Designing for the elements
Cityscape catches up with CoLab Architecture’s Blair Paterson and Tobin Smith on the latest in passive heating and cooling designs.
We Kiwis are naturally outdoorsy people. We love to spend our days sitting in the sun, socialising outdoors and impressing friends with our BBQ skills. Unlike our Aussie neighbours, we seldom reach for the air-con remote to cool our houses, instead opening windows and doors to create a cross breeze. However, our climate – particularly here in the South – doesn’t always cooperate. Warm days are often compromised by gusty winds attacking us from all directions. There are a number of simple fundamental principles that we consider when designing a new house to not only aid in functionality, but also comfort and energy efficiency.
Designing for the sun is imperative. Orientating the house and positioning glazing towards the north and west helps capture heat throughout the day that, when paired with a thermal mass such as a concrete floor slab, will slowly release internally as the evening cools. Assessing the exposure of a site allows us to create suitable external courtyards that offer multiple options to escape prevailing winds. Cutting courtyards into the house form can also offer a sense of intimacy externally in the way the surrounding walls encapsulate and protect. Incorporating generous openings either side of a space will not only help with cross ventilation, but will also allow continual access to outdoor spaces away from winds. Finally, a clever external shading treatment gives us useable outdoor space all year round.