SEMINAR presented at The Hills Home Show, March 2014
3 STEPS TO A SUSTAINABLE HOME
So you’re building a new home or making some changes to your existing home, and you’re wondering, “Is it going to be comfortable? Am I adding to my already high power bill? Are there important design considerations I should be thinking about now, to increase comfort levels in the home?
Factors to consider when designing your home/ alterations to your existing home:
Size does matter
A large living room might seem decadent, but if your furniture is spaced out so much that the room does not function well, the extra space was an unnecessary and wasted expense (to build and to heat/ cool).
Design for yourself
Just because the Project Homes have a trend of Home Theatres or open-plan ensuites does not mean this may suit your lifestyle. Think about the longevity. Is this your “forever” home or are you planning to move/ retire elsewhere in the future? Can the home adapt to suit your changing phases of life? Are you adding rooms that will get very little use? Could that build/ heating and cooling cost be put to better use elsewhere?
Aquire Energy and Water for your usage
If you’re a keen gardener, water tanks will be an absolute necessity. If you spend most of your day at home, solar power may be a good option for you. Do your kids spend all summer in the pool? Solar pool heating may be something to consider. Design your layout to accommodate your water and power needs. Water tanks need to be placed near gutters and downpipes, where you will get the most roof run-off. Solar panels need to be unshaded, and face north. With the rising of energy costs, many people rush off to install solar power, but if you spend all day at the office and only get home after dark, you’ll be drawing power from the grid instead of your solar panels when you’re at home.
2. SITING CONSIDERATIONS
North facing rooms are shaded in summer and get morning & afternoon sun in winter. Ideal for living rooms.
East facing rooms get morning sun. Ideal for bedrooms.
West facing rooms get afternoon sun, which is harsh and hot in summer and creates bad glare in winter. Rooms with small or no windows (laundry/ storerooms/ stairs) and cabinetry against the walls will help lessen the heat coming into the house from the sun. Thicker walls, with insulation, or concrete walls on the west create good thermal loading to slowly absorb the heat and slow the release of the heat internally.
South facing rooms get low sun early morning and late afternoon in mid-summer. They get no sun in winter. Putting your garage on the south will free up the more desirable orientations for other rooms.
Large trees will shade areas at different times of the day. Some areas may therefore get no sunlight at all. Screening hedges or fences can block out harsh west sun. Noise (busy road, bus route) can be blocked from your house with garages and rooms that aren’t your main living spaces (bathrooms, laundry).
Views may determine the orientation of living spaces and bedrooms. Creating a large entrance and staircase leading to the living spaces on the upper floor, to maximise views, is becoming increasingly popular.
Create positive outdoor spaces
Living in Australia, where we have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors for most of the year makes us think about outdoor spaces as part of the home. Decks and patios that have been added on to the back of house are often not as welcoming as an outdoor space that is “held” by the house, and creates a flow between the inner and outer living spaces of the house.
3. USE YOUR HOME
Make your house breathe
Our homes are not office buildings that require closed windows and air-conditioning all day. Look around your house at different times of the day and see where you have shaded windows and where windows are allowing sun to stream in. If you don’t want the heat, close the curtains or blinds to block out the sun. Open windows that are shaded to and get some fresh, cool, air into the house.
Create your own breeze
You may remember from school that hot air rises and cold air sinks. If you can open high level windows to let out the hot air, and at the same time open windows that are shaded, the cool air will be drawn through the house. Houses need to be open plan as much as possible to create this flow through the house, and the further the windows are from each other, the more use you get of the breeze you create between the windows
Don’t forget your insect screens. Without them, you may not like to open windows.
Eaves and shading
The wider the eaves, the more shade your windows get. Consider extra shading devices over windows that don’t have eaves, and don’t underestimate the effect of vertical screens. You can get really trendy options, or do interesting gardening installations, which not only make the house look good, but can shade harsh west sun really well.
CASE STUDY- NEW HOUSE IN BAULKHAM HILLS
Sun studies- windows are coloured orange to see the sun’s effect through the windows- on the floor plan
Designing your home as an extension of you and your family often creates a showpiece in itself, and gives your home a longer lifespan. Of course, you’ll love living in it.