Highlands Retreat in the Ecovillage Currumbin Valley

August 5th, 2014

Design matters. Our homes are a vessel which can either contain, or constrain our lives. And sometimes it’s the simplest things which can be game changing.

Passive Solar Design is the art and science of

  1. firstly, understanding the impact our surrounds have on our lives in our buildings.
  2. then, caring about that.
  3. and acting through designing the building to tailor how the climate and surrounds impact us and our lifestyles.

In the middle of winter on a sunny morning, you can see this at work at your local café strip: notice the coffee shops on the north facing side of the street have their outdoor tables full of people stretching out and soaking up the sun? While people may venture to the south side if the coffee or pastries are good enough, but huddle around a heater or stay indoors.

In your home then imagine 2 identical rooms: but 1 north facing and sun filled, the other south facing and cold. The spaces are the same, but they are dramatically different places to be in. You will furnish them, use them, and love them differently as a result.

As an example clients recently sent us a photo of a home we had designed for them.

The central core of this home was a 2 storey ‘heat court’ which is actually their dining room. It is designed to be in full sun in winter, but get no sun in summer. The photos attached show the space in action (the 2 storey glass ‘garage door’ in the middle of the home opens up to this dining room and the rumpus above it.)

The entire house is built around this space. It’s a very simple idea but creates a focal point for the family which they now love. The 2 storey door is a great feature, with wonderful views. But it’s important to note – it didn’t cost anything to fill it with sun. And that is the key to the space’s success.

It just needed to be considered and designed into the home. This has then informed the furnishings of the space – a recycled timber table and chairs, recycled timber claddings towards the kitchen and feature timber framed glass doors

To illustrate our point we’ve included a sequence of images.

The initial hand sketches we sent to the client set out what we were trying to achieve for them:

 

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As the design developed, this can then captured in the drawings which the builder will build from:

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And with the wonders of modern CAD programs this can be illustrated in 3d modelling, with the computer simulating the house, on its site in its own part of the world, to confirm that the sun and shadow will really be where we believe it to be!

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OR

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as a result:

These are all drawings which are part of the process to have your house built. The only difference is the design, or informed consideration, of what the space COULD and SHOULD be.

Including consideration of where the sun will be, and where you WANT it to be to allow you to stretch out, inside, in the sun.

The photo here shows the sun in the morning in the middle of winter: its heat being soaked up by the dark tiles into the thermal mass (concrete) below it.

This warms up the whole house (and kids) for the rest of the day.  Passive solar design can lead to more sustainable lifestyles… and greater comfort.

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