The terms “environmental design”, “green home design” and “sustainable architecture” are just a few of the terms that people use when trying to describe a home that is designed to minimise it’s impact on the natural environment. In this article we use the term “environmental design”.
Good environmental design positively effects the thermal comfort of a building allowing the occupants to be comfortably warm in winter and cool in summer – with minimal energy usage.
There are 6 main areas that need to be considered when planning your eco friendly house or renovation. The information given in this article applies to sites at a latitude of approximately 32°, which covers the greater Sydney area in NSW, including Newcastle and Wollongong, and Perth, in Western Australia.
Ideally you should purchase a site that is flat and has its backyard facing north towards your view. This will make designing an environmentally friendly house or passive solar home much easier.
Sun and orientation
You will need to spend a good amount of time assessing direct sun penetration
Designing your own home can be a very exciting undertaking. The design process is a complex juggling act and there are 6 golden rules that you should follow designing your own home.
1. Think in 3D
Professional home designers like building designers and architects are always thinking in 3D when they’re working on a new home or renovation. They are constantly incorporating and taking away design ideas in plan and in a 3D form at the same time. For some people this skill is instinctual, but it can also be learnt over time.
Thinking in the 3D form can be difficult, especially when it comes to converting your own 2D house plans into a well form and aesthetically pleasing building. Weather you have this skill or not it is essential to always think about how your ideas will look as a resolved building form or you’ll run the risk of your building looking like a plan with extruded walls and a roof stuck on top.
2. Limit amounts of different building materials
Be very careful
Are you planning to build a new home? Then be sure to read the tips from home building expert Metricon, one of Australia’s leading home builders specialising in contemporary and modern homes. If you want your home to be as functional as possible, the following top 8 designs tips will put you on the right path.
1. The Open Floor Plan
Anyone building a new home should consider an open floor plan, as it creates a larger living area to entertain in and a versatile space. An open floor plan is both functional and inviting to families, as it brings all the living areas in the house into one large space. Metricon’s Chicago display home is one of the many designs which offer open plan modern living which gives the main living areas connectivity, giving a sense of space to your home design.
2. Less Is More
According to Metricon, the time of cluttered homes is long over, which is why it is important to incorporate a lot of built in storage space in your new
When designers are planning spaces within the home stairs are often redesigned many times before they are built. Stairs not only need to be located in an appropriate location, but they must be comfortable to use and safe for their users.
Here are 5 essential tips to ensure your stairs are designed and constructed for comfort, style & safety. Remember all items should be confirmed by referring to the latest Australian building code (BCA).
Location, location, location
Deciding on the location of your stairs needs to occur early in the design phase.
Staircase location can vary depending on your requirements but most stairs are centrally located and handy to the main entrance as well as the main living space. Note in the plan below, the orange coloured stairs are in a good central location; i.e. close to the entry and living areas. This saves travel time around the home and offers privacy to other spaces in the home. The brown coloured stairs are not in a good central location. They force people to go through the dining area and also make users spend more time getting to other areas in the house.
Stairs can take up a considerable amount of space. You may need
Recent studies have shown that living in a noisy home that endures constant erratic noises can reduce your life span. Not only does it affect longevity but living in a noisy home generally provides an unrelaxing atmosphere.
Reducing noise or poor acoustics in and around your home isn’t difficult, especially if you‘re building a new home. All that is required is a little planning during the design phase to ensure the acoustics inside and outside the home have been considered and addressed.
So what is noise?
Noise is defined as a loud or unpleasant sound that causes disturbance. Noise around the home is often caused by sound bouncing off one surface to another (reverberation). There are three essential rules to reduce reverberation:
- Minimise opportunities for reverberation
- Introduce sound soakers
- Incorporate noise distractors
Generally, the more a surface of a space is flat, continuous and unperforated the more sounds will be bounced around within that space. These types of surfaces will increase noise.
Below we describe how you can incorporate the rules mentioned above to minimise noise in your home.
Inside the home
Reduce the size of open spaces
Open plan areas
Do you need an architect?
For designing houses you usually do not need an architect. All that is strictly required is having an engineer sign off on the structure and council approval. You can design and draft up the whole thing yourself, but don’t go there because it is unlikely that your design will be approved without at least some professional input.
In Australia an architect is (legally) someone who is accredited with the Architect’s Registration Board of each state. For residential projects you do not legally require an architect, so many architecture graduates simply do not bother getting official accreditation and use the generic title “Building Designer” instead. There are other building designers who have lesser qualifications, and they may well be just as good at designing houses (e.g. experienced draftsman), but there are also some designers who really do not know what they are doing.
How to find an architect or building designer
Window furnishings increase the privacy of your home and many are designed to increase your homes security. They provide noise and light reduction and can insulate your home against the heat of summer and the cold of winter. This article explains the different types of window furnishings available normally available in Australia and lists the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Bars and grills
Window bars/grills are an external window furnishing usually made of steel with a baked on powder-coated finish. Bolted to the outside of the window, they have been a very popular alternative in past years for elderly people, or those who live in neighbourhoods with higher crime rates, due to the strength and protection they provide.
- Very hard for intruders to break in
- Hard wearing and long lasting
- Not a large benefit in terms of privacy unless coupled
with an internal furnishing
- Not generally considered a modern or attractive alternative
- No other benefits e.g. noise reduction, light reduction or insulation
Blinds and curtains
Blinds are an internal window furnishing which are available in a huge range of different styles and operation types. Different blind alternatives include vertical blinds, Venetian blinds,
Do you really want a swimming pool?
Stick to your budget. Your kids will have just as much fun in the low cost swimming pool shown above as in the custom inground pool shown below.
Do you want to provide endless hours of fun and exercise for your children in summer? Is there a need to escape the heat? Then you should consider getting a swimming pool.
However, because swimming pools are not cheap to build, buy or maintain, there are many factors to be considered before going any further.
Budget is a huge factor, but not the only consideration. Firstly, evaluate your reasons for installing a pool. Is it to be purely for recreation? Do you have a family member who has a health condition that would benefit from swimming? What space do you have for a pool, and what problems may this space present? Will the pool be used year round? What building codes apply in your area? What extras would you like with your pool: spa, waterfall, slides? How will your pool affect your landscaping, and what other things could you do with the space that a pool will use?
Why choose awnings for the home?
Awnings are a low-cost, low-tech way to summer cooling. They can serve two functions, to supply shade for the summer sun to control heat entry to the home, and also to offer more protection from rain and hail, to extend the life of the building structure and to offer shelter. About 40% of unwanted heat that enters the house is through the windows.
An awning is a fixed structure attached to the outside of a building, over doors, windows or walkways. Awnings were first used by the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians. The Coloseum in Rome was shaded and protected by large retractable canvas awnings.
Awnings can be made from a number of different materials, can be permanently fixed or retractable, decorative or purely functional. The angle and size of the awning is important to get the best result from an awning. The right placement ensures that summer sun can be excluded from the windows, yet allows the winter sun to penetrate to warm the house.
A light coloured awning will also reflect sunlight and heat. A slight gap left between the awning and the house
Electric hot water has been continuously developed and used over the last century and has been the main source of hot water in homes for several decades. In 2008 the ABS recorded that around 58% of homes in NSW use electric hot water systems.With the continuously rising cost of electricity and the introduction of the Carbon Tax, it is becoming increasingly expensive to run an electric hot water system.The government has stated that it will try and phase out electric hot
If you are currently building or renovating a home, than you know that there is a huge variety of window and door options out there. Windows and doors say a lot about a home. They are functional and need to perform well, yet they can also be statement pieces and express so much about who lives there. What you choose will depend on the functions you need, the style you love and the security you expect.
When you start researching your windows and doors always remember that the Australian building industry often refer to both windows and doors as “windows”.
To help you find the right windows for your house, here is an outline of your choices and things to consider.
Panel Lift windows
Panel lift windows and doors are so modern and allow the entire wall to be opened at the touch of a button. This window type is based on the same system as a panel lift garage door and requires a substantial beam overhead to take the load of the building as well as the weight of the door.
Awning Windows were once popular in the 1920’s and 1950’s, but due to their
Whether you want to watch sport on TV away from the glare of the afternoon sun, or have a sunny kitchen window to grow basil and parsley, the way that your home is oriented can make a big difference to how you use your home.
When you choose a floor plan that faces the right way on your block, you’ll make your home more comfortable, and you can save money on heating, cooling and lighting. Your home builder can flip or rotate your floor plan to make the most of your block’s orientation.
Here is a quick guide to help you work out which rooms to position where in your home:
North- This is side of your home that will be warmer in winter. The north side is generally the best place to have living areas and rooms that you use the most.
South- This is the coolest side, so it is generally the best place for bedrooms in warmer climates, or rooms that you don’t use during the day.
East- This side is where you will receive morning sun, so it is a great idea to have your kitchen or
Nothing is more important than the security of your home and family. As technology gets more sophisticated and more affordable the choices you have around types of locks for your home increase. In this article we’ll give you a run down of the kinds of locks you may want to consider for your home – from standard key locks through to the latest in smart phone technology.
It’s always a good idea to get an assessment from a professional locksmith as many things can impact your choice of lock including: style and material of your doors and windows, insurance requirements, location of your home (ie: crime rate), lifestyle and occupants of your home.
Single key or basic cylinder lock
A basic cylinder lock such as you would find in a door knob or level handle is usually inexpensive. However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for!
Locks such as these can be ‘picked’, jimmied or broken. And also if an intruder breaks into your house via another means, these basic locks can make it easy for them open a door from the inside and exit
Four easy steps to choosing the perfect door hardware
Door hardware is an extension of your home’s personality, and selecting the right door handles and locks is a great way to give your home a new look. As with most home improvement projects, executing a well thought out plan for upgrading door knobs, handles and other accessories will yield better results.
Step 1. Decide on your needs
The first question to ask yourself when considering new door knobs, handles and other door hardware is the function of each door – this will help you decide the type of door hardware you need.
Door knobs or door levers
The door knobs you choose depends on the use of each door in your home, as well as the style you prefer. Some people prefer door knobs, while others like door levers (these are easier to open for people with disabilities and children).
There are three types of door knobs or handles to consider for your home: exterior dead locks, interior privacy locks, and passage suite knobs (no locks). Most homes require all three types, so take careful note of the doors in your home
The dry winds in NSW 2013, and the subsequent Blue Mountains disasters have boasted the discussion of poor bush fire compliant homes once more.
For new homes current legislation does a pretty good job of forcing Australians to better withstand a bush fire attack. But what about renovations?
Currently there is no legislation enforcing property owners to upgrade their existing homes to comply with current Bushfire Attack Level’s (BAL). There is only one minor measure in place that only quietly mentions that a homeowner has a property located in a bush fire prone area.
When a property is sold the vendor is required by law to organise a Sales Contract. Within this Sales Contract is a Section 149 Planning Certificate. Within this document it mentions if your property is in a bush fire prone area or not. It does not state the Bushfire Attack Level or if the current dwelling comply’s with current bush fire legislation.
The seller of any property is not legally required to ensure their property meets current bush fire construction standards.
Ensuring your home is bush fire compliant
When selling or buying a property you can find
Starting the process of building a new home? Read this article to get an overview of the processes involved. Note that although the processes are constantly changing, the drawing production process and council preparation process remains relatively unchanged over time.
Step 1. The initial consultation
At this first meeting the architect/building designer (designer) and you the client will discuss all your thoughts in relation to the design of your house or development beg. size, types of spaces how you anticipate these spaces will feel, etc.
Service fees and what they include will also be discussed at this time and a fee proposal as well as a Client Brief and a contract will be sent to your after the meeting. There are services available which can assist you in design and construction costing if you find you need support in this area.
Step 2. Site Analysis
The building designer/architect will analyse your site verbally and/or provide a written report (if you can not be present) and discuss with you the restrictions and assets of your property. This portion of the service is not only valuable to people that have already purchased a property but
Drawings are only a small portion of what councils in Australia require to enable them to give consent to your development application, building permit or building licence. Reports such as Statement of Environmental Effects, BASIX (in NSW), waste management reports, geotechnical reports, landscaping plans and more may need to be lodged with your plans. To determine exactly what is required by your local council you will need to contact them directly or visit their web site.
What is the BASIX report?
BASIX is the acronym for “Building Sustainability Index”. Since October 2006 all development applications lodged in NSW for new homes, renovations and additions valued over $100,000 must contain a BASIX certificate. Applications for installing a pool or spa must also include a BASIX certificate. The BASIX certificate pledges the homeowner to water and energy saving commitments that must be verified by an accredited certifier before an Occupation Certificate is issued.
BASIX – Renovation case study
Paul and Jenny’s home is located in Umina on the Central Coast one hour from Sydney. The dwelling is a small 3 bedroom home with only one living space. It is the owner’s intention to make an addition
This article gives a brief explanation of some of the architecture styles found in Australian houses. Just as these styles have developed from previous ones, the current styles are also being combined to create new hybrid designs, some of which work better than others.
The Triple Fronted Brick veneer
This style of house has a brick facade (exterior) with timber frames supporting interior walls, usually of gyprock. Roofs are always hipped or gabled and tiled. This style dominated suburban architecture in the 50’s – 60’s. In its basic form it is a bland and unimaginative style which has been propagated by developers. Due to its familiar and cheap construction, it still is the dominant style in housing estates and many consider the style the scourge of Australian domestic architecture. The basic style can be made much more interesting by rendering and painting, adding more angles, porticos, verandahs, and bay windows. Larger homes (2 stories) of this style have been described as “McMansions”.
The Timber and Fibro “Fisherman’s” Cottage
The original fisherman’s cottage was built in many coastal towns between the 30’s and 50’s. It was originally a simple timber framed structure of one or
The entry to your home can be a wonderfully functional space, yet many Australian homes don’t have one.
So what is an entry?
An entry is a transitional space, where your family and guests can be greeted, organised and redirected to other spaces within and around your home. Your entry needs to (not only look great) but most importantly it needs to function well for it’s intended use, and you may need more than one!
The following 3 easy steps will guide you through the design process of creating well designed entries for your home.
1. Confirm number of entries required
Most Australian homes have a front and a rear access, as a result you will need to design two separate Entries for your home. We call these entry spaces the Front entry and Mud Room (for the rear entry).
2. Performance specification
You need to think about the way you use the current entries into your home. Write a list similar to the following for both the Front entry and the Mud Room:
Needs to have a:
- Store space for shoes, handbags,