Efficient Building Design

Efficient Building Design for our climate

Northern Victoria has a temperate climate, this means that the temperature is quite variable and the humidity is normally quite low during the day. The winter temperature range is 0 to 15 degrees and summer temperature is 15 to 40 degrees.  It is possible to get the odd summer day of 45 degrees.  Generally after a few hot days, a cold front will pass through and the temperate will drop back to about 25 degrees.  Knowing your climate is important when designing your house. this will become more clear in the discussions below.

Let’s talk about the design of an efficient building in more detail.

Orientation

It is important to have specific features of a building facing the right direction for the following reasons. In the winter, when the days are cold but quite often sunny, warmth can be brought into the building through large north facing windows. As the sun is low in the sky during winter, the radiant heat can travel through the windows and warm the floor and walls of the inside of the house.  In the summer, the sun transverses straight over the top of the house and does not shine into the house through the north facing windows, therefore there is little heat gain from the sun through the large north facing windows.  There is still plenty of light entering the house so there is no need for lights to be used during the day in this part of the house.

The south side of the house should only have enough window space to provide light and give some feeling of openness.  It is ideal for bedrooms to be on the south side of the house.

The big problem in our climate is the summer sun on the western side of the house.  Windows and doors should be minimised as the sun is still very hot in the late afternoon.  This can cause hugh heating issues in the summer time.  Letting the sun into the house on the west or east in winter has little heating gain.  It is ok to have more windows on the east of the house rather than the west, as the heat is not quite as severe and light is important.

Insulation 

This is how we keep the outside elements out of the building so it does not influence the inside temperature. Insulation is the cheapest way to save energy in your house. When you heat your house, you use energy. By insulating, that energy is retained and not lost to the outside world. If you can retain the energy put into your house, then you will use a very small amount energy to maintain a comfortable living temperature.

The same goes for keeping your house cool in summer. Keep the heat out, and whatever energy you use to cool the inside of the house will be minimised.

So, insulate your external walls, your ceilings, and double glaze your windows.  Windows can have a large surface area that can transfer heat.

Thermal Mass

Thermal Mass is an energy storage part of the inside of your house. The thermal mass helps to stabilise the temperature by absorbing and releasing heat energy.

The best material for this is water but not very practical inside a building.  The next best material is concrete.  Heavy rock such as granite is also very good.

You can see photos of our Efficient Building Design in our gallery.