Harness the sun’s energy
Add environmental factors to house plan
A HOME should be designed as a shelter from harsh weather conditions. It should also be designed to take advantage of the environment.
A sustainable home has passive and active elements which make the most of the local environment.
Passive solar design
Passive design is built into a house.
It is passive in the sense that no active technology is involved, but the design helps keep a home cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
There are seven elements to a passively designed home: Orientation Spatial zoning Thermal mass Ventilation Insulation Shading Glazing
A north-facing home will take advantage of sunlight.
When the right shading is included in the design, the home will be shaded from the hot summer sun, but the winter sun will be able to enter the home and warm it.
Spacial zoning refers to the uses you put different rooms of the house to and where to locate them in relation to the orientation of the home.
Thermal mass has to do with the materials used.
Brick absorbs heat during the day and releases it into the home at night. In a hot climate, this can make the home more uncomfortable.
Walls facing the hot sun should be well insulated to prevent this from occurring or you may want to consider using a material with a lower thermal mass, such as timber.
Glazing allows natural light to enter the home, but single glazed windows also allow heat and cold to enter the home, so a passively designed home will have double glazed windows or another window treatment that minimises heat transference.
Skylights are another type of glazing that can make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient.
They can be installed in an existing home to help give it more natural light, improve ventilation and reduce dependence on electric lighting. For information about the types of skylights that are available and their costs, read how much does a skylight cost.
Passive ventilation takes advantage of outside air conditions to create a more comfortable environment.
Combined, the seven elements of passive design can greatly reduce your dependence on greenhouse gas emitting sources of energy.
Active solar design
Active solar design systems include solar panels for generating electricity and solar water heaters.
While solar panels and solar water heaters are more expensive to buy and install, they have come down in price and are more efficient than in the past.
The payback period for them has been shortened and they last longer than in the past.
While your initial outlay will be high, you will be paid back in the form of reduced energy bills and when you go beyond the payback period, you save money for the life of the system.
Passive solar design elements can be added to any existing home, but if you re-building or doing a major renovation, look for a sustainable building designer who can maximise all the elements of passive design into your new home.
A sustainable home doesn’t have to be more expensive than a home that isn’t passively designed and any extra money spent will come back to you in the form of reduced energy bills.
Add active solar design elements and it is possible to create a zero emissions or near zero emissions home.