Green Architecture, Excellent house design, Healthy living

How do you design a comfortable home?

I was looking through the newspaper yesterday in particular the New Homes section where all the group builders or project builders advertise their new home designs. I never look at the paper ordinarily but opened it to talk to a friend about what makes a difference between a passive solar designed house and a group builder’s home.

The group builder takes a floor plan and adjusts it to suit a site meeting the R-Codes and council guidelines. A good passive solar designed home discusses with the client their lifestyle, living standard, entertainment requirements and family needs. Good design promotes excellent health and well being. The latest research indicates that we need sunshine to maintain excellent health and yet if you standardize a home and place it on a piece of land anywhere chances are you will not maximize the benefit from the sun.

I showed a number of homes from the paper to my friend analyzing their failure to provide the best in design and in fact every home I looked at would have had extremely cold bedrooms in the winter months and too hot in the summer. So how should you design to maximize the benefits of the sun?

Ideally a house should be positioned where the sun strikes a line North South diagonally through the building. Kitchen, bedrooms, laundry and bathrooms should be on the eastern side of the home while living spaces should be facing the west for the winter sun. Windows should be positioned to allow winter sun into the room at its maximum but minimise it in the summer. To place a large window central to a room doesn’t work if it facing east or west.

There is a theory that you can position your home with the largest wall facing south while the opposite northern wall has 80% glass. This won’t work simply because in the winter you will never have sun on the Southern wall and while that isn’t an issue in Perth because the weather is warmer by day, at night time it is still better to have a warm room rather than an icebox.

When I first moved to Perth and slept in a south facing room, the wall was freezing and made it very uncomfortable sleeping to the point I needed a heater on in the room to keep it dryer and warmer. Good passive solar design cannot be copied, every house should be designed with the client’s needs in mind considering the aspect of the land, access to the property and using the suns energy to warm while allowing for excellence in ventilation. That way you will have a home that is passive solar designed and provides for better health and well being. Anything short of that only adds utility costs and maintenance.

 

WORKING DRAWINGS COMPLETED

The process to complete working drawings can sometimes be long winded and especially when Christmas and holidays occur in the middle of the process but here we are ready to lodge to council.

It always surprises me however that there may be issues about the time it takes to do the working drawings and details but the council can take as long or longer to approve a building license when all they do is check the drawings that have been supplied.

The next step is to take schedules of materials and determine a building programme and time to construct integrating all the sub-trades and supportive contractors. The only way to save time in a build is to ensure the planning is well documented.

Those who fail to plan plan to fail so it is vital that all of our projects are planned from beginning to end. Also there is an old proverb that speaks about what fool would build a tower without first counting the cost unless he get half way through and not have enough money to finish. You can’t plan too much in my opinion.

The council has finally sent a letter requesting additional information and I cannot help thinking this is to delay the whole process giving them time to complete their workload that has increased because of Parliament legislating so much in the building industry that the councils workload has increased ten fold. The problem with legislation is that it doesn’t ever provide for common sense. Anyway we have to identify the insurer for the project and also prepare additional drawings showing the actual design of the staircase which is shown in the drawings to the required codes allowing for the correct treads and risers and on site will have to be checked in any event for accurate heights and distances once the structure is up.

Still is it great that it has come this far and they give us 21 days to respond otherwise we have to go through the process all over again to resubmit for the building permit. Oh and while I am on that subject the law makers have now decided to change the application to a building permit and no longer is it for a builders license, which makes sense but why do we really pay wages to these people who legislate how we should live our lives, it seems they plan the rules in a darkened office somewhere and yet the councils have the best Architecture in the country it seems but don’t think to seek advice from those who have voted them in to begin with. Ah well that is government and we have no way of eliminating it so follow the rules and toe the line and stop fighting city hall because you will never win.

Council Responses Oct 2011

Communication from council has uncovered some issues on this tight site which proves to my mind that you cannot legislate for good design. The requirement under the R-codes is that an Alfresco have a minimum area of 24m2 with a minimum depth of 3m. While this design provides for an area of 27m2 and would feel much larger than a 4x6m square Alfresco we have only 23m2 of actual useable Alfresco area at the 3m depth. This means that we would have to reduce the size of the lounge area which would compromise indoor living spaces.

I can only speak well of the council though as they try to enforce these laws, they have been supportive and accommodated us in every way. I can only imagine the stress they feel when their hands are tied in a situation like this and more and more often they must be subjected to issues like this as blocks become smaller and smaller.

The result has been given by them now to allow the Alfresco which proves that they are sensible and listen to reason. A job well done. Now watch for the construction and obtaining the building license.

10th Oct 2011

Verbal approval has been granted through the planning officer we have been dealing with. Yeah Ha!

20 Oct 2011

Although we had verbal approval we have not had written confirmation as yet. Reason being in that the council did not receive our emails for some reason they had been sent to the administrator. It is important to follow up any correspondence and ensure they receive it in a timely manner to prevent delays.

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