Creating a building that has lower impact on the environment doesn't mean you need to sacrifice modern or contemporary aesthetics. Gone are the days of mud brick and cluttered interiors of repurposed material – current technologies allows us design buildings with minimal energy use, in which "high tech" materials and design solutions mean that your home displays a clean, modern aesthetic and requires minimal conditioning to keep you comfortable throughout the seasons, in whatever climate you throw at us.
Here is an explanation of some of the design principals we use in maximising thermal comfort in our buildings;
We apply passive design principles to all our buildings to maximise the natural comfort of the people who inhabit them. These include orientating the building to the north to maximise warm winter sunshine in living and communal areas, balconies and outdoor spaces, as well as positioning the building to allow for breezes to cool and ventilate in summer. Other design principles include providing thermal mass for heating and cooling strategies and providing shade from summer sun with window eaves and from western and eastern sun with vegetation, blinds and shutters. (West-facing walls receive the strongest sun at the hottest part of the day.)
By applying passive cooling principles, we can minimise heat from the outside environment and maximise air movement, cooling breezes and evaporation. We can achieve this by: orientating the building to allow for cooling breezes; enhancing connections between indoor and outdoor areas; promoting air paths throughout the building to increase natural ventilation and allow warm air to escape; installing fans to promote air movement; designing the floor plan to enhance comfort for daytime activities and night-time sleeping; using window glazing, shading and planting; maximising the building's thermal mass; insulating the building to reduce heat gain; using drought tolerant ground-cover plants instead of paving to reduce the temperature of ground surfaces in summer; and positioning pools, ponds and water features immediately outside windows or in courtyards to cool the air entering a building.
By applying passive solar heating principles, we can maximise a building's winter warmth, minimise heat loss and concentrate heating where it is most needed. We can achieve this by: orientating the building to the north to capture winter sunshine; designing the floor plan around heating needs; using glass on northern facades to capture winter sunshine; maximising the building's thermal mass to store heat; insulating the building and sealing draughts to reduce heat loss; and using effective glazing on windows to shield sun and reduce heat.
By shading buildings, balconies and outdoor spaces we can reduce indoor summer temperatures, improve comfort and save energy. We achieve this by using external devices (such as eaves) to shade windows, doors and other openings and by using plants to shade windows and other building elements to reduce unwanted glare and heat. Other principles include shielding skylights and roof glazing with external blinds and louvres and using tinted glass on windows, where necessary.
Thermal mass is the ability of a building material to absorb heat energy. Concrete, bricks and tiles have high thermal mass, as a lot of heat energy is required to change their temperature. Lightweight materials such as timber have low thermal mass. During summer, thermal mass absorbs warmth and keeps a building comfortable. During winter, thermal mass stores warmth from the daytime sun and releases it at night.
We can influence a building's year-round performance by using thermal mass effectively, by: positioning thermal mass inside the insulated building envelope; exposing thermal mass internally so it interacts with the interior of the building; positioning thermal mass in areas that receive direct sunlight; positioning thermal mass on the ground floor and near the centre of the building to maximise summer and winter efficiency; and positioning thermal mass in north-facing rooms with good access to sunshine and breezes.