Tag Archives: cooling

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

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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 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!

Are all sustainable homes the same? (The past, present and future of green buildings.)

This post continues on our the theme of what a sustainable home is – and are they all the same? We’ll take a quick look at past, the present, and where we are (or should be!) headed in the future with regards to green buildings. Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. We recently began a series of posts covering the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of sustainable design. 

renovations new homes green building central victoria

 

 

 

I recently wrote about “What is a sustainable house?” which looked at a definition, and listed ten characteristics that I believe constitute a truly sustainable home. But today I want to address how I view that “environmentally friendly” homes have changed in recent times.

I grew up in the bushy Eltham-area (in the outer north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne), which at the time was well-known as an artistic community, who were environmentally conscious with many mud brick homes amongst the trees. Local legend Alistair Knox was a designer, environmentalist, builder, landscape-architect and the arguably the ‘father’ of the alternative natural building movement. From the 1950s to the 1980s, and he designed and built countless earth buildings – for a full list see here!  So I was introduced to this “organic architecture” early on, to these homes made from natural materials of earth and timber, with large windows to connect to the native landscape, and a focus on a wood-fire hearth as the literal heart of the home.

So back then, then the emphasis was about what the house was made from. A focus on locally sourced, organic, natural materials (and living in a more connected way with the natural environment). 

This low-tech approach was (and is) also seen in the owner-builder alternative housing movement, in permaculture, in earth-ships, and also many primitive and vernacular buildings from around the world.

Mudbrick home Eltham Victoria

Environmental Design: the natural way
“Living in the Environment” by Alistair Knox 1975

 

Today, the focus is more about how the house performs. This is much more of a high-tech approach to the energy-efficiency of the building and its services.

There us so much talk about thermal dynamics and heating coefficients, or megajoules / kilowatt-hours / CO2 emissions and zero-carbon / R-values / ten-star rating / consumption per annum… numbers, statistics, technical jargon…

“Autonomous” homes (or those ‘off-the-grid’) of course need to understand all of this to meet their energy and water needs. These days though, many people seem to focus on these high-tech ‘add-ons’ to make their homes greener – instead of ensuring the building fabric is right first, or perhaps even looking more broadly at how sustainable their lifestyles are the choices they make.

To ensure a home “performs” well (which means that it is thermally comfortable with little need for additional mechanical heating/cooling) it is imperative that the building envelope is designed correctly. Today, sophisticated energy-rating software such as FirstRate (and international standards such as Passivhaus) focus heavily on science, statistics, and rigid criteria to get proven results for new buildings.

Unfortunately,  at times the ’embodied’ energy used to make manufacture/process/transport  some high-tech products/materials (e.g. metal or petroleum-derived plastic products or harmful chemical components/finishes) can outweigh the amount of energy that will actually be saved during the performance of the building…and can be toxic to our health, not to mention the earth. This can be a complicated mathematical equation to evaluate over the life of a building, with many factors and variables to be considered, so it can become even more confusing!

Solar Hot Water PV Photovoltaic Solar Power Energy

Green buildings: High-tech solutions
Solar Hot Water and Photovoltaics on Michael Mobbs’ roof in “Sustainable House” 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the first approach is a bit too hippy, and the second too nerdy…can we do BOTH?

YES! Both approaches are crucial for our future buildings to be more sustainable. And encouragingly, this does seem to be happening…

On the one hand, our souls crave the connection to nature, but we should also embrace new technologies which are making innovative breakthroughs all the time, which can improve our buildings and our lives.

On the other, if we continue our over-consumption and greedy ways, and think technology will save us, we are mistaken. It is only when we start thinking of the life-cycle of our built environment in the same ways as the natural environment that we will start to have truly sustainable buildings. 

As always, it is important to remember that sustainable design is NOT an aesthetic or a style, but a philosophical and theoretical approach to how the building is composed.  Please stay tuned to read more about the who, what, when, where, why, and of course we’ll get to the how of sustainable design.

Talina-Edwards-Architecture-Signature

Are all sustainable houses the same? What do you think? What sort of sustainable home do you dream about living in? Does your heart lean more toward the warmth of timber and the texture of stone…or does your head get excited by the latest specs of photovoltaic panels? (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!)

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