Designing Environmentally Functional Homes

solarei sun path

Duncan Firth is the founder of Solarei, a firm combining environmental design with modern architectural form.
Duncan Firth is the founder of Solarei, a firm combining environmental design with modern architectural form.

Duncan Firth feels ‘compelled’ to do what he does – designing environmentally functional homes. He’s very conscious of humans taking more than giving from our environment and he sees the potential for architecture to be a positive influence in correcting this balance.

Responding to the Environment

Many architects (and people writing about houses) talk about buildings that ‘respond to their environment’. But what does this really mean? In Duncan’s case, it’s well defined. His focus is:

  1. Passive solar, through good orientation
  2. Passive ventilation, through good layout

He also considers privacy and affordability in his designs.

Environmentally Functional Homes

I love the concept of environmentally functional homes. For me, this implies homes that actually work well within their environment and for the people living in them.

Duncan suggests that a big problem with current building practise is lack of design. Most houses are currently built cheaply by volume builders, and simply aren’t designed, they’re built to a formula with the objective of producing a low ‘price per square metre’ house.

The remedy for this is to get more architects to do more architecture across the whole range of budgets, not just the high-end, multi-million dollar homes.

Solarei
Key design features of a Solarei home often include appropriate sized eaves, well placed glazing and exposed thermal mass on the inside. In this case, darkened concrete blocks form a contrasting foundation for macrocarpa timber shelving while helping to regulate temperature in the main living space.

Tips for designing environmentally function homes

  1. Get the orientation right – know the sun path and also think about privacy or connection with the surrounding environment.
  2. Bump up the insulation – aim for R 3 in the walls, insulate the concrete slab and put as much as you can in the ceiling.
  3. Keep it affordable – have (or make sure your client has) realistic expectations.
Solarei
Through his firm, Solarei, Duncan Firth is proud to produce environmentally function homes with a modern aesthetic.

Solarei

Find out more about Duncan and Solarei at http://www.solarei.com/, including some great diagrams how sun paths are used to influence design.

Calculating the sun path for a particular location is a key step in designing environmentally functional homes. Check out www.solarei.com for more great examples of passive solar and passive ventilation design.
Calculating the sun path for a particular location is a key step in designing environmentally functional homes. Check out www.solarei.com for more great examples of passive solar and passive ventilation design.

Book Recommendations


The Fountainhead

The Selfish Capitalist – Origins of Affluenza

Towards Zero Energy Architecture: New Solar Design