Design for Climate – Thermally Comfortable Homes

Building the great Australian home often has to take into account the kind of prevailing weather in the area. This has become especially true these days as Australia has been experiencing harsher and more frequent extreme weather conditions. Indeed, the goal nowadays of the typical Australian is to put up thermally comfortable homes, that can withstand the test of time as well as wild weather.

A good number of Australian houses built in the last few years are already regarded as thermally comfortable homes, but many others still need to meet the requirements. In order to do this, there is an initial need to understand what thermal comfort is.

convective air movement
Convective air movement helps cross-ventilation & overcomes limitations of unreliable cooling breezes.

Thermal comfort can be defined as a condition when the body is satisfied with the immediate thermal environment. In simpler terms, thermal comfort refers to the condition or state when we feel neither too cold nor too hot in our given surroundings. When this is not the case, thermal discomfort is said to exist.

Several factors tend to inhibit thermal comfort and this can range from personal reasons to environmental issues. With the former, the type of clothes being worn is known to play a significant role, as well as performing various physical activities like exercise or yard work.

As for environmental reasons, the surrounding temperature and level of humidity is a major culprit, and this is where thermally comfortable homes can play an important role. With their basic design, these types of homes can help people cope with the blight associated with extreme weather conditions.

Thermally comfortable home designs are not uncommon in Australia. Many homes have actually been built this way over the past couple of decades as builders throughout Australia adapt to their designs to their climate. However, with the changes in the global climate, several countries, including Australia, are experiencing harsher and potentially more dangerous weather disturbances.

thermal comfort design
This South Australian property has large ocean facing windows to allow for as much breeze as possible to circulate through the rest of the home.

As such, the need to re-assess existing Australian houses has become imperative. The goal is to determine if these houses are still able to provide the expected thermal comfort despite the ongoing changes in the global weather. This assessment isn’t just restricted to residential buildings, commercial construction needs to factor in climate and weather as well as the country moves towards an eco-friendly future. Brisbane based commercial construction group Vati Projects informed us that this trend is being well backed by the government with more office construction projects being awarded to project management groups that offer thermally comfortable designs that boast sustainable energy features and materials.

cooling breeze floorplan blueprint
A generic floorplan highlighting the best way to capture cool breezes through the entire property

In this regard, existing government regulations on the energy efficiency of Australian homesit appears should be made a priority for all Australian builders. Briefly, these regulations require homeowners to look at the possibility of regularly lowering their energy consumption. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done especially with the lack of public awareness on what actually constitutes thermal comfort. The average homeowner thinks solar is there only option, so it’s going to take a combined effort from architects and builders to educate the public about thermal comfort design.

Even among supposedly thermally comfortable homes, problems are still encountered. Often, this has to do with the kind of thermal comfort achieved which has been mostly artificial. Thermal comfort through natural means is preferable, and this will involve designing the home in a specified manner, rather than relying on air conditioning 24/7. Rather than making use of an air conditioning system during the hot summer months and a heater during the cold season, it would be far better to design the home where natural forces like the wind and the sun can come in freely to provide the needed comfort. Obviously, this is a much better option as it can even help in your efforts to save energy (and the planet!) Want more info? check out the government’s thermal comfort guide.

So in summary, thermally comfortable homes these days seek to deviate from the use of artificial devices and rely more on what nature has to offer. This is not a new and untested discovery, but a simple process of going back to more conventional methods of living. Have you seen any outstanding thermally comfortable designs in your travels? Send them through we would love to see them!

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