SELECTING THE CORRECT ORIENTATION

 

The orientation of your house plays more of a role than which corner of your block you plant your lemon tree on your block.

 

 

Good orientation increases the energy efficiency of your home which in return is not only a huge step forward to more sustainable housing, but also the reduction in energy usage equals a cheaper home to run which equals more bucks in your back pocket. With the discussion of raising energy prices yet again seems like a very logical step forward especially considering a correctly orientated building doesn't cost you anything other than some upfront thinking.

Additionally, a good designed well-orientated house is much more comfortable to live in both during summer and winter.  In summer they are kept cool through minimising the heat gain into the house and capturing cooling breezes and then in winter warmer through allowing the winter sun into the house and preventing any heat loss. 

 

Orientation

One of the most important aspects is the orientation of the block itself. When selecting a block, you ideally want it to be elongated along the east-west axis, therefore having a larger north facing boundary. This increases the ability to maximise the homes northern outlook. In return, this means more room and more windows facing north, and subsequently, the ability to capture and store more winter sun and heat.

 

Built environment

Along with the orientation, the current built environment should be considered when looking to purchase a block of land. Any existing buildings or trees to the north, no matter how small, will shade some portion of the north face of the house and will therefore dramatically affect the homes overall performance. 

For instance, a corner block with an uninterrupted north face compared than a block with a three storey house in close proximately on the north face will work very differently. Both blocks may be elongated on north face, however the corner block with no overshadowing from any surrounding structures will provide a far greater end result than the block being overshadowed by the three storey home. During the winter months, the sun is at a much lower angle, so even a small obstruction to the north face can be quite detrimental to the function and operation of the house

Similar to how the built environment plays a role with capturing the winter sun, it also greatly effects the cool summer breezes (in Perth commonly referred to as the Freo doctor, or Fremantle doctor). These cooling sea breezes come from the South West providing a cool relief to our hot Perth summers.  Wind paths are a little more flexible than the sun as these breezes can be manipulated and guided to a certain extent with wing walls and wind tunnels, but if you again have three storey house in close proximity to the south west of your house, possibly abutting your house it will effect the ability to capture these cooling summer breezes.

As you can see it is not just a simple as only looking at the overall orientation of your block, but also the surrounding build environment and how this will affect your home design.

A good designer that has the ability to think outside of the square can work in with any scenario to make the best of both the block orientation and built environment.

Stay tuned for our next post in our mini series on Passive Solar Design.

Janik Dalecki
PASSIVE SOLAR DESIGN
"The Wasley' featuring highlight windows to capture the cooling summer breezes designed by Dalecki Design.

"The Wasley' featuring highlight windows to capture the cooling summer breezes designed by Dalecki Design.

 

So firstly what is Passive Solar Design?

‘Passive solar design’ takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range within the home. This is achieved through the appropriate orientation of the house on its site to make the most of natural heating and cooling.

House orientation is the key component to passive design, with spatial zoning, thermal mass, ventilation, insulation, shading and glazing also being contributing factors. Passive Design is a relatively simple strategy, intended to keep summer heat out and winter heat in, moderating the temperature of the home for comfort all year round.

 

Why should you include Passive Solar Design principles?

Passive Design can be easily achieved with upfront thinking and planning during the design phase of your home. The best bit is it’s free! It relies solely upon the heat from the winter sun and cooling summer breezes to achieve thermal comfort within the home. With Passive Solar Design you can reduce, or even eliminate the need for auxiliary heating and cooling, which accounts for approximately 40% of energy use in the average Australian home. The immediate energy cost savings you will notice in a Passive Solar designed home is just one of advantages to having a thermally comfortable home, whilst also knowing you are being considerate to the future of our environment.

Stay tuned and keep an eye out for our next post on your homes ideal orientation in relation to Passive Solar Design.

 

 

Janik Dalecki
WHERE TO START?

The prospect of tackling a project, whether it be a new home, renovation or addition can be extremely daunting, especially if it is a process you have never encountered before. With council approvals, consultants and designers, it’s hard to even know where to begin!

Below is a general guide for first time builders or renovators, to walk you through step by step each stage of the building design and approvals process, leading you to the point where construction of your dream project can begin.

The following steps are heavily dependent on the exact nature of the project you are undertaking, however, provide a good general guide to get you started with the process.

If you are beginning a new project, there is a good chance that you already have a fair idea of what you want to do- whether it be to build a new family home, renovate your existing home, or even build an alfresco area out the back. From here, the best place to start is to call your local council. Have a chat to them about your project so they can give you a yes or no answer as to whether your project requires any approvals at all.

It is also a good idea to speak to council about your project in a little more detail- explain exactly what it is you are hoping to do and what you want to achieve. They will be able to give you a general understanding as to whether the works you are hoping to carry out are possible within your particular council’s Local Planning Policies and the Residential Design Codes.

Residential Design Codes- Commonly referred to as ‘R-codes’, they are the Western Australia wide rules and regulations that stipulate what you can and can’t do on your specific parcel of land. These regulations include all aspects of a home design including boundary setbacks, wall heights, building heights and maximum building footprint of your site etc.

Local Planning Policy- Guidelines put in place by your individual council. These guidelines override the residential design codes and are here to ensure the desired integrity of the area is maintained. 

It is important to remember not to take the council’s opinion as to whether or not your project is possible as final. If a council says that your works aren’t possible, quite often, a good designer or architect will be able to come up with a solution that falls within the council’s regulations and still meets your brief. The specialised knowledge and experience of a building designer or architect also mean that they can often provide sufficient justification or explanation for your project that will support council approval.

The next step before approaching a professional is to put together a detailed brief of what you want to do including exactly what you want to achieve and what your budget is. A brief may include inspirational photos, house plans that you like, or could be purely written. This step is crucial, as it is important to have a clear idea of exactly what you want to achieve prior to starting your project. Your brief doesn’t have to explain physically how it will be laid out, or how it will be achieved (this is the designer's job), but more so a result of what you are trying to achieve in terms of liveability.

From here, approach a building designer, architect or builder with your detailed brief. Carry out thorough research into the companies prior to approaching them to ensure that the firm you ultimately engage reflects your style and design philosophy.  

Once you have selected the firm you will be working with to develop your design, the first consultant involved in the process is a surveyor. The surveyor will conduct a feature and contour survey, measuring the fall and height of your land along with any features that are on the site, such as existing structures, trees and services (ie sewer). In the case of an addition or renovation, it is particularly important to get this done up front so you know the exact position of the house in relation to your boundaries.

Surveyor conducting a feature and contour survey. 

Surveyor conducting a feature and contour survey. 

The firm that you approach will then come up with a design based on your detailed brief and the findings of the land survey. The process of developing a final design will often involve a number of revisions and toing and froing between you and your design firm before it is perfect.

Once you have decided on a design that you love, the firm will lodge this to council for the development application. This is the first stage of applications that will be submitted in the process of your home design approval.

Development Application- Otherwise known as development approval (DA), planning approval or planning application. Essentially this stage is the council assessing your particular design to ensure it complies with the R-codes and any local planning policies.

Once planning approval has been granted, the firm will complete detailed documentation, which are the plans that are used to construct the project. Depending on the size of the project, various consultants will be involved at this stage. A standard house will require a structural engineer, energy efficiency consultant, building certifier and geotechnical engineer.

Image of architectural drawings.

Image of architectural drawings.

Geotechnical Engineer- Takes samples of the soil on your piece of land to give you a classification of the soil type that you are building on. The structural engineer will then use this to calculate the structural components specified in the detailed documentation (slab and footings etc).

Structural Engineer- Specifies in detail all the structural components within the project.

Energy Efficiency Consultant- Assesses the design and the proposed specification of the build to ensure it meets the minimum standards for energy efficiency (all homes must be a minimum of a 6 star rating).

Building Certifier- Whilst engaging a building certifier isn’t a requirement, it is a huge benefit when lodging your documentation to council as it fast tracks the process. A building certifier will assess the plans against the Building Code of Australia, or BCA, to ensure it meets the required standards and will then provide a Certificate of Design compliance (also referred to as a CDC).

By lodging ‘certified’ plans to council it fast tracks this stage, with council processing the application within 10 working days, with reduced council processing fees. However, if you lodge ‘uncertified plans’ to council, they can take up to 25 working days to process and will be subject to the full processing fee.

Building Code of Australia – Also referred as the BCA, is a uniform set of technical provisions for the design and construction of any buildings structures throughout Australia.

Australian Standards – Commonly referred to as AS are documents setting out specifications, procedures, and guidelines. They are designed to ensure products, services and systems are safe, reliable and consistent.

Certificate of Design compliance – Or commonly referred to a CDC, is a certificate provided from the Building Certifier stating the building permit application package is compliant with the required Australian Standards and Building Code of Australia and is therefore ready to be lodged to council as a Certified Building Application.

Larger projects (i.e multi-residential) will require additional consultants. These consultants can include an acoustic engineer, fire engineer, mechanical engineer, hydraulic engineer and civil engineer among various others, depending on the exact nature of the project.

The whole package (detailed drawings including the required information from all of the engaged consultants) along with the Building Certifier certificate of design compliance (if this process is selected) is then lodged to council for a Building Permit under the selected builders builders registration.

Building Permit - Also commonly referred to as a building application, building approval or building license. This is the final approval process from council.

If you are an owner builder, prior to lodging your documentation for building approval, you will need to lodge an application to the Department of Commerce for an owner builder application in order to receive your owner builder license.

Once approval is granted by council for the building permit, your project has received the green light and construction can officially begin!

One of Dalecki Design's very happy clients enjoying their completed project.

One of Dalecki Design's very happy clients enjoying their completed project.

Whilst this whole process may seem overwhelming, it is important to remember that if you engage a building designer, architect or builder early on in the process, they will guide you through the steps, taking care of the majority of the work for you. Starting a project is an exciting time, so be sure to enjoy the process!

Get in touch with us to see how we can help you with your Custom Home Design. 

Janik Dalecki
BROKEN PLAN LIVING - IS IT THE NEW OPEN PLAN LIVING?

What exactly is 'Broken Plan Living'? 

Broken plan living is a transitional movement between the modern open plan layout and traditional separated home layouts. It keeps all the functioning items we love about open plan living, but defines separate living spaces, giving an element of privacy and defining each zone as a separate function. The level of broken plan can be as open or separated as you like depending on your exact living needs.

The benefit of broken plan is that we can still utilise all the aspects that we not only love, but work so well in an open plan layout. These aspects include the vast amount of light able to enter deep into the home, the ability for air to move freely through the open spaces of the home and the moderate air temperature throughout all living zones. The ability to still be connected to the heart of the home through having all living areas connected is another huge positive of open plan living that can be replicated in a broken plan layout.

On top of having a functioning purpose, the use of broken plan can create exciting zones, providing more dynamic, interesting spaces with multiple layers within your home. Sometimes with open plan layouts, especially in larger homes, a very vast, empty, dull space can be created if not furnished and fit out correctly.

Janik Dalecki
SUMMER'S OUT!

How to design your very own cool Summer oasis?

As Autumn comes around and Summer comes to an end, thankfully, we are also seeing the end to the occasionally unbearable heat that comes with the season. As the thermostat rises, we are reminded of how poorly some of the houses we live in cope with the extreme heat of our Summer. Poor design and poor construction methods are the two culprits responsible for this discomfort we are put through. Quite often, we are left in a state where we have no option but to set the air-conditioner to the max, or escape the house completely to seek solace from the heat.

Project by MALBOEUF BOWIE ARCHITECTURE

Project by MALBOEUF BOWIE ARCHITECTURE

Overall the cooling of your home in Summer can be broken down into two categories, the first being the design and the second being the construction. Both of which are your designer’s responsibility to not only design correctly, but to then document and specify the correct materials and construction.

Starting with the design aspect of creating a cool home, below are the items which must be considered during the design phase.

It all starts right at the very beginning of the entire process when selecting your block. However, for those of you choosing to work with an existing house this will obviously be your starting point.

 

Design

Orientation

We have discussed orientation in detail before and if you wish to read about it in further detail you can here. Ideally, you want an elongated north face for your block of land and house for Winter heating. This also plays a role in keeping your house cool in the Summer. The north facing sun is much simpler to shade compared to the morning sun rising east and the afternoon sun setting west which gets under shading devices, therefore, shading these become a lot more difficult. Being able to shade the sun from entering your home will assist in keeping the temperature within your home down.

Cooling breezes

In Summer the cool sea breezes provide you with natural air conditioning to flush out hot air and cool your home. In Perth, the south-west afternoon breeze (commonly referred to as the freo doctor) enters the home via windows located on the south and west orientation and out the windows located on the opposite face of the building.

The breezes can be further captured through the use of correctly placed stepped walls in the building along with correctly placed windows and/or with the use of correctly designed and positioned wing walls. Wing walls work similarly to stepped walls in the building. Both options work by providing a larger surface area to capture the breeze and then directing it towards the designated window opening.

Cooling breezes can be further enhanced by creating 'cool zones' at the location where the cooling breeze is to be captured. These breezes then pass through this cool zone, further cooling the air before it enters the house. A cool zone can be a well shaded, dark cool space located at the cooling breeze entrance point outside of the home. Bodies of water and ponds can also assist in further cooling these breezes.

Open floor plan

An open floor plan can be utilised to enhance the flow of the cooling breezes once it has entered the house. For a cooling breeze to work efficiently, it requires little or no barriers in its path between entering the house and exiting the house. An open plan floor plan provides this perfectly as the breezes can enter on the south and west facing side and then pass through this open area without any interruptions, therefore flushing the hot air out through openings on the opposite side of the house.

Open floor plan designed by DALECKI DESIGN

Open floor plan designed by DALECKI DESIGN

Window types

Some types of windows will perform better in certain locations compared to others. A louvre window works well for smaller windows, as it provides a 100% openable space in comparison to a sliding window, whereby only 50% of the window is openable.

Window heights can also play a big role in the natural ventilation of your home. Low level windows can be utilised to suck in the cooler air, with high level windows pushing out the trapped internal hot air as it rises. This again creates a natural and free air-conditioning system. This particular design method relies on the air movement internally as the less dense hot air rises, rather than relying on capturing external breezes, however these two can be combined to work together.

Use of highlight ventilation windows designed by ARENT & PIKE

Use of highlight ventilation windows designed by ARENT & PIKE

Shading

Before you look at incorporating window glazing into the construction of your home, you want to make sure that your shading is correct. There is little point spending any additional money on improved glazing if your basic design principles have not been considered. Shading your house greatly reduces the inside summer temperature, improving the comfort levels without any auxiliary cooling.

These window and wall shadings are crucial in reducing unwanted heat gain. Effective shading such as window awnings or shutters, eaves, pergolas and even plantings can block up to 90% of the summer heat. Unprotected glass is the greatest source of heat gain to a house. It is crucial shading is correctly designed so it blocks out all summer sun whilst still allowing the winter sun to penetrate deeply into the home.

Window shading designed by DALECKI DESIGN

Window shading designed by DALECKI DESIGN

Thermal mass

Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. High density materials such as concrete, bricks, stone and even tiles require a large amount of energy to change their overall temperature. Therefore, they are fantastic materials to use for your home, when utilised in the right location. The key being the right location. Badly placed thermal mass can worsen the extremes of the climate by storing and radiating heat in Summer. Good thermal design will moderate the indoor air temperature throughout all seasons of the year. In Summer, the thermal mass should be shaded from direct sunlight. This allows the thermal mass to absorb internal energy/heat from the inside the house during the day. The cool night breeze then passes over the thermal mass, drawing out any day time stored energy/heat which then, in return, cools the overall internal temperature for the day to come.

 

Construction

Glazing

Glazing brings in light and fresh air, however, along with this comes the summer heat. Up to 87% of the homes heat is gained through glazing. With today’s technologies, there are a wide variety of different glazing types, with each performing slightly differently. This provides you with the opportunity to use the correct glazing type for the windows specific job.

Insulation

Along with correct shading, insulation will help prevent unwanted heat from entering the house. Insulation acts as a barrier to heat flow, preventing not only the hot outside air in summer entering into the house, but also the cooler internal air escaping.

Sealing

Air leakage will allow the hot outside air in summer an entrance point into the house, but also the cooler internal air an escape point. If air leakage is minimised, ventilation through desired openings can ensure the solar passive principles incorporated into the design work to their maximum ability to cool your home.

So with some small upfront planning and good design, you can have your very own cool Summer oasis in your own home.

 

Improved glazing used in design by DALECKI DESIGN

Improved glazing used in design by DALECKI DESIGN

Janik Dalecki