Winter has come, but as usual Sydney is in complete denial. Historically, home design typical to our sunny city focuses on keeping houses cool, while totally ignoring the fact that for three months of the year it’s pretty darn chilly, wet and windy around these parts. In an alarming article about the number of cold-related deaths in Australia – almost twice the rate of Sweden, apparently – QUT Professor of Public Health Adrian Bennett writes, “Many Australian homes are just glorified tents and we expose ourselves to far colder temperatures than the Scandinavians do.”
The good professor does have a point. It wasn’t until 2003 that the government first brought in legislation for minimum energy efficiency requirements for residential buildings, in the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Housing Provisions. If your house was built before then, chances are it leaks heat like a sieve through ill-fitting doors and single-glazed windows, with uninsulated brick walls absorbing warmth from within the home while the rest escapes through the (also probably uninsulated) roof. Little wonder you have to wear more layers than an onion so you don’t freeze during your winter Netflix binge.
However, if you’re planning to renovate your existing “glorified tent” house or unit, or demolish and build a new home, now is the ideal opportunity to work winter-proofing elements into your home design.
No need to go the whole hygge and build a giant stone fireplace to burn logs in. For starters it will just look like a sad black hole in the room when it’s not being used from September to June, plus they’re uber-inefficient, cause pollution and are consequently subject to extremely strict council regulations.
Here at Design Plus Drafting, we recommend smarter solutions such as taking full advantage of the orientation of your home. For example, increasing the size of north-facing windows lets in more precious rays from the winter sun, while modern high-performance glazing can work wonders keeping the resulting warmth in. Motorised awnings or external blinds can then be utilised in summer to shade these same windows. Prefer the look of fixed awnings? We can calculate what design will allow in the low winter sun while providing shade in high summer, using software that predicts where shadows fall at different times of year. Yup, draftsman superpowers.
Insulation in roofs and ceilings, walls and even floors is an effective barrier against heat loss – and heat gain when the mercury rises – so is another element that we encourage our customers to integrate into their building plans. Materials with a high thermal mass – such as concrete slab floors – also store heat during the day and re-release it on chilly nights. And if you need advice on what soft furnishings can enhance your home’s cold-weather comfort, have a chat to our resident interiors specialist about curtains, rugs and all things snuggly.
Still think you don’t need to factor winter into your home design? You know nothing, Jon Snow.