact on the building and the natural environment. All building design should be climatically responsive - and presently we are faced with an ever changing climate.


Britain is an island country and the surrounding sea gives England a varied climate. We never know what the weather will be like from one day to the other, making it difficult to predict the weather. In general we have warm summers and cool winters. Our summers are cooler than those on the continent, but the winters are milder. The climate in England is maritime which is mild with temperatures not much lower than 0ºC in winter and not much higher than 32ºC in summer.


Our summers are getting warmer and drier, within densely populated cities we all reach out for green space, the use of the courtyard is becoming a more common place within building design. This is not just for climatic reasons but also for courtyard's biophilic qualities (our innate connection to nature that makes us feel better).

A courtyard offers the following qualities to a space:

Light: Natural light can be used to naturally heat your home during cooler months. Courtyards help to drink in natural light and they are not just suited for south facing orientations. North light also works well to vastly increase natural lighting levels, reducing the dependency on artificial lighting. With courtyards we can get much needed light to the middle spaces within a building. By breaking up the layout of the house by introducing a courtyard, natural light can penetrate into the surrounding rooms.
Breezes - Often within a home there is very little cross ventilation (through breeze) as the front windows are spaced far away from the rear windows. A courtyard helps with this.

Courtyards introduce cross ventilation into a building, using the courtyard design to break the house into smaller, more manageable areas, with more walls opening onto the outdoors, so it's much easier to encourage a gentle breeze into the home.

Strong indoor - outdoor connection: In Chapter 3 of our design stories, we talk about the importance of Biophilic Design. We know that the connection with the great outdoors and nature is good for us. With a courtyard design, you can have between two to four walls opening onto the courtyard. The courtyard enables the design of a home which seamlessly transitions between inside and out. Courtyards do not need to be large to provide all the environmental benefits listed above - spaces that lead onto the courtyard also feel bigger as the space feels as though it extends out into the courtyard.
Separation: There is a balance between open plan and 'broken plan.' Courtyards can be used to act as pause moments to separate spaces - the visual connection is still there, but there are acoustic and visual buffers that break up the spaces, giving a better feeling of separation for when needed. In a post COVID world the courtyard could be a great tool to separate work space from living spaces without you feeling that you are having to seal yourself into a box for the majority of the day. Zoom calls in the courtyard anyone?
Common misconceptions about courtyards:

They will de-value your home as they eat up valuable Gross Internal Area:
If GIA is the priority then its unlikely that a courtyard solution is for you. I however strongly believe that other than the maths of the sqm (which I would suggest is a straightforward sacrifice), there is no other reason that you should not consider a courtyard within the design of your spaces.

They have to be big to have an impact:
No - even if your courtyard is a small slither of a space, if there is an opportunity to open a door out onto the 'climate' and drink in the natural light then its a worthwhile exercised.

Nothing will grow in there;

You need the right growing medium to ensure that plants can survive or a nice selection of planters can work really well. You then need to consider the orientation of the courtyard to research what works best. Be mindful if there is lots of glass to the courtyard you need to avoid the vegetation being scorched by reflection.
So can you tell we are pro Courtyards? The environmental, aesthetic and well being benefits associated with these spaces are considerable and one that home owners should be able to enjoy. After all - the rest of Europe is generally excellent at domestic courtyard design -its time we caught up.


If you are thinking of starting a project, please do not hesitate to contact us in the studio: hello@fraherandfindlay.com