As energy prices are set to soar and more extreme weather patterns become the norm, homeowners, builders and architects will need to shift their focus to more environmentally sustainable home design strategies.
The online Climate Design Wizard (www.designingforclimate.com.au) is an intitative from Think Brick Australia and provides information about local climates and offers simple design strategies and advice to adopt a more environmentally sustainable outcome. The site is a valuable resource in the quest for energy efficiency in the domestic arena and can provide potential homebuilders with valuable information before they speak with their architect or building designer.
Even a basic understanding of the design options available to new homebuilders will help decide the long-term sustainability and energy efficiency of a home. When an architect or building designer suggests the inclusion of ‘passive design principles’ they refer to a multitude of elements including the appropriate placement of fixed, or adjustable, eaves and shade structures. The type of insulation and glazing used has a significant impact on the energy efficiency of a home and, when specified correctly, can help maintain year round comfort levels.
Passive heating and cooling initially involves the planning of living and sleeping zones according to the orientation of the home. For instance, the alignment of living areas on the north facade and bedrooms and bathrooms to the south or east ensures as much natural warmth as possible is absorbed in the most used areas of the home. The positioning of windows to deflect or encourage air movement and cross breezes assists in passively controlling thermal comfort.
Water efficiency is a sensitive topic around Australia. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” – it’s the mantra of the environmentally aware and, while reducing overall water use is the obvious short-term solution, the installation of water saving devices at the construction stage of the home is not only responsible, but costs saving as well. Rainwater harvesting and recycling of domestic greywater will become higher priorities in the future. Investing in these technologies now will assist in ‘future-proofing’ the home.