When architects and designers first started talking about solar-passive and eco-friendly design, there was a common misconception in the community that going green was purely for the benefit of the planet.
But as more people realise the benefits to going green on the home front also include significant financial savings, interest in the concept continues to grow.
And if all that wasn’t enough, eco-friendly homes are said to be comfortable places to live, with cooling breezes being drawn through the property during summer and cold air being sucked out during winter.
Home Base’s energy efficiency expert, architect Adrian Fratelle says sustainable housing is more comfortable to live in than housing that is not designed with the local climate in mind.
He says the benefits of living in a solar passive home include comfort, improved lifestyle due to living more efficiently and of course being more gentle on the environment.
Adrian, who has worked in the building and design industry for more than 17 years, has set up Ecohabit to try and facilitate wider use of sustainable home design, particularly amongst new home builders in the mid to high end of the market.
“When you look at the principles of this kind of design, it just makes sense and I get so frustrated and disappointed when I hear of people who have built a new house and the finished product doesn’t meet their needs,” he says.
WHAT IS AN ENERGY EFFICIENCY RATING?
The government uses computer software modelling to measure the energy efficiency of a house and give it a star rating.
The worst performing buildings get a zero rating and a building that needs no artificial heating or cooling would get a 10 star rating.
The computer software modeling determines the potential heating and cooling requirements of a given house design, even before it is built. According to the WA Building Commission, the software is able to take into consideration various features such as orientation of the house, shading, window placement and size, climate, ventilation, insulation, materials used and roof colour.
A house built to a six star standard will use about 20 to 25 per cent less energy to heat and cool when compared to a similar sized five star house.
The good news for home owners is this significantly reduces energy bills as well as reducing the burden on the state’s energy infrastructure. It also helps reduce carbon emissions.
MR FRATELLE’S GUIDE TO ECO-FRIENDLY DESIGN
> Living areas should be placed to the northern end of the block, allowing winter sunlight to enter the home and provide warmth.
> Windows should be positioned to allow winter sunlight to hit the thermal mass.
> In summer there should be some plan to keep the sunlight out, so plenty of shading is needed.
> Deciduous trees and shutters also help.
> The placement of windows should be carefully considered. Very few windows should be placed facing east and west, so that rising morning sun is kept out.
> Perth’s notorious sea breeze provides the perfect natural cooling mechanism for the city and the power of the cool air can also be harnessed to make homes more comfortable.
> Designs should allow the home to be opened up so the breeze can sweep through, entering one end and exiting the other end, creating a suctioning effect.
> Placing the home in the centre of the block will encourage more airflow.
> Plenty of new energy efficient materials are not on the market and it is important to explore all options.
> Timber or steel-framed homes tended to be underated in Perth but there are many benefits to using these forms of construction.