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#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!



  1. Bill on September 30, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Hi Talina,

    Thanks for this timely reminder. I am considering some additional work later in the year or early next year, just some tweaks and adjustments and if available, might get you to have a look at making some suggestions for us.



    • talinaedwards on October 1, 2016 at 6:07 pm

      Hi Bill, Great to hear from you! Would love to chat when you’re ready. Thanks, Talina

  2. […] 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 […]