#ElementalDesign Advice 08 SITE ORIENTATION

Building or renovating a green eco sustainable energy efficient home house in Ballarat Daylesford Hepburn Trentham Blackwood Buninyong Creswick Clunes Need an architect designer drafting plans builder advice help

#ElementalDesign Advice 08  SITE ORIENTATION

“Understand the sun’s movement across your site throughout the day/year, and design to take advantage of it.” – Talina Edwards

What does orientation really mean and why is it important? This is really all about the sun’s movement across your site (and the shade), and needs to be assessed for different times of the day, and different times of the year, so you can use sunlight to your advantage!

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10 ways to keep cool this summer (without air-conditioning)

air conditioning heating cooling fans summer hot weather climate ballarat daylesford hepburn new home renovation building

After a long, wet and cold Winter, we are finally embracing Summer! We’ve been craving the warmer weather, however we’re now faced with trying to stay comfortable during the heat…ahh the joys of living in a temperate climate! There are ways to keep you and your home cooler, without immediately installing energy-guzzling air-conditioning.

‘Why wouldn’t I just switch on the AC?’
As an architect with a passion for sustainable buildings, I know that it is possible to design homes that are a lot more comfortable than the ‘wooden tents’ many of us inhabit. If our homes are designed to be more energy-efficient, then we can save a large amount of money in terms of running costs, and there are also huge savings in terms of reducing carbon emissions. Our climate is changing, so these extremes in weather will increase, and our comfort levels will be challenged, and we’ll resort to more heating and cooling – can you see the vicious cycle here that we’ve got ourselves into?

‘So, what can I do?’
If you’re planning a new home or renovation, then of course it’s much easier to get the design of your building right from the start! There are ways to upgrade or retrofit existing homes too, and look at your behaviour.

1. INSULATION: We all hear about the importance of insulating our homes for winter to keep us warm inside – and this is equally important in summer. Think of your home as an ‘esky’ – we ideally want insulation to the roof, walls and floor, so we can have more control over the temperature inside. This creates a buffer between our ideal comfort range (around 21degrees C), and the extremes outside.

2. DRAFT-PROOFING: We want to seal those sneaky gaps where unwanted hot/cold air can get in or out. Then you can have control over when you open your windows/doors (when there’s a cool breeze).

3. SHADING: Windows are considered a weak spot in the fabric of the building envelope – like cutting a hole in your esky. Double-glazing is helpful to reduce heat loss in winter, but in summer we also want to keep the direct sun off the glass. Think of how your car turns into a sauna on a hot day. Shading to the outside of the windows works best – whether that be eaves, awnings, verandahs, external blinds, shade cloth, deciduous vines or trees.

4. ‘SHUTDOWN MODE’: On those really hot days, close your curtains and blinds inside if possible to help keep that heat out. Don’t open the windows during the day (especially when there are hot northerlies blowing.) Keep your lights switched off too as your globes can emit a lot of heat.

5. NIGHT PURGE: If your home has heated up during the day (especially if you have internal thermal mass), then leave your windows open at night to take advantage of cooler breezes. If mosquitos or safety are concerns, install some good quality insect screens and/or security screen doors.

6. FANS: Turn on fans only when you will be in the room with them. You can create your own ‘evaporative cooling’ by placing a wet sarong in front of an upright fan, or a gentle water mist. Don’t forget to check that your ceiling fans are set to ‘summer-mode’ if you swapped them over during winter.

7. YOUR BODY: There are also lots of old-school ways to keep you more comfortable. Undress, or wear breathable natural fibres. Keep a spray bottle handy with some essential oils added to the water for a refreshing mist. Dampen a cotton scarf (or tea-towel) to keep your neck cool. Sit with your feet in a bucket of iced water. Get some ice-gel wristbands. Freeze a ‘hot’ water bottle to sleep with.

8. COOKING: Use your BBQ to cook outside. Or stick to a raw-food diet, antipasto, sandwiches, etc.

9. ESCAPE: Go to beach, lake, river, local swimming pool or water park – anywhere there’s water so you can cool down. Don’t forget to slip, slop, slap, seek, slide! Or escape to a public place with cooling such as the cinema, library, art gallery, museum, shopping centre, or I can recommend the frozen section of the supermarket (or the cool-room at the back of a bottle-shop!).

10. EVAPORATIVE COOLING: Evaporative Cooling units use less energy than Air Conditioners, but you have to understand how they work (requiring air flow and water consumption), get an efficient model that’s the right size for your home and ensure you are in the right climate (they are better suited to dry rather than humid zones).

Hope you can see how easy it can be to make some of these changes, so you can keep your cool over summer!

Do you have an air-conditioner or an evaporative cooler? Or do you rely on low-energy solutions like fans and some of the above suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder


Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!

#ElementalDesign Advice 07 PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN

 

Building or renovating a green eco sustainable energy efficient home house in Ballarat Daylesford Hepburn Trentham Blackwood Buninyong Creswick Clunes Need an architect designer drafting plans builder advice help

#ElementalDesign Advice 07 PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN

“Ensure your home design responds to your climate to maintain a comfortable temperature in the home.” – Talina Edwards


What are Passive Solar Design principles and why should we care?

When it comes to designing a building, it just makes good sense to employ these principles as the fundamental essentials to getting your building to feel more comfortable, and just be a better place to be in! These shouldn’t be seen as ‘add-ons’ or optional extras, but intrinsic to good design.

Passive Solar Design has been around for thousands of years, but became popular in the 1970s, with the main principles being:

  • Orientation and north-facing windows (living areas to face north with largest area of glazing to north to capture winter sun for ‘passive heating’ – here in the southern hemisphere)
  • Thermal Mass (with the idea being that internal mass will absorb the heat from the winter sun)
  • Shading (to windows to prevent summer sun from entering the house)
  • Natural Ventilation (openable windows to capture cool night breezes in summer to cool the house down)

Over time, it has become more widely accepted that Passive Solar Design Principles also incorporate:

  • Insulation (The importance of well-insulated homes has gained more attention as the science and experience of the occupants has backed the claims of why it works)
  • Double-Glazed Windows (Windows are a weakness in the building envelope when we are trying to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.)
  • Draft-sealing (This importance of an air-tight building is still misunderstood, however it can make a BIG difference to the comfort of our homes).

We’ll be going through all of these (and more!) in more detail in future posts in our #ElementalDesign Advice series.

The idea behind these principles being ‘passive’ is about taking advantage of your local climate, to maintain a more comfortable temperature range in the home. Design the building to make the most of the free (and passive) heat from sun in winter, provide shading to exclude the hot sun in summer, and use the wind for cooling with cross-ventilation. This is all before needing an ‘active’ or mechanical system of additional heating/cooling for the building.

Passive Solar Design Principles are not to be confused with the Passive House (Passivhaus) Standard. Passive House certified buildings can also incorporate many of these Passive Solar Design principles, but the standard also has additional criteria to be met relating to the ‘building envelope’ for a super energy-efficient house. (Such as very high levels of insulation, no thermal-bridging in the structure, an air-tight envelope, controlled mechanical ventilation systems, highly efficient glazing, etc.) all of which need to meet their strict performance standards to achieve Passive House Certification.

So a lot of the the fundamentals about Passive Solar Design Principles mean that these are ‘hidden’ and not always evident in the finished building – in fact you’re more likely to notice the negative effects in a building that hasn’t included these, rather than be able to understand why some buildings feel more comfortable and so much better to be in.

Architects who understand and implement Passive Solar Design Principles as fundamental to the design of your project are yworth their weight in gold when it comes to a more comfortable home!

Have you heard about Passive Solar Design Principles before? Does your home incorporate these principles, or do you know a place that does? Let me know in the comments below!

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder


Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!

#ElementalDesign Advice 06 DESIGN FOR COMFORT

Building or renovating a green eco sustainable energy efficient home house in Ballarat Daylesford Hepburn Trentham Blackwood Buninyong Creswick Clunes Need an architect designer drafting plans builder advice help

#ElementalDesign Advice 06  DESIGN FOR COMFORT

“We like 21 degrees Celsius to be comfortable – design your home to achieve this all year” – Talina Edwards

Air, Water, Food, and Shelter are said to be the basic elements that humans need for survival. However when it comes to shelter, we’re no longer satisfied with a bark hut or a cave (unless perhaps we live somewhere the weather is mild all year round!). In recent times we’ve become a fussy bunch, and we really want our (thermal) comfort too!

Think about your comfort levels – do you prefer the scorching heat of summer or the crispness and chill of winter? Or like me, (and Goldilocks!) do you dislike both extremes and prefer the in-between seasons of Spring and Autumn where it’s not hot or too cold but just right?! (ie. About 21 degrees celsius). Even if you enjoy Summer the most, I imagine you also like to escape the heat too – by swimming, or the cool breeze of a fan, or air-conditioned comfort. If you enjoy Winter, I’m sure you also love getting rugged up to make the most of the snow-season, you’d love warm comfort food or sitting round a fire…

Did you know? Ballarat residents currently spend over 75% of their home energy bills on heating! (With the rest of Victoria in a similar situation – perhaps a bit less if you’re lucky.) 

Here in the Ballarat region we are known as a ‘heating climate’ which means there are more days (months) when we will want heating than cooling. In the second half of the last century, the price of power (electricity and gas) became much more affordable for households. So we continued to live in our “wooden tents”, and rely on cranking up that heating to keep comfortable in the winter months. The price of non-renewable energy is increasing (and the planet urgently needs us to stop relying on fossil fuels!) and we are spending too much money on heating and cooling our homes when we could be designing and building them to reduce or even eliminate this need.

Buildings can be designed to be thermally comfortable all year round, without the need for air conditioning or additional heating! It is possible in our climate to do this with an energy-efficient home (if building to a Passive House standard or a 10 star-rated house). Yes, it might cost a bit more up front to get a better quality building, but the reduction (or elimination) in running costs will last a lifetime!

Imagine how much money you could save?! Imagine how much power you would save?! Imagine how much of the planet you could save! There is a lot we need to do to address climate change; to ensure a better future for our children’s children. The scientific predictions are that weather is going to have more extremes (we are already seeing this) – so designing and building our homes to be more sustainable, more energy-efficient, more resilient and more comfortable has never been so important.

What is your favourite season? Are you a creature of comfort too? How often do you have the heating on? Let me know in the comments below!

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder


Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!