17 Things

The direction the property faces, particularly the living rooms, determines how much free heating the home receives in winter and how much it keeps out in summer, which means the potential for lower bills and increased comfort.

No 3. Orientation

The 17 Things

What Is It?

If the house has great orientation then it can take advantage of winter sun and keep out summer sun. The orientation of your living rooms in particular (as these are the rooms you heat and cool the most) within your home in relation to the sun’s path during each season will help make your house more comfortable and reduce your reliance on mechanical heating and cooling.  This is called passive design as the house does most of the work for you.

sun-path

The sun’s path is different in winter and summer.
Image source: Your Home www.yourhome.gov.au

The best orientation for your home depends on your climate zone.

For heating climates, mixed climates and cooling climates (arid areas such as Alice Springs), the best orientation is for your living areas to face north (solar north not magnetic north) or in the range of 20° east of north and 30° west of true north.

How will it help me reduce my running costs and increase my comfort?

Living areas should face north as they require the most heat during winter.Reference for image Your Home www.yourhome.gov.au

Living areas should face north as they require the most heat during winter.Reference for image Your Home www.yourhome.gov.au

The direction the property faces determines how much heat from the sun your home lets in and how much it keeps out. It’s important that the living areas face this direction because that is where we spend most of our time and so these areas are normally the ones we heat and cool the most. See more in The Secret of the Comfortable House.

The right orientation also needs the right shading (No. 9 Shading or Sun Control) to really bring this feature to life. When shading and orientation work together then you are able to get the benefits of free heating in winter (see more below) so there is less reliance on heating and cooling devices, which means lower bills and increased comfort.

For most climates, good orientation will allow full sun in winter while excluding it in summer. A home with good orientation, especially in the living areas, allows you to create a healthy and comfortable home with sunlight.

true-north

True north follows the sun’s path.

Orientation is measured against true north as true north follows the sun’s path. Generally living areas facing true north or between 20° west and 30° east of true north are ideal and can reduce the need for additional heating or cooling. However, there are exceptions to the rule, particularly in cooling dominant climates where local dominant wind direction may be more important in determining best orientation.

What professional should I talk to about this?

The Centre for Liveability Real Estate always recommends you consult further with any relevant specialist design or building consultants or assessors before making any decision regarding your specific property based on the Liveability Property Marketing Features™.

There are many architects and building designers, and an increasing number of builders, who understand orientation and are skilled in techniques to improve it. They include HIA GreenSmart builders and designersMaster Builders Green Living buildersBDA and BDAV (VIC only) building designers.

Finding the potential in existing homes is not difficult, especially if the house has “good bones” – good, basic materials and a layout or orientation that can be easily altered to take advantage of the local climate.

Make sure your setting is set to true north.

Make sure your setting is set to true north.

You can find out the orientation of your living rooms yourself by using a compass app on your iPhone or Android. Make sure it is set to true north not magnetic north as you want to identify the sun’s path. Once you have launched your compass app, hold it horizontal and butt it up again the largest window area in your living room. This will tell you the orientation of your living rooms. The optimum orientation is bang on true north or between 20° east of true north and 30° west of true north.

Is there anything I need to know before I meet with them?

Being clear about what you want to achieve is important, as is having a clear understanding of the basics, so you can have confidence they know what they are talking about.

Having any existing plans of the house, and a site survey if you have one, will also help them conceptualise a design solution. Any special local planning controls that apply to your site would also be helpful.

If you’re building a new home or renovating it’s important to communicate that you want to include passive design in your property and have your living areas face the ideal orientation for your climate zone, which you can find by using the Windows Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) Climate Zone Map.

You can check the orientation your current living areas face by using a compass or a compass app that has true north bearings. Some smartphones, such as iOS 7, have true north bearings as an option for its built-in compass.

What is the price range I can expect?

Some professionals may give you some very preliminary advice for free, others may only indicate the sorts of solutions they may provide, so you will need to work this out when you first speak to them. Generally, you get the advice you have paid for, so don’t be afraid to pay a moderate amount (at least some hundreds of dollars) for a site-specific and detailed analysis of your home and its potential for improvement, pending inclusion of a broader assessment of other issues (refer to other items in the list of the 17 Things™).

Good advice of this sort could make many tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of difference to the value of your long-term investment.

Where can I find more information?

There are several good sources for further reading, but the single best place to start is Your Home: Australia’s Guide to Environmentally Sustainable Homes, with its excellent introduction to design for climate and passive design.

Sustainability Victoria’s Smarter Renovation also has information on smarter renovation designs that include orientation.

If I already have this feature, is there anything I need to know about using it effectively?

Good orientation of your living areas is just the beginning: you need to combine this with the right shading to have the benefits of free heat in winter, and even more benefits are gained with insulation and the window systems you choose. See the next question for more detail.

With the right shading, you can block the summer heat while letting the winter sun enter your rooms to warm the home naturally.

Does this work better when combined with any of the other 17 Things™?

A home with north-facing living rooms has “good bones” which can really be optimised with the right kind of renovation.

So, No 3. Orientation and No. 9 Shading or Sun Control work together to deliver the benefits of “passive shading”, which keeps out the summer sun and lets in the winter sun. This means access to free heating from the sun in winter so there is less reliance on artificial heating. The benefits of north facing living rooms really come to life when combined with the right external shading as this reduces heat gain during summer, making your home more comfortable.

The size of the window has a large influence on comfort, as it is both the biggest source of heat loss and heat gain. Ideally, in most climates of Australia except the Top End region, the top of the window should be lower than the eaves by 30% of the height from window sill to underside of eaves.

Otherwise, that window area will be permanently in shade i.e. receives no solar gain in winter. The width of the eave (or other shading device) should vary according to the height of the glass it is shading.

See the table below for how the rule is applied.

Height of window, door or main glazed areaWidth of eave
900-1200mm450mm
1200–1350mm600mm
1350–2100mm900mm
2100–2700mm (floor to ceiling height window or glass doors)1200mm

If your home is in a heating or mixed climate and it is built with dense building materials (see No. 7 Density of Building Materials) then you can have the added benefit of storing this free heating and cooling which can be released into the room later when you really need it.

Will this feature be recognised when I sell my property?

Yes; Liveability Real Estate Specialist sales agents and property managers have been upskilled to identify an additional 17 Things™ on top of a standard property appraisal. So if you have invested in any of the 17 Things™ this means your property will be appraised and marketed with real skill and with the best marketing resources for online and print media.

You can book a free property appraisal with a Liveability Real Estate Specialist any time you’re ready to sell or even if you’re not planning to sell for a couple of years. Each of the 17 Things™ has appraisal benchmarks (relevant to existing and new homes) which have been set by relevant industry partners to make sure we deliver a high standard of property marketing. So your Liveability Real Estate Specialist will work through this appraisal checklist with you as they move through your home. It’s a great chance for you to let them know about all the property features you have invested in.


Any questions?

We’re here to help! Just send us your enquiry.

What Is It?

If the house has great orientation then it keeps out unwanted sun while ensuring access to cooling breezes. The orientation of your home in relation to the sun’s path during each season will help make your house more comfortable and reduce you reliance of mechanical heating and cooling.  This is called passive design as the house does most of the work for you.

sun-path

The sun’s path is different in winter and summer.
Image source: Your Home www.yourhome.gov.au

The best orientation for your home depends on your climate zone.

For cooling climates that are more tropical such as Broome, Darwin and Cairns you need the longest side of the house to face north/south or between 10° east of true north and 10° west of true north.

How will it help me reduce my running costs and increase my comfort?

Tropical-orientation

The longest sides of the home should face north/south or between 10° east of true north and 10° west of true north.

The direction the property faces determines how much heat from the sun your home lets in and how much it keeps out.  See more in The Secret of the Comfortable House. The right orientation also needs the right shading (No. 9) to really bring this feature to life. When shading and orientation work together then you are able to get the benefits of reducing heating all year round so there is less reliance on cooling devices, which means lower bills and increased comfort.

For most climates, good orientation will allow full sun in winter while excluding it in summer. For tropical areas, good orientation will exclude heat gain to maintain a cool temperature in the home while ensuring access to cooling breezes. In hot humid climates like Broome, Darwin and Townsville, cooling is generally required all year around.

A home with good orientation has the longest sides of the house facing north and south. This will prevent the low morning and afternoon sun from heating up the house. Ideally, the house will have minimal east and west facing wall areas. Any windows on these walls should be shaded.

Orientation is measured against true north as true north follows the sun’s path. Generally the longest sides of the house should face north/south or between 10° east of true north and 10° west of true north. However, there are exceptions to the rule, particularly in cooling dominant climates where local dominant wind direction may be more important in determining best orientation.

What professional should I talk to about this?

The Centre for Liveability Real Estate always recommends you consult further with any relevant specialist design or building consultants or assessors before making any decision regarding your specific property based on the Liveability Property Marketing Features™.

There are many architects and building designers, and an increasing number of builders, who understand orientation and are skilled in techniques to improve it. They include HIA GreenSmart builders and designersMaster Builders Green Living builders and BDA building designers.

Finding the potential in existing homes is not difficult, especially if the house has “good bones” – good, basic materials and a layout or orientation that can be easily altered to take advantage of the local climate.

Make sure your setting is set to True North.

Check the setting of your compass app.

You can find out the orientation of your living rooms yourself by using a compass app on your iPhone or Android. Once you have launched your compass app, hold it horizontal and stand at the longest wall of the house facing directly away from the house. If the north arrow is pointing directly away from the house or directly towards the house it is facing north or south and this is the best orientation. Alternatively, orientation that is between 10° east of true north and 10° west of true north is good too. To measure the true north orientation, make sure your smart phone is set to true north not magnetic north as we are wanting to identify the sun’s path.

Is there anything I need to know before I meet with them?

Being clear about what you want to achieve is important, as is having a clear understanding of the basics, so you can have confidence they know what they are talking about.

Having any existing plans of the house, and a site survey if you have one, will also help them conceptualise a design solution. Any special local planning controls that apply to your site would also be helpful.

If you’re building a new home or renovating it’s important to communicate that you want to include passive design in your property and have your living areas face the ideal orientation for your climate zone, which you can find by using the Windows Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) Climate Zone Map.

You can check the orientation your current living areas face by using a compass or a compass app that has true north bearings. Some smartphones, such as iOS 7, have true north bearings as an option for its built-in compass.

What is the price range I can expect?

Some professionals may give you some very preliminary advice for free, others may only indicate the sorts of solutions they may provide, so you will need to work this out when you first speak to them. Generally, you get the advice you have paid for, so don’t be afraid to pay a moderate amount (at least some hundreds of dollars) for a site-specific and detailed analysis of your home and its potential for improvement, pending inclusion of a broader assessment of other issues (refer to other items in the list of the 17 Things™).

Good advice of this sort could make many tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of difference to the value of your long-term investment.

Where can I find more information?

There are several good sources for further reading, but the single best place to start is Your Home: Australia’s Guide to Environmentally Sustainable Homes, with its excellent introduction to design for climate and passive design.

COOLmob also has information on designing for the tropics  that include orientation.

Your local council and state or territory government may also have free information available for you to download, such as the Queensland Government and their tips for smart and sustainable homes. Make sure to look out for resources specific to the tropical climate.

If I already have this feature, is there anything I need to know about using it effectively?

If you have good orientation for your house, check what other passive heating and cooling options you could incorporate into your home such as insulation, windows, and shading or sun control. See the next question for more detail.

With the right shading, you can block the wet season sun and dry season sun to cool the house naturally.

With the right shading, you can block the wet season sun and dry season sun to cool the house naturally.
Reference for diagram COOLmob www.coolmob.org.au

 

Does this work better when combined with any of the other 17 Things™?

A home with the longest sides facing north and south really has “good bones” which can be optimised with the right kind of renovation.

So, No 3. Orientation and No. 9 Shading or Sun Control work together to deliver the benefits of “passive shading” which keeps the sun out all year round. This means less reliance on artificial cooling . The benefits of good orientation really come to life when combined with the right external shading as this reduces heat gain during summer, making your home more comfortable. In general, the eave width should be a minimum of 600-1200mm.

Will this feature be recognised when I sell my property?

Yes; Liveability Real Estate Specialist sales agents and property managers have been upskilled to identify an additional 17 Things™ on top of a standard property appraisal. So if you have invested in any of the 17 Things™ this means your property will be appraised and marketed with real skill and with the best marketing resources for online and print media.

You can book a free property appraisal with a Liveability Real Estate Specialist any time you’re ready to sell or even if you’re not planning to sell for a couple of years. Each of the 17 Things™ has appraisal benchmarks (relevant to existing and new homes) which have been set by relevant industry partners to make sure we deliver a high standard of property marketing. So your Liveability Real Estate Specialist will work through this appraisal checklist with you as they move through your home. It’s a great chance for you to let them know about all the property features you have invested in.


Any questions?

We’re here to help! Just send us your enquiry.

The 17 Things

The 17 Things

The 17 Things™ are property features that have the potential to reduce running costs and increase comfort if used correctly. You can discuss incorporating these into your renovation with with your architect, building designer or builder. The real estate industry is now identifying these Liveability Property Features™at point of sale or rent through agents that have completed additional training as Liveability Real Estate Specialists.

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