With 2015 confirmed as Australia’s fifth-hottest year on record (Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)) and the world’s hottest year ever (CSIRO), designing your new home to be as naturally cool as possible is a must.
According to Edward Lukac of Archicentre, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) is increasingly seeing client requests for passive design solutions to heating and cooling a house without A/C. The AIA design and inspection service says these requests are driven by the soaring cost of energy.
According to Archicentre, keeping your house cool is not about new products, or 5- or 6-star energy ratings. Instead, it’s about recognising and encouraging the principles of good design combined with environmental excellence.
“The key to year-round comfort is passive solar design,” says Mr Lukac.
“This is where the skill of an architect carefully combines materials, construction methods, building form and the sun’s natural energy to help keep your house cool in summer and warm in winter.
“People are also becoming more conscious about their homes delivering healthy environments.
“With the move towards increased density of residential living, clever and smart design has become extremely important to deliver healthy lifestyle outcomes, including being able to stay cool in a heat wave.”
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Nick Vella, Graduate Architect with Deicke Richards, says there are many easy and environmentally-friendly solutions that both builders and renovators can adopt to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. His tips are as follows:
1. Get insulated
“The majority of heat in a home is transferred through the roof,” Mr Vella said.
“Roof insulation and wall insulation is one of the most important components in keeping your house cool, acting as a barrier to resist the transfer of heat into the building.”
If you know of any cracks or gaps that might be letting cool air out or warm air in, seal them up with some Spakfilla or a caulk gun.
2. Shade walls and openings
Well-designed eaves and window hoods provide shading to walls and glazing in summer, while allowing sun to penetrate openings for heating in winter.
Awnings are an effective way to keep the sun off of glass windows and doors, which can be invaluable when you consider the fact that a glass window being hit by the summer sun can give off as much heat as a small radiator!
3. Open the house from front to back
“Generous openings throughout the house provide passive cooling through cross-ventilation,” said Mr Vella.
“Cross-ventilation can more effectively exchange hot air inside the home with cooler air from outside.”
Breezes can also help to cool the body through evaporative perspiration.
4. Install a pond
According to Mr Vella, the use of ponds, pools, and water features around the home can help cool the house.
“Much like evaporative air coolers, evaporating water absorbs heat from the air, cooling it before it enters the home,” he said.
5. Plant trees
The use of plants around the home can help with cooling.
“Plants can be used to provide shade to walls and openings – and the use of garden beds instead of paving reduces reflected sunlight,” said Mr Vella.
“Planting large trees to the West will help block the harsh afternoon sun.
“Plants also cool breezes as they pass through the foliage, similar to the effects of evaporative cooling.”