Designing for Our Climate

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In South-East Queensland we are lucky enough to live in one of the most comfortable climates in the world! For the majority of the year it is possible – even comfortable – to live without any mechanical cooling or heating (or lighting during the daylight hours!), but only if our buildings are designed to respond to and take advantage of the local climate and context. Many project homes lack consideration of orientation, cross-ventilation, glazing and material choice, which are critical to ensuring your home will be as comfortable and sustainable as it can be.

At Base, we feel it is so important to consider each project individually, and design for each particular site because not only does climate responsive design save you stacks on your electricity bills, it results in a more comfortable, sustainable and healthier way of life!

Key considerations or ‘rules’ when designing for the climate of South-East Queensland include:

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  • Narrower Floor Plates – a narrower floor plan or layout allows for better air-circulation and for the majority of spaces to face towards the optimum orientation.
  • Orientation – the correct orientation is critical to allow for better access to, and control of available breezes and daylight. In South-East Queensland, we design to have the majority of spaces facing north, and work to minimise exposure to the east and west.
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  • Cross-Ventilation – incorporating openings on two or more sides of a space allows for better cross-ventilation, and this is an example of where a narrower floor plan really has its advantages. In South-East Queensland we design to take advantage of the the summer afternoon breezes (which generally come from the north-east), and to protect from the cold, winter winds that come from the south-west.
  • Solar Access – the position of the sun as it moves across the sky from east to west is quite different from summer to winter. Generous eaves and overhangs to the north can protect spaces from the harsh, summer sun (since the sun is higher in the sky during this time), but still allow the lower winter sun in to warm a space.
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  • Daylight – incorporating enough glazing is important for creating light and bright spaces, but it is also important that these windows are thoughtfully located so that they do not cause your home to overheat during summer. Skylights are another great way to allow extra daylight in, and are very useful when there are other buildings close-by, or there are shadowing or privacy issues.
  • Materials – material selection is very important to consider, as dark, rough surfaces will absorb heat; while light, shiny materials tend to reflect heat. Masonry (e.g brick or concrete) that is exposed to the sun will absorb and store heat, and can therefore be used to help cool a space in summer, or warm a space in winter if located correctly.
  • Insulation – this one doesn’t need much explanation, but is a very important consideration. Insulation is important for both keeping the heat out in summer, and keeping the heat in during winter.
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  • Outdoor Living and Landscaping – one of the best ways to take advantage of the great climate in SE Queensland is to incorporate outdoor rooms that mesh seamlessly with the indoor spaces and the surrounding landscape. The same rules that apply for interior spaces need to be incorporated to create outdoor spaces that are comfortable to occupy. Appropriate landscaping and planting can also provide shade and evaporative cooling to both internal and outdoor spaces.
  • Screening/Shading – of course, it is not always possible to achieve the optimum orientation for a building, especially when working with tight, inner-city sites, or when taking advantage of a spectacular view, or when dealing with privacy concerns take priority. In these cases, we work to reduce the impact of the sun through appropriate screening and shading.