A house is a single-unit residential building, which may range in complexity from a rudimentary hut to a complex, structure of wood, masonry, concrete or other material, outfitted with plumbing, electrical, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Houses use a range of different roofing systems to keep precipitation such as rain from getting into the dwelling space. Houses may have doors or locks to secure the dwelling space and protect its inhabitants and contents from burglars or other trespassers. Most conventional modern houses in Western cultures will contain one or more bedrooms and bathrooms, a kitchen or cooking area, and a living room. A house may have a separate dining room, or the eating area may be integrated into another room. Some large houses in North America have a recreation room. In traditional agriculture-oriented societies, domestic animals such as chickens or larger livestock (like cattle) may share part of the house with humans.
The social unit that lives in a house is known as a household. Most commonly, a household is a family unit of some kind, although households may also be other social groups, such as roommates or, in a rooming house, unconnected individuals. Some houses only have a dwelling space for one family or similar-sized group; larger houses called townhouses or row houses may contain numerous family dwellings in the same structure. A house may be accompanied by outbuildings, such as a garage for vehicles or a shed for gardening equipment and tools. A house may have a backyard or front yard, which serve as additional areas where inhabitants can relax or eat.
The English word house derives directly from the Old English hus meaning "dwelling, shelter, home, house," which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic husan (reconstructed by etymological analysis) which is of unknown origin. The house itself gave rise to the letter 'B' through an early Proto-Semitic hieroglyphic symbol depicting a house. The symbol was called "bayt", "bet" or "beth" in various related languages, and became beta, the Greek letter, before it was used by the Romans. Beit in Arabic means house, while in Maltese bejt refers to the roof of the house.[dead link]
Ideally, architects of houses design rooms to meet the needs of the people who will live in the house. Feng shui, originally a Chinese method of moving houses according to such factors as rain and micro-climates, has recently expanded its scope to address the design of interior spaces, with a view to promoting harmonious effects on the people living inside the house, although no actual effect has ever been demonstrated. Feng shui can also mean the "aura" in or around a dwelling, making it comparable to the real estate sales concept of "indoor-outdoor flow".
The square footage of a house in the United States reports the area of "living space", excluding the garage and other non-living spaces. The "square metres" figure of a house in Europe reports the area of the walls enclosing the home, and thus includes any attached garage and non-living spaces. The number of floors or levels making up the house can affect the square footage of a home.
Humans often build houses for domestic or wild animals, often resembling smaller versions of human domiciles. Familiar animal houses built by humans include birdhouses, henhouses and doghouses, while housed agricultural animals more often live in barns and stables.
Many houses have several large rooms with specialized functions and several very small rooms for other various reasons. These may include a living/eating area, a sleeping area, and (if suitable facilities and services exist) separate or combined washing and lavatory areas. Some larger properties may also feature rooms such as a spa room, indoor pool, indoor basketball court, and other 'non-essential' facilities. In traditional agriculture-oriented societies, domestic animals such as chickens or larger livestock often share part of the house with humans. Most conventional modern houses will at least contain a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or cooking area, and a living room. The names of parts of a house often echo the names of parts of other buildings, but could typically include: