If you’re building a new home, there’s never been a more important time to embrace the fundamentals of passive home design.
If someone were to tell you that by making a few clever decisions before you build you could reduce energy expenses, increase airflow, live more comfortably, make the most of natural light, save a truckload of money and be kinder to the environment, would you be interested? Of course, you would. And it’s very, very possible.
Passive design is the implementation of any structural design or choice of materials which take advantage of your natural surrounds, including light, temperature and airflow that help passively light, heat or cool your home without the use of papillary heating or cooling.
There are many ways to incorporate passive design. Here are a few essentials.
Orientation is the positioning of your home in relation to the various seasonal changes such as the sun’s positioning and wind patterns and is one of the most important elements of passive design.
When positioning your home, remember that the highly recommended passive heating is more important to those in colder climates and, with our West Australian climate, keep your priorities on cooling your home in summer, rather than warm in winter. Make sure careful attention is paid to avoid thermal mass overheating (see below). A north-facing home is most ideal, which will bathe your house in loads of natural light. Try to keep your bedrooms to the east, so that you can wake to morning light.
Insulating your home can save into the thousands every year. Insulating procedures include insulating ceilings, walls (using insulated panels, insulated concrete blocks, insulating concrete forms and more), sealing and insulating air ducts, double glazing your windows and thoroughly sealing your doors and windows to avoid costly drafts. (Remember, making your house extremely airtight is essential for good passive design)
And don’t forget the foundations and attic. Insulating your foundations will also help control problems such as moisture, insects and infiltration problems. Pay careful attention to your attic, whether you decide to live in this area or not. Consider using either batt or loose fill insulation – the latter being less expensive but the former offering better coverage. And again, ensure there are no drafts.
Thermal mass is the clever way of using your building materials to absorb and store heat energy. Classic examples include bricks, tiles and concrete. However, don’t forget the negative implications when applied incorrectly: we’ve all lived in or visited houses in the summertime that felt more like a slow-cooking oven than a home! Once again, design and positioning are key.
A must for West Aussie homes, this topic can’t be overlooked – and there are various factors you can incorporate, including both non-mechanical and hybrid approaches, where mechanical systems are used.
Several factors for passive cooling have been covered above, such as orientation, insulation and avoiding the negative implications of thermal mass. Additionally, consider shading from walls or trees and the wonderful world of ventilation – through verandas, large windows, ceiling fans, and doors that will also create an attractive indoor-outdoor flow.
Embrace the basic rule of convection: warm air rises and cool air falls. So allow for adequate ceiling height, air-flow, and built-in outlets at the top of your home (windows, vents, solar chimneys) to allow the hot air to escape while drawing in cooler air from other shaded areas.
Outside your home, consider adding water features, pools or ponds, which can lower the air temperature before it enters your building.
There so much to be considered, and so many rewards to reap with passive design. Today, we’ve just covered the basics. To find out more, contact the professionals at JFK Home Builders.