#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!

#ElementalDesign Advice 05 DESIGN FOR CLIMATE

Talina Edwards Architecture Elemental Design Advice 5 Design For Climate

#ElementalDesign Advice 05  DESIGN FOR CLIMATE

“Ensure your home is designed for your local climate, throughout the seasons and into the future.” – Talina Edwards

Depending on the geography and location of where you are on this planet, you will experience different climates. Theses climates are identified by their temperature (whether they are predominantly hot, mild, cool, cold) and also by the air (humid/dry/windy). The four main ones are:

  • HOT-HUMID Tropical regions near the equator – think of the Daintree Rainforest in far north Queensland – where cooling is required with fresh breezes through the building and large sloped roofs to provide shelter from the rain. Or imagine a tropical beach holiday with bamboo huts on stilts.
  • HOT-DRY Arid Desert regions – most of inland Australia – where cooling is required in terms of protection from the harsh sun and plenty of shade and protection from hot winds. Buildings ideally should ideally have thick earth (mass) walls, small windows, internal shaded courtyard, breezes through at night, and be white-colour to reflect heat – imagine a traditional desert village like this or this.
  • COLD/WINDY Think Arctic, snowy conditions – towards the north and sole poles – where heating is required to be comfortable with air-tight and well-insulated buildings. An example of this is the Mongolian Yurt –  a lightweight frame, 8 layers of insulated fabric to cover, with a hole at top to let smoke out from the internal fire.Of course the other classic example is the heavily insulated thick ice-walls of an igloo.
  • TEMPERATE That’s us here in Victoria! Generally considered mild temperatures rather than extremes, but will also require winter heating and some summer cooling to be comfortable. We need to BALANCE strategies so we can be comfortable all year round!

There are many examples of primitive and vernacular homes that were perfect in responding to their climate. Here in Australia, our indigenous people were nomadic – relocating with the seasons to so they could take advantage of the best weather, so we don’t have one specific building typology that works best. That’s why most of us live in ‘wooden-tents’ which are essentially have not improved all that much since the English settlers arrived here over 200 years ago! According to the National Construction Code, we have 8 distinct climate zones (as shown in the map below).

Talina Edwards Architecture 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

Australia’s 8 climate zones (from The National Construction Code)

  • Climate zone 1 – High humidity summer, warm winter
  • Climate zone 2 – Warm humid summer, mild winter
  • Climate zone 3 – Hot dry summer, warm winter
  • Climate zone 4 – Hot dry summer, cool winter
  • Climate zone 5 – Warm temperate
  • Climate zone 6 – Mild temperate
  • Climate zone 7 – Cool temperate (Ballarat!)
  • Climate zone 8 – Alpine

Designing buildings that respond to their site-specific climate is often referred to as ‘Bio-Climatic’ design. The Your Home website has great explanations about each of these climate zones and the passive design considerations for each. The next posts in this #ElementalDesign Advice series will go into more detail about we can use a Bio-Climatic approach to designing our buildings here where we have a temperate climate. It is also important to consider not only our current climate, but how our climate is changing, and being prepared with more resilient buildings to ensure we can maintain our levels of comfort, and be much more energy-efficient in the future. You’ve probably noticed our winters are already longer, milder, and we have less rainfall. Our summers are getting hotter. We seem to jump straight from winter to summer and then back to winter again, with Autumn and Spring becoming a much shorter seasons. More extreme weather conditions are causing havoc all over the world – floods, storms, bushfires, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.

It is time to work with our planet, not against it. It is only by embracing this understanding of the earth, that we will have a better future.

On your travels, have you noticed there are different buildings in different climates? What have you noticed about these difference climate zones and what that means for our comfort levels? 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 04 SITE SELECTION

Talina Edwards Architecture Elemental Design Advice 4 Site

#ElementalDesign Advice 04 SITE SELECTION

“When choosing your site, ensure you undertake a holistic site analysis & understand all the opportunities and constraints.” – Talina Edwards

You might have a site, it might be your existing home, or you might be on the search for a new one. Whichever the case, it’s really important to gain a through understanding of all the pros/cons – as these will all affect what you are able to build on the site. Rarely is there a “perfect” site – there are always restrictions of some kind – such as easements, or perhaps limited northerly aspect, or steep sloping land, or neighbours really close, heritage overlays, or a bushfire prone area…. don’t see these as obstacles! They are all just part of the big picture, and the sooner you know about these restrictions, the easier it is to design with them in mind and find a solution.

Architects LOVE this problem-solving stage…I think we like a challenge! But this is where good design comes in! If we know all the parameters to work with, then we can focus on taking advantage of all the awesome features about your unique site – instead of battling against them.

If you’re starting out on your building journey, you need to know about YOU first! (We wrote about this here if you missed it.)

To get to know your site, ideally you’ll need to consider the following:

  • COMMUNITY AMENITIES? Close to trains/shops/schools/sports/leisure/hospitals, etc.
  • SITE SIZE? And shape, boundaries and beyond
  • LOCATION? Orientation? North, South, East, West
  • CLIMATE? Weather patterns, seasons. Sun, wind, rain, snow?
  • TERRAIN? Slope, rocks, hills, flat
  • VEGETATION? Trees & natural features
  • VIEWS? Neighbouring properties in all directions, desirable and undesirable views
  • SERVICES? Power, gas, water, sewer, etc.
  • ACCESS? Road, driveway, construction vehicles, cars, CFA access, bike, pedestrians, public-transport
  • SENSES? What can you see, hear, smell, touch, taste?
  • YOUR TITLE? Restrictive covenants/easements
  • UNDERGROUND? Soil classification, mines, sewer/stormwater pipes, etc.
  • PERMITS? Planning Permit Zoning and Overlays, Building Permit regulations and restrictions

If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry – your architect can help you with this process! I offer a preliminary ‘Site Review’ consultation to chat about this and to help you navigate where you are headed with your project. You can find out more here.

Do you have a site, or are you trying to find one? Have you thought about all these aspects when it comes to analysing your site? 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 03 BEFORE YOU START

Talina Edwards Architecture Elemental Design Advice 3 Before You Start

#ElementalDesign Advice 03 BEFORE YOU START

“Have a clear idea of WHY you want to build/extend.

Ask what is your biggest dream & your greatest fear.”

– Talina Edwards

Before you embark on your project, you should always start with ‘why?’. There are no right of wrong answers, but it will be so much easier to set the direction with what you want to achieve, by first understanding why you want to achieve it. In other words, what is your purpose? What are your values? What is the inspiration? What is the aim or objective or goal? Why? What is important to you? Why do you need to build or renovate? Do you need something bigger? Why? Perhaps you just want your home more efficiently planned? Do you want to make a statement? Why? Do you want live in a more comfortable home? Do you want to do less harm to our planet? Do you want to have an energy-efficient home so you will save money on running-costs?  Do you want high quality and durable building materials that will last? What are your priorities? Cost? Time? Quality? Quantity? Why? What are you willing to compromise on? Why?

So without turning into an annoying toddler, you get the idea! This exercise can be eye-opening, and really helpful. This may sound obvious but it is important to get your priorities in order – and  asking ‘why’ will help you get to the core of what you want to do.

If you want to more about the power of ‘why’, check out Simon Sinek’s TED talk. It was delivered with a focus on leadership and business, but I think it is still extremely relevant for any endeavour…as a client about to embark on a journey to get your dream home designed and built, it is imperative that your whole team is on board with you…especially your architect, as they’ll then help lead the consultant team and construction team – so you want your intention clear.

Understanding what you are most fearful about, and what your BIG dream is, are also both really important. Understanding more about yourself and being able to communicate all this to your architect, will result in a much better outcome!

It is then time to put together your project brief – based on your specific needs, desires & priorities. Some things you might want to consider:

  • Your ‘brief’ in terms of functional, physical, aesthetic, emotional, ethical, economical, and sustainable considerations
  • Your timeframe, budget, level of quality, and quantity/size (& where you are willing to compromise)
  • Your behaviour and habits and current consumption patterns.
  • Your use of rooms/spaces and how you would like to feel in them – what you like and don’t like. Think about the spaces/places you like now (i.e. yoga retreat, your favourite wine bar, a summer holiday, coming site) AND WHY you like them (dark/light, small/large, trees/sky/water, quiet/noisy, aromas/tastes, etc…

 

 

Hope that helps you get started on thinking about how you might go about building yourself a better place to live!

Have you reflected on these questions before? Can you see how this would be helpful at the start of any project? 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 02 TRUE SUSTAINABILITY

Talina Edwards Architecture Elemental Design Advice 2 True Sustainability

 

#ElementalDesign Advice 02: TRUE SUSTAINABILITY

“I love the analogy that for house to be truly sustainable, it should be like a tree” – Talina Edwards

I first hard about this idea from Michael Mobbs, in his “Sustainable House” book:  “A tree must meet all its needs for food, energy and water where it stands.” (and a sustainable house should too!) I’ve since heard this from many sources, including author and scholar Peter Graham who said “Buildings are a part of earth’s eco-systems…but they are rarely treated as such.”

The Living Future Institute also subscribes to this ethos on sustainability for their Living Building Challenge – and it’s principles are represented by petals for the same reason – that they believe that a building should be designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower. The Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories (called Petals): Place, Water, Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.

I think sustainability means different things to different people – whether that be:

  • natural
  • organic
  • energy-efficient
  • net-zero
  • carbon-neutral
  • passive-house
  • 10-star
  • earth-ship
  • off-grid
  • self-sufficient
  • healthy
  • non-toxic
  • bio-climatic
  • environmentally-friendly
  • pre-fab
  • permaculture
  • autonomous
  • durable
  • adaptable
  • cradle-to-cradle philosophy

…or all of the above!

It’s important at the outset of your project to prioritise what is the most important for you, and why you feel that way.

Once you have that guiding intent, all decisions will become easier, and you’ll be much happier with the outcome of your project.

What does “sustainability” mean to you? How beautiful is the notion that a building could be a part of our eco-system and not be a threat?!  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!