Dream block, Lake Macquarie, Australia

View 2

Not a bad view, is it? Unfortunately the view here is south-facing and we want to build a house that is energy efficient and takes advantage of passive solar techniques (among others), so we’re facing the wrong way! The block is also long and narrow in the north-south direction. Chris had already designed and built our current north-facing house (the ideal orientation in the Southern hemisphere) before we met. It is the first house that I have lived in that aimed to utilise passive solar techniques for energy efficient heating and cooling. I have been very impressed with the thermal comfort achieved for most of the year, compared to any other house I have lived in, although improvements could be made to make it even better. Since acquiring the property above, which will be a knock-down-rebuild job, I have developed a slightly rabid interest in environmentally friendly housing and ways to achieve good thermal comfort year round without breaking the bank. Chris is the practical half of the duo – he likes to point out why some of my ideas aren’t entirely feasible. He’s also the “big picture” person while I am interested in the minutiae – like adequate storage, practical bathroom, kitchen and laundry layouts and appropriate placement of the clothes line (not in the shade on the opposite side of the house from the laundry!).

Our challenge has been to design a practical house to suit our needs (we are only two plus a cat) that will maximise the view to the south, utilise northern solar gain, provide maximum passive summer cooling, which we have come to believe is more important than the winter heating issue, and not over-capitalise.

There is a lot of information out there about the basic techniques of energy-efficient house design, passive solar technology, etc, etc. There are even suggested solutioins if your orientation is not ideal – west or east facing for example. Unfortunately there is nothing that tells you how to have your cake and eat it too with a south facing building block in the southern hemisphere! Ideally you want to minimise south-facing glazing in this situation and maximise the glazing to the north, combined with other techniques like appropriate thermal mass, insulation and good ventilation. All excellent, apart from minimising south glazing when you have a view to die for in that direction!

Anyway, the idea of this blog is to work through our planning and design process, mostly in the hope that this will make it clearer to us, but also with the hope that others may have faced similar challenges and perhaps thought of ways of approaching this type of problem.

One Response to “Dream block, Lake Macquarie, Australia”

  1. Chris Ryan Says:

    Looks like a great place to build your dream home. Hope you succeed.
    Where in Aussie is it mate?
    Regards Chris