#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!

#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!