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Too often home design becomes a very one-dimensional solution ie does this plan fit on my block! Often we are starting with a list of wants rather than weighing up the best outcomes for the client or the planet.
Understanding how your project fits into its environment and landscape is a really important first step.
In our Innovation House 1.0 project we were able to demonstrate an affordable 10-star energy solution. This exemplar performance started with listening to solar orientations, breeze paths and material performance to deliver a great outcome.
Design also moves into understanding the needs of the occupant. Looking at accessibility, living well into our eldership and designing to the changes in our living experiences as a modern population.
Below are some best practice application you might consider.
Direct sun can generate the same heat as a single bar radiator over each square metre of a surface, but effective shading can block up to 90% of this heat. By shading a building and its outdoor spaces we can reduce summer temperatures, improve comfort and save energy. A variety of shading techniques can help, from fixed or adjustable shades to trees and vegetation, depending on the building’s orientation as well as climate and latitude.
Sealing your home against air leakage is one of the simplest upgrades you can undertake to increase your comfort while reducing your energy bills and carbon emissions by up to 25%.
‘Passive design’ is design that takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range in the home. Passive design reduces or eliminates the need for auxiliary heating or cooling, which accounts for about 40% (or much more in some climates) of energy use in the average Australian home.
Passive solar heating uses free heating direct from the sun to dramatically reduce the estimated 40% of energy consumed in the average Australian home for space heating and cooling (DEWHA 2008).
To be comfortable, buildings in all Australian climates require some form of cooling at some time of the year. There are many ways you can design or modify your home to achieve comfort through passive (non-mechanical) cooling, as well as hybrid approaches which utilise mechanical cooling systems.
Orientation is the positioning of a building in relation to seasonal variations in the sun’s path as well as prevailing wind patterns. Good orientation can increase the energy efficiency of your home, making it more comfortable to live in and cheaper to run.
Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. A lot of heat energy is required to change the temperature of high density materials like concrete, bricks and tiles. They are therefore said to have high thermal mass. Lightweight materials such as timber have low thermal mass. Appropriate use of thermal mass throughout your home can make a big difference to comfort and heating and cooling bills.
Insulation acts as a barrier to heat flow and is essential for keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. A well-insulated and well-designed home provides year-round comfort, cutting cooling and heating bills by up to half. This, in turn, reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Windows are complex and interesting elements in the fabric of a home. They let in light and fresh air and offer views that connect interior living spaces with the outdoors. However, windows can be a major source of unwanted heat gain in summer and significant heat loss in winter.