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Home Improvement - Building and Renovating Your Home Using a Natural Approach
By Brendan Hogg

Architects and builders have been saying for years: "Good design doesn't cost the earth, but poor design does."

Long before "sustainable" and "environmentally friendly" became public statements, the professionals already knew all about the energy-saving possibilities of a well designed home.

Unfortunately, they were often forced to conform to "houses must face the street", rooms had to conform to what worked in the past rather than what was best for local conditions.

Because of this many structures are not in line with today's standards of sustainability. Across Australia, and in some other countries in the world, new houses and renos are required by law to provide minimum standards of energy efficiency. While these laws vary from state to state, country to country, all require a 4-star or 5-star energy efficiency rating.

The homebuyer then has to decide on whether to pay out the extra cash at construction, or have regular and continuing savings in the future.

The critical component in sustainable design is the building's orientation on the land. Not only the direction the house faces but particularly way the windows are facing. In small buildings (houses) orientation allows the proper control of summer and winter heat loads which penetrate through a building's outer shell.

Research needs to be done on movement of sun, slope of land, prevailing breezes, existing trees and vegetation and any other special characteristics in each individual state/territory. Different climate zones within the area must also be taken into consideration. Strategies for the tropics are different to those in temperate or alpine areas.

In the southern hemisphere, ideally the longest axis for the home should run east to west, with living areas facing north. North-facing rooms accumulate winter warmth, but can also be shaded during the summer heat as the sun is higher in the sky.

The southern side is coolest and is best for bedrooms. The western side will get hot in the afternoons and is probably the best side for laundry, bathroom, garage or storage areas. The east will catch the morning sun which is good for breakfast room or kitchen.

Of course any special characteristics, such as a beautiful view which is facing the west in summer would want to be seen year round, not only from the garage or storeroom. Under these circumstances it is important to plan with careful attention shading and type of glass used. Use natural cooling rather than air conditioning to further protect our environment and save on energy costs.

Of course if your home is not in the "perfect" position and you are considering renovations, always plan for easing the problem. This could simply be adding insulation, shading windows or walls, swapping rooms around, or planting trees and shrubs.

Author is Brendan Hogg. Brendan is Manager of Cardiffair natural cooling fans. He is Green Smart Qualified and able to assist with queries on energy efficiency and sustainability design. Visit

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Posted January  2013
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