Green Home Design for comfort and cost effectivenessA new home project is a perfect opportunity for clever design in relation to Energy Efficiency and the pathways of the sun. Modern construction methods such as “slab on ground” and draft sealing also raise the comfort levels and performance of well-designed homes.

The government requires a minimum six star energy rating for all new homes in the state of Victoria. Older homes tend to rate between 0 – 2 stars with only limited opportunity to retrofit for improvement. People living in older homes often dread the extremes of summer and winter whilst those wise enough to enjoy smarter living environments are far less affected.

There are two basic design pathways to achieving the 6 star rating for new homes…

  1. Creating an intelligent design that almost automatically achieves 6 stars seamlessly; or
  2. Taking a poor design and throwing money (upgrade measures) at it until it finally reaches 6 stars.

Not only is the first pathway more cost effective to build the well designed, passive solar homes will inevitably perform better during their life cycle. Thus ensuring lower running costs and a more comfortable living environment. Although lighting is not assessed in relation to the 6 star rating, natural light is an important factor in any home environment and is a proven winner at resale time.

Every designer should understand which direction is north and value north and east very highly in the living spaces whilst utilising south for the cooler rooms. Ventilation utilizing wind direction should be based on local knowledge. Well orientated houses will encourage desirable winter sun but hopefully exclude the burning afternoon summer sun. Melbourne’s solar position allows for thoughtful architectural responses to the suns changing seasonal azimuth (angle). Experience should tell the architect if a given design is a hotter house, a cooler house, a darker house or a lighter house. Subtle measures should then be incorporated into the design to dial down or up the light/heat penetration and ventilation accordingly.

When incorporated well a sustainably designed house should look no different from one that is not but should simply be cheaper to build, much more comfortable to live in, cheaper to run and should realise greater value at resale.

Based on this it is hard to understand why a large portion of new homes follow the 2nd design pathway ignoring the proper design benefits simply through a lack of understanding. On this topic, the cost of “design know-how” is very small but the cost of incompetence is very high and ongoing for the lifecycle of the home.

House Design Solutions is proud to have been involved in sustainable design and assessment for over 20 years sometimes just simply value adding to a design prepared by others improving it where we can. Obviously a more detailed design approach is optimum with inconspicuously embedded green design measures included providing the benefits without the design being a slave to sustainability.

For those serious about sustainability raising the bar to a higher star rating and investigating the use of our leading edge design measures may be of interest.

Active measures such as power generation, water harvesting and water heating can complement a good design and should be optionally adopted on a needs basis.

With energy bills rising the benefits of Energy Efficiency over the entire life of a home are immeasurable but cost savings may be in the order of the original build price.

Comfort, happiness and health are important considerations while better resale rewards could be “the icing on the cake”.

This is why green home design is very cost effective!


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