“FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION” NO MORE! I’TS TIME TO THINK “FORM FOLLOWS ENVIRONMENT”

When we build, naturally, the vast majority of people only consider their own requirements and needs. However, it's important to remember that your home, whilst it may seem small in the grand scheme of things, has a large impact on the surrounding environment and community over its life cycle. In today's world of increased population, increased pollution, increased strain on the existing infrastructure and dwindling natural resources, it is more important than ever to consider how you can minimise your impact on the environment. Your home design is a great place to start! 

Passive designed house by ARCHTERRA ARCHITECTS  

Passive designed house by ARCHTERRA ARCHITECTS  

What is passive design?

‘Passive design’ is design that takes advantage of the climate to maintain a comfortable temperature range in the home. A well designed building helps minimise any unwanted heat gain and loss, therefore reducing the homes energy usage.

Why should you include passive design principles?

Basic passive design principles can be easily incorporated in to your home design for no extra cost, but can reduce, or even eliminate the need for auxiliary heating or 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 designed home is an added advantage to considering the future of our environment.

With good design and up front planning, these basic passive design principles can be easily incorporated into any new home without adding any additional costs on top of your standard build. Substantial renovations to an existing home also offer a fantastic, cost effective opportunity to upgrade thermal comfort, with even smallest of upgrades providing significant improvements. 

Passive designed home extension by architect GUILD ARCHITECTS

Passive designed home extension by architect GUILD ARCHITECTS

Where to start?

What should you look for when selecting a block of land or an established house? Where do you begin with a passive solar design? The first thing you need to be aware of is the location but in more specific detail, the orientation. Ideally you want the building (existing or new) to be elongated on an east-west axis exposing the building so the north face as much as possible. Therefore, if you are looking for a vacant block, ideally it should be elongated on this axis.

The buildings north face openings should be exposed to sunlight as much as possible during the day heating period (time the sun is up) during the winter months. Keeping this in mind, extra consideration will also need to be given to the pre existing surrounding built environment. For example, if a ten storey apartment building is on the north side of your block, the opportunity of you obtaining this north exposure is going to be much less in comparison to a corner block with no obstructions to the north face and so extra design consideration needs to be given to the location of openings. 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. Along with the orientation of the block and the house within the block, you need to take into account the current and future surrounding built environment.

Passive designed house by STUDIO OAK  

Passive designed house by STUDIO OAK  

If looking at an established home, you need to apply the same principles, with the majority of the building being exposed to the north orientation. However, when referring to ‘building’, this is not referencing spaces liked your garage, your laundry, your bathroom or even your bedrooms. You want your main living spaces where you will spend a majority of the time during the day to be as exposed as possible to this north face. The reason is simple, because this is where you spend the majority of your time. The other zones like your garage and your laundry are utility zones which you spend considerably less time in, so heating is less important. Areas liked sleeping zones are good to have exposed to the north orientation, but come second to the living zones.

Once you have your block or established home that you wish to alter, where to next? Stay tuned for our next post, part two of solar passive design, where we delve into detail about how to include each particular solar passive design principle without any added construction cost.

Janik Dalecki