At Eco Vida all our buildings are constructed on a giant revolving turntable which orientates the primary occupied rooms south in the winter for maximum solar gain and north in the summer for maximum shading. The dining room faces east for sunrise at breakfast and spins round west for cocktails at sunset………….only joking!
But such a fantastical proposition illustrates that you have to make some choices when choosing the layout and orientation of your building. You will need to take a holistic approach and consider everything at once. So what are the things to consider?
Where On Earth Are You?
First identify your main challenge from an energy point of view. Is it keeping your home warm in winter or cool in summer? In the northern hemisphere typically energy efficient buildings orientate the principal comfort areas to the south to maximize the effect of solar heating in the winter. If you are in a hot part of northern Europe you may want to do the reverse. Again it will depend on the total mix.
What’s Really Good About Your Site?
What are the particular conditions of your site? Are there mountains or trees which will affect the solar impact during different seasons at different times of the day? Deciduous trees offer shade in summer when in leaf and let the sunlight through in winter. In which direction are your best views? Are those views the main reason why you bought the site?
And Just How Green Are You?
How important is energy efficiency to you? If you want to achieve passiv haus standards this will implicate many decisions. What materials are you using and what will the thermal mass of your building be? A building with a low-ish thermal mass may be susceptible to overheating in the afternoon if exposed to a westerly sun.
Clever Windows and Shading
Clever use of windows and high specification windows and shading can achieve a great deal? Windows used to be considered the thermal weak point in any passive design. With modern technology this is no longer the case but there are limits and the most efficient windows are the most expensive. Shading can make a great design feature with over hangs and covered patios and inside/outside areas. Shutters too can be used to great effect. We include total blackout shutters in our buildings for shading, comfort, and security.
Intelligent Internal Layout
Apart from shaded patio areas there are plenty of other buffer zones that can be used to protect the chief comfort areas from over heating or over cooling such as the garage, utility room, circulation space, washrooms. The kitchen which emits heat could be at the northerly side of the building where its heat effect is beneficial in the winter and will not exacerbate over heating in the summer. It will depend on your overall mix.
Roof Mounted Solar Energy Capture Panels
If you are mounting solar energy capture panels on your roof what is the optimal angle for them? The answer could affect the entire orientation of your building. Perhaps you are planning a flat roof or a green roof. Can you mount your solar panels on out-buildings or in the garden? All will depend on the energy balance of your building which needs to be planned at the outset.
Architecture which responds to people and to place
If the solution you are considering is modular or you have to have some kind of template design you severely restrict you’re options. Your builder and your architect need to respond to you personally and to the site you have bought or are looking for.