Climate-smart design saves money and makes life more comfortable, all year round.
The principles are simple. Sun aspect, ventilation, passive solar and thermal mass, site factors, microclimate and seasonal weather are the critical elements that influence good design.
Sun aspect and orientation are crucial for comfortable summer and winter living. West- and north-facing window glazing areas, and width of eaves on the north and eastern sides can make a huge difference.
Ventilation to capture cooling breezes, particularly on those hot summer days can make life much more pleasant. Changing a north- or east-facing window from awning style to louvres can make a world of difference. Breezeways are important too.
Passive solar design and thermal mass become more important in southern Australia or inland with a large daily temperature range. An internal feature wall of stone or concrete has high thermal mass, and together with a heating system can transform those cold winter nights. Maximising east-facing window area can rapidly warm your home on a winter morning.
Site factors and microclimate like views to the west, exposure to western sun, onshore wind, shading from adjoining features, soil and slope suitability for floor systems and other factors that all influence living comfort.
Seasonal weather can also be moderated with good design. Chilling winter westerly winds may require protection, and capturing cooling summer north-westerly breezes can make the difference between a comfortable afternoon with natural ventilation or turning on an 8kW air conditioner.
In southern and far northern Australia where heating and cooling costs are higher, over the building’s lifetime about 90% of the energy (hence greenhouse emissions) comes from running the building, and only 10% from construction.
As energy bills climb, maximising natural lighting and fitting out your new building with low-power lighting is repaid rapidly. New hybrid solar systems that incorporate energy storage (batteries) and smart electronics make good financial sense.
More good reading:
Your Home – guide to environmentally sustainable homes (Australian government)
Build –Building industry resources on design with many articles, such as this on window orientation
Climate Sensible Buildings (Murdoch University)
7 Deadly design sins (Home design directory)
The day the Sun stood still (CSIRO article on understanding seasonal sun angles)