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Success Business Magazine Issue 21
  • Posted Tuesday, 19 September 2017
  • -
  • In Articles

Success Business Magazine Issue 21

I anticipate that our future homes will blend architecture and thermal technologies. This new thinking should respect time proven or enduring strategies of design used by our forebears. Our home design will always need its aesthetic appeal but the use of its space will be clever. The nature of thinking that regards ‘bigger is better’ and ‘cheap is practical’ is quite small and dull indeed. Tomorrow will demand clever use of space and engage insightful construction strategies and materials. In hot climates, architecture will be a blended design that is aesthetic and functional but on a knowledge platform of thermal barriers and energy buffers.

Today we have the benefits of modern technology to help us manage and optimise efficiencies. I suspect that today’s evidence will become tomorrow’s necessity. But there are some simple technologies from the past that are the cornerstone for energy smart buildings. Ultimately if it’s costing us significantly more to live today, it will be with an increasing cost that will endure and prove to be not quite so comfortable in the future.

Our initial step is endeavouring to orientate our building in a way where the East and West faces have some level of protection against solar intrusion through the summer months. Glazing offers light, visual perspective and permits airflow, but at a tenfold cost of diminished thermal shielding. We like our windows but more than this, we need intelligent use of glazing. Judicious usage of glass, extended eaves and screening prevents the transfer of solar heating. Generic floor plans have no solar orientation nor consider the best view of the relevant external world of your house block. The common belief is that our house should be square on the block, however you can stay within your boundary setbacks with clever design and enjoy a beautiful home that is a pleasure, regardless of the shape of your parcel of land, its topography and orientation.

Crossflow ventilation is another important consideration. Design needs to understand the direction of the prevailing breezes and use windows that optimise this cooling. Casements, louvres and hopper windows rank highly. Sliding glass windows are cheap, however understand that half the opening is fixed glass and effective cross flow ventilation is half of the area of diminished heat shielding. Thermal mass is also a very important consideration. In the North, for decades we have been using brick and masonry block.

Once again this material can be cost effective, however used on the external walls you will pay dearly for the life of the building. Materials with a high thermal mass absorb solar radiation and convert it to radiant heat. The blockwork becomes a heatsink that transfers thermal gain internally at the cost of using more energy to remove it by air conditioning. In saying this, materials of high thermal mass can work in your favour, such as the slab and internal walls. The use of lightweight materials externally supported by the use of effective insulation and light reflective colours will go a long way in making your home a lot more comfortable to live in. We are currently running tests on materials for external walls that perform exceedingly well.

The use of high internal mass softens rapid temperature change and acts as a buffer. This should be coupled with the use of judicious thinking about what materials best serve the house’s enduring functionality, not simply its aesthetics. Initially it adds a modest cost increase, but it is unequivocally cost effective if you plan to live in the house you build. The materials are in fact largely the same, but it is about selecting the right materials that work best for you, rather than accepting that past practices are sound.

It requires thought more than additional expense to construct an energy efficient building. As a broad generalisation, I believe the additional cost expenditure of such construction would be returned within a ten year period and continue then for the life of the building. This is based on today’s energy cost and represents the ‘least case scenario’. Innovative and well considered building design is foundational. I have defined the basic strategies only, as being more detailed is beyond the scope of this article. There are other elements that I will develop in later issues. We are aspiring to develop a building that sits at a comfortable 24 degrees all year round and utilises the everyday household appliances, lights and hot water with a zero energy bill.