There are many things to consider when designing a new a home from the topography of the site to the colour of the roof. Below are five, of what I consider to be the most important design principles for quality home design.
1. Site topography
The slope of the land will help dictate the floor levels required. A good design will have its levels step with the natural slope of the land, reducing excavation costs. On sloping sites many project builders insist on excavating, or adding, extravagant amounts of soil so they lay one level slab, for ease of construction. This solution may save you money in the short term but will often leave you with the additional excavation and retaining walls costs associated with creating a level platform. Stepping your home with the land will also add character and assist with the division of internal spaces.
2. Northerly aspect
Before purchasing a block of land it important to consider where north is as this will help dictate the best position for your living spaces on your site. Most of your time is spent in your living spaces and therefore deserve the best quality natural light possible. Natural light from the north should be controlled via the use of awnings or sun shades, this helps control the intensity of sunlight to create a comfortable environment. Some sites however have their views to the east, west or south, naturally in these circumstances you would prefer your living spaces looking out to the desired views. In these scenarios, clerestory windows or skylights should be considered to help bring quality northern light into living spaces. Fixed or adjustable screening is encouraged to west facing living spaces to reduce the heat and glare on the home.
3. Natural ventilation
It is important to understand where the breezes are coming from on your site, I like to refer to natural ventilation as “free air conditioning”. In a sub-tropical or temperate climate natural ventilation works best when windows are placed no more than 8-12m apart at opposite ends of a space, this helps pull the breeze through the space between the openings. Ceiling fans should also be added to assist with this process. I live in a well-insulated correctly oriented home without air conditioning, on extremely hot/still days I find positioning myself close to a fan is enough to help cool myself to a comfortable temperature. Where designed correctly, a new home, without a reliance on air conditioning, can save you a lot of money in energy costs.
While not the most exciting topic of discussion, insulating your home with insulation above the minimum requirements can prove a worthy investment. Wool batt insulation is ideal for framed wall and ceiling construction and performs a lot better than cheaper polyester batts. Integrating a polished concrete slab into you home design will also help keep you home cool in summer and warm in winter.
I personally believe good architecture is based on simplicity. If you choose to include several angled roof lines and multiple wall and roof materials in your design you run the risk of making your home look overcomplicated. I also often see examples where the façade has been treated with a ‘feature material’ to the street façade only. This approach fails to account for how the building is actually viewed from different angles. Select two or three materials or colours only e.g. render, steel and timber cladding. Be bold and apply each around entire building forms and not just part of a wall or column seen from one viewpoint.
It takes a lot of skill and expertise to tie in all the above design considerations into a beautifully designed piece of architecture. Invest in an experienced and qualified designer, such as a registered architect, to ensure your home is the best it can be and to maximise the return on your investment.