A Quick Guide to Architectural Terms and Definitions

Understanding the terminology used in architecture is crucial for enhancing communication within the field and for enriching the appreciation of architectural designs. This guide is designed to assist professionals and enthusiasts by explaining key terms and definitions that influence modern architecture’s landscape. Familiarity with these terms allows for a deeper understanding of design intents and the architectural dialogue between historical context and contemporary innovation.

Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture aims to minimize buildings’ environmental impact by optimizing resource use and integrating ecological principles. This approach, including ranch architecture, focuses on energy efficiency, minimal environmental disturbance, and using sustainable materials to reduce structures’ carbon footprint. Ranch architecture specifically benefits from strategies like employing renewable energy, utilizing non-toxic and sustainably sourced materials, and designing to leverage natural light and climate for heating and cooling. The goal is to create environmentally integrated buildings, such as those in ranch style, promoting a balance between built and natural environments and ensuring longevity and adaptability to reduce overall environmental impact.

Passive Solar Design

solar roof house

Passive solar design utilizes the sun’s energy to heat and cool building spaces. This architectural approach involves orienting a building optimally concerning the sun’s path to maximize solar gain in winter and minimize heat intake during the summer. The strategic use of materials to absorb and redistribute solar energy also plays a role. This design reduces the need for heating and cooling, enhancing the energy efficiency and comfort of the residents.

Smart Homes and Automation

Smart homes and automation harness advanced technology to enhance residential living by automating building systems for better energy management, security, and comfort. These systems control and monitor various home aspects like lighting, climate, entertainment, and appliances, increasing the functionality and efficiency of living spaces. They offer energy savings through automated thermostats and smart lighting that adjusts based on occupancy and enhanced security through remote monitoring capabilities. Homeowners can control these systems via smartphones, adding convenience while reducing energy consumption and improving safety. Smart homes continue to advance as technology evolves, providing increasingly responsive and sustainable living environments.

Biophilic Design

Biophilic design incorporates and models the processes of nature into modern architectural practices to forge stronger connections between building occupants and the natural world. This approach enhances the aesthetic value of spaces and improves occupants’ mental health and productivity by increasing their interaction with natural elements. Biophilic design can include using natural materials, incorporating vegetation, natural lighting, and other elements that mimic natural environments.

Contemporary Courtyard Home

courtyard home

A contemporary courtyard home represents a modern architectural approach where the entire design is centered around a courtyard similar to the openness found in ranch style homes. This architectural style is noted for its emphasis on the seamless integration of outdoor and indoor spaces, thereby enhancing natural light and improving ventilation throughout the home. Our Too Well Ranch project emphasizes these aspects and includes a tranquil, private courtyard space that offers a sanctuary from the external urban environment, making these designs particularly appealing.

Mid-Century Feel

The mid-century architectural style, characterized by its clean simplicity and integration with nature, dates back to the mid-20th century. This style is distinguished by its open floor plans, extensive use of large windows, and seamless flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. The significant impact of this style on modern design is still evident today, seen in the continued popularity of mid-century furniture and the basic principles of room and space layout.

Transparent Circulation Forms

Transparent circulation in architecture refers to design solutions that foster visual connectivity and fluid movement throughout spaces. This concept involves strategically placing walls and passageways to maximize the transparency of the building’s layout, often incorporating materials like glass or employing open layouts to foster a sense of continuity and openness. Such designs enhance structures’ visual and interactive flow, making environments feel more expansive and connected.

Vernacular Characteristics

vernacular architecture

Vernacular architecture is primarily defined by utilizing local materials and designs specific to a particular region. This style of architecture is deeply connected to the local climate, environment, and cultural needs, reflecting a deep connection to its geographical and cultural context. Incorporating vernacular characteristics in contemporary architecture can help maintain cultural continuity, enhance environmental adaptation, and support sustainable practices.

At SRI Architect, we offer a comprehensive range of design services to integrate these principles, ensuring that your unique project needs are met and your expectations are exceeded.


A cantilever is an architectural feature in which a long beam or structural member is supported at only one end and has no supports along a third or less l. This design is used extensively to project structures beyond their supporting walls or bases, such as balconies or overhangs. Cantilevers allow for bold architectural statements and innovative use of space without needing external bracing, thus providing functional and aesthetic benefits.

Green Roof

green roof house

A green roof involves the addition of vegetation layers on the roof of a building, providing several environmental benefits as part of green building practices. These benefits include thermal insulation, reduction of the urban heat island effect, and creating a habitat for urban wildlife. Green roofs are a key component of sustainable architecture, contributing to improved stormwater management and increased energy efficiency. This integration enhances green building initiatives, thereby reducing the overall environmental impact of buildings and promoting ecological sustainability.

Floating Staircase

A floating staircase is a design element in which the stair treads are mounted to appear floating, typically with no visible means of support underneath. This minimalist design feature can transform a space’s aesthetic, contributing to a modern and visually intriguing interior. Floating staircases add a light, airy feel to environments, making them appear more spacious and less cluttered.

Rainscreen Cladding

Rainscreen cladding is a façade installation technique involving an outer skin or layer that stands off from a moisture-resistant surface with an air barrier. This system creates a capillary break between materials and allows for drainage and evaporation, making it an efficient system for enhancing weather protection and improving thermal performance. Rainscreen cladding effectively shields the building from water damage and contributes to a healthier indoor environment.

Stone Cladding

stone cladding house

Stone cladding involves applying a thin unit of real or simulated stone as a façade to buildings. This method is used for both its aesthetic appeal and material efficiency. Stone cladding provides a natural look that can significantly enhance a building’s exterior visual appeal while also protecting the building from harsh environmental elements. Each type of stone is available in various materials—such as granite, marble, sandstone, and slate—and adds a unique texture and color to architectural designs.



Fenestration refers to windows, skylights, or doors on a building’s exterior. They play a crucial role in defining a structure’s character and aesthetic appeal. Properly designed fenestration enhances the building’s appearance and contributes to its performance by improving natural lighting and influencing the building’s energy efficiency. Effective fenestration design can help balance indoor climate and reduce energy consumption by maximizing natural light and optimizing thermal comfort.

Adaptive Reuse

Adaptive reuse

Adaptive reuse involves repurposing old buildings for new uses while preserving their historical features. This practice is a cornerstone of sustainable architecture, conserving resources and reducing new construction waste and environmental impact. Adaptive reuse preserves cultural heritage and provides a sustainable solution to urban development challenges. For example, in our Wellspring Ranch project, we reassembled and restored several historic log and timber structures throughout this property to ensure the rustic exteriors seamlessly merged with aspects of its modern interior.


Understanding architecture terminology and concepts is crucial for professionals within the field and those interested in the design and execution of building projects. By familiarizing oneself with these terms, one can better appreciate the breadth and depth of architectural practices and continue exploring the beauty and innovation within the field.


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Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal


After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle


As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.