Blog post

It Pays To Be Passive

9 September 2019

There aren't many areas in life that benefit from being passive, except when it comes to heating and cooling.

Passive thermal design is the art of designing a home to be thermally effective, with as little mechanical input as possible, which in turn keeps your energy consumption to a minimum.

All new homes must be designed to keep the home at a constant temperature throughout the seasons and use design features such as orientation, glazing, insulation and appliances to achieve this.

So, what are some things to look out for when planning your new home?

First of all, start by looking at what will be around your home.

That beautiful big tree in next door’s yard might be pretty to look at, but you may feel differently when its shadow blocks light from coming in through the windows when you move in.  As our block sizes get smaller and smaller, overshadowing from neighbouring structures has put more constraints on best practice for home design.

You could spend all the money in the world making a comfortable, high specification, beautifully finished home, but the one thing you can’t buy is natural light.

A good basis for any home design is to maximise the amount of natural light by making your largest windows facing north, and using these rooms as your main living areas.

On that note, while we love a good WA sunset, anyone who’s had to live in one knows, a small room with a west-facing window is not a pleasant place to be in the afternoon.

Clever thermal-conscious designs keep the west-facing windows on the small side and prefer to use non-habitable rooms such as bathrooms and laundry in this area of the home.

So, why not do away with west-facing windows all together I hear you ask?

Well, way back when, before passive design and mechanical heating and cooling, folks welcomed reprieve from the heat each afternoon by way of the Fremantle Doctor. To make the most of this prevailing wind, cross-ventilation of the home can be achieved by having opening windows on the east and west aspects, which encourages airflow and temperature control throughout the home.

Glazing is another factor to take into account when trying to achieve a higher than 6-star energy rating. Double glazing has made quite a name for itself, and the common perception is that double glazing is a silver bullet when it comes to keeping energy costs down. However, a new player in the glazing game is low emissivity, also known as low-E glass, which reduces the heat flow through the glass, which is great to keep the heat out in summer.

Did you know, when it comes to insulation, it’s not all just about the batts, loose-fill and the foil? The construction materials themselves carry their own set of thermal values. For instance, here in Perth, the main method of construction is double brick. Double brick provides a layer of air insulation in the cavity, as well as the bricks themselves, which help negate the extreme range in day and night time temperatures.

Have you tried to get on the front foot, researching into the best insulation option, only to find yourself lost in a sea of R-values? You aren’t alone! Luckily, when you design a new home, the design along with the information about the block is submitted to a qualified energy certifier who will work out the best placement and choice of insulation to get a minimum 6-star rating. Phew!

So there you have it, a brief overview of how a minimum 6-star rating is achieved in a new home. If you would like to discuss your dream design with one of our team to see if it complies with passive thermal design, then get in touch and we will be happy to help.


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