When you are building a house, it’s important to make the most of its location not only to optimize the view, but also to balance or control the amount of sunlight or wind that enters the house. The ideal design of a passive house should be aimed at keeping the interiors warm and sunny during winters and cool and breezy during summers.
Of course, other factors such as the vegetation and the terrain play a role in creating a home that takes advantage of the natural elements in its environment. Today, we present a few points to consider about how to orient your house to maximise the benefits of its surroundings.
The ideal amount of sunlight inside a house will depend on the local climate. While sunlight is essential to refresh the interiors, the desired intensity will depend upon the location of the house. For example, a house in a tropical region won’t need more than two to three hours of sunlight as beyond that it will get over heated and uncomfortable. On the other hand, a house in a colder region or in the hills will benefit from sunlight for six to eight hours to keep the interiors naturally warm.
The morning sun is a pleasant feature in any home, irrespective of its location. Therefore, windows facing the east can be in a larger size to invite the morning rays into the home. The north side of the house usually gets the midday sun, so the windows in this direction should be designed with eaves to keep the sun out during summer. However, in a cooler place, ensure that the eaves aren’t too wide as otherwise the interiors won’t get sufficient sunlight during winter. Similarly, the west is exposed to the hot afternoon sun, so large windows in this direction are ideal in a house located in a colder region as it will keep the room warm even after sundown. For a house in a tropical area, the windows in the west can be smaller or protected by eaves so that the room doesn’t get overheated. Windows facing the south don’t get much sunlight, so they can be relatively smaller than others.
If the house is in a noisy area, then glazing the windows on the side facing the road can help to keep the interiors quieter. However, it’s best to consult a professional before deciding on the amount of glazing as depending upon the orientation of the windows, the glazing could cause overheating in summer or heat loss in winter.
Another way to prevent overheating during summer is to tint the windows or to apply a special coating on them but bear in mind that this can prevent the sun from warming the room during winter. External shading over the window with retractable awnings, canopies or even vegetation such as trees are suitable options to adjust the amount of sunlight according to the seasons.
If the area surrounding the house has tall structures or a high terrain, it can cast long shadows over your house, thereby preventing the sunlight from warming the home in winter. Ideally, the living areas should be set along the north wall so that they get ample sunlight. The best way to maximise the sunlight is to ensure that the house is set at a considerable distance from neighbouring houses, tall trees or high boundary walls. If you are looking for a suitable plot of land to build a house, pick one that slopes down towards the north to restrict tall shadows. Alternatively, you can choose a plot that allows you to design the house running from north to south.
Besides sunlight and shadows, breezes and winds play a significant role in passive cooling of houses. The correct location of windows will ensure that light summer breezes drift through the house to reduce the temperature inside. This happens when the house has shorter paths for the air to flow in and out of a room, making it easier to benefit from cross-ventilation by opening the windows.
Stronger winds such as those brought by the southwest and northeast monsoons in India are best prevented from entering the house as they tend to make the interiors cold and damp. One way to do this is by having windows with fixed panes facing the direction of the wind. Planting hedges to protect against the wind is another option. Additionally, reducing the surface area of the walls exposed to the wind helps to minimize the impact. Therefore, in windy areas a single-storey house is a better option than one with two floors.
Often, it’s the wonderful view that makes us fall in love with a plot and dream of building a house on it. Therefore, the view should not be forgotten while considering other aspects of building a passive house. A picture window that beautifully frames the surrounding landscape is something that should be installed to take advantage of the view.
In the end, it’s all about maintaining a perfect balance in terms of the view, sunlight, wind and privacy. You can consult a professional to help you to design your house so that it has the best possible orientation to maximize the benefits of the natural environment around it.
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