Create north-facing living areas
The most important energy efficient design principle is to ensure that your living areas face north to take advantage of the winter sun. This will keep them warm, and make them light and bright.
You’ll spend most of your time in the kitchen and living room, so it makes sense to have them facing north when you’re designing your renovation. Bedrooms and utility rooms (bathrooms and laundries) are not used as often, so should be located on the east, west or south side of the home.
Direct access to the north isn’t always possible, due to the design of your existing home and block, and the space available. However, you can use the help of an architect or designer to take advantage of natural light.
Zone your home
Different parts of your home are used at different times of the day. Ensuring that your home can be zoned effectively means that you will only use energy in rooms where you need it the most.
Designing zones in your home during your renovation will allow you to efficiently heat and cool rooms individually, so you don’t need to spend money heating or cooling rooms that you’re not using.
Tips for renovation design
Use these principles to help guide your renovation planning and design:
Choose the best orientation
Orientate living areas where you spend the most time to the north, and rooms where you spend less time to the south.
Follow the sun
To guide your planning, follow the sun’s path around your existing home to see which areas are receiving the most sunlight.
Audit your existing home
Do an audit of your home, asking yourself which rooms are too cold in winter or too hot in summer. Can you improve this during your renovation?
Design for comfort
Think about how comfortable you want to be. What areas do you always want to be warm in winter and cool in summer? The main living areas are usually more important to keep comfortable than bedrooms, bathrooms and laundries.
Zone your home with doors
Doors are a great way to zone areas of your home, for example between corridors and bedrooms or living areas. Sliding doors will be less effective as they have large gaps in the recess, which allow the air to flow freely.
Questions to ask an architect or designer
An architect or designer can provide valuable creative design ideas and industry knowledge. It is good to know the right questions to ask your designer to ensure that you receive the right advice.
Do they have knowledge of passive design principles?
Passive design principles use the benefits of the sun to design homes that are sunny, bright and comfortable all year round. Using passive design principles will make your renovation more energy efficient and reduce the long-term costs of running your home.
Do they come with good recommendations?
Before designing your renovation, ask your architect or designer to provide you with at least two recent projects, and clients that you can contact as referees. If energy efficiency is important to you, ask the referee whether the architect provided good energy efficient design advice as part of the service.
These websites can help you to find design advice and services to suit your renovation needs:
Archicentre is the building design service for the Australian Institute of Architects and provides building design, inspections and advice services to householders planning a renovation.
Find an architect using the Australian Institute of Architects’ free service.
The Building Designer Association of Victoria will help you find a building designer in your area.