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Case studies

Strategies for a new house with poor orientation
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Strategies for a new house with poor orientation


BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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The owner had been living for many years in the poorly insulated house sitting on a south-facing slope and with a south-facing backyard. This was indeed a recipe for freezing cold winters. While summers were not scorching, there was not much cool relief due to the lack of thermal mass and insulation. Our assessment was that the embodied energy present in the house was not significant enough to justify its retention as a new design catering to the specific house orientation would drastically reduce running energy costs while providing increased comfort levels. The new house achieved a 7.5* energy rating which is a successful outcome for a property with challenging orientation. This compares to the old house which rating was between 1* and 1.5*.

KEY FACTS
point Service provided   Concept plans, building permit, interior design, building contract administration.
point Project type   New house
point Land location   Maroondah City Council
point Land size   697sqm
point Proposed floor area   196 sqm (18 squares) including 35 sqm garage.
point Budget   $430,000

THE NEW DESIGN
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Orientation: As the owner preferred to retain a single level design, we decided to use the solar frontage at street level and introduce an inner courtyard at the rear to recreate another such frontage and illuminate the living areas. This strategy provided natural light and sun to the living areas while giving them a level of privacy that would be difficult to create at the front. The sunny front bedroom was designed as a roomy accommodation for the owner’s live-in mum while the few steps between this front level and the rear were designed to accommodate a wheelchair ramp should the need arise. The whole house sits on a concrete slab which gracefully harvests the winter sun while remaining shaded and cool in summer.

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Functionality and aesthetics: A clear floor plan allows for easy movement inside and minimizes circulation areas. The front façade features a minimal design clad in sustainably harvested hardwood finished with a natural oil.

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Heating: In-slab hydronic was installed in the whole house, providing gentle heating in all rooms at low running costs thanks to the generous amount of insulation and an energy-efficient boiler. Floors were carefully insulated to ensure the heating responds quickly to thermostatic settings without unnecessarily heating slab footings.

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Insulation: The concrete slab edge is insulated to minimize heat loss. An R.6.0 combination of formaldehyde-free insulation and reflective sarking is installed in the roof. Double-glazing units with 12mm gap, Argon gas filling and thorough drafts proofing to all windows. Walls are insulated to R2.5.

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Ventilation and shading: The rear TV room door funnels cooling breezes all the way up to the front door. Windows located on the East and West facades open to harvest same and feature glazing designed to reject incoming radiant heat.

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Conservation: The old house was demolished selectively and individual components collected by relevant recyclers. The concrete slab uses recycled aggregates while part of the highly polluting cement is replaced with inert fly-ash. New walls and roofs use either solid or laminated sections of plantation pine.

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Indoor air quality: Low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) water-based glues and finishes for walls, floors and timber were used throughout.

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Water: Taps and shower heads were selected for minimal water consumption (WELS 5 star rating). The rainwater tank supplies garden taps, toilets and washing machine.

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Power: Measures were taken to minimize damaging indoor electro-magnetic radiation (EMR).

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