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Vaucluse 1
Renovation Design
for Ignite

PERFORMANCE DRIVEN, PEOPLE FOCUSED, ENVIRONMENT AWARE

There is no reason to build anything that doesn’t take care of the life quality of its users and their needs.  

It is smarter to work harmoniously with the natural environment: not fighting its forces but working in harmony with them.

It is essential to create long-term, economically feasible developments to ensure that available resources can be used

for new buildings, and not to maintain the old ones.

Artarmon 1
Renovation, Completed
for Dickson Rothschild


WHY SUSTAINABLE ARCHITECTURE

 

  Sustainable Design / Architecture is a sensitive, educated, performance-driven approach to designing buildings that comply with principles of economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
It is a performance-driven and people-caring approach, that happens to be, or intentionally is, also good for the environment.

PRINCIPLES

  The principles of Sustainable Architecture are Efficiency, Comfort, Wellbeing, and Value.

_ Efficiency: Reducing energy, work, and resource requirements is the fundamental credo. It is good for money, it is good for the planet.

_ Comfort: Ideal interior temperature through days and seasons. Good for people.

_ Wellbeing: Air quality, moisture and noise control, natural materials, and constant visual contact with the landscape for a healthy lifestyle.

_ Value: Building a house is an investment that should be valuable in the short and long period.

PROCESS

  The design process starts with an accurate analysis of context and environmental conditions/data: understanding the site, climate, and natural dynamics are the foundations of a resilient and performing design. It is smarter to work harmoniously within a specific natural environment rather than have to constantly fight its forces.

 

  Identifying your needs and goals, for the short and long periods is the next essential requirement. For all those activities and needs that are just temporary or occasional, you might not need an additional room, but a better organized and flexible space. What is a house for one family today, should easily turn into two units for multiple family generations tomorrow.

 

  Design a place that makes you feel good and happy, that has what you need and desire: it is also an investment, but it is your own house first. A quality space design with care and attention for your family can be easily perceived as ideal for a future potential buyer.

 

  Design to perform and last. Passive design strategies, selected construction solutions, and quality materials will bring comfort to the users and a safer return on investment, in the short and long periods.

  Understand how your house relates to climate and seasons, and how to better "operate" it, to live a pleasant, comfortable, and healthy life. A sustainable house allows you to enjoy the often good Australian weather, mitigating the effects of sporadic adverse conditions.

COST, INVESTMENT, VALUE

  Sustainable solutions are often labelled as expensive or unnecessary luxuries. If it is true that construction costs are at their highest, sustainable passive design solutions and additional sustainable features can usually count only for 5-10% of the entire construction costs. 

 

  Building a home is one of the biggest and most important investments most people make in a lifetime. It is important to consider not only the square meters but also the ongoing costs, and required maintenance for the present and future value of your investment.

 

  If you have a budget in mind you should be able to build for a little or no extra cost, wisely deciding in which components to invest.

In principle:

_ Build quality rather than quantity: the additional value is in the quality of the building and in its performance, rather than in the additional square meters. A well-designed building provides all users' necessities, a healthy and comfortable space, at low ongoing costs.

_ Investing more in your building fabric: quality windows and in-built insulation are your best allies to improve efficiency and reduce running costs, for a long time.  Bathrooms and kitchens are (proportionally) the most expensive rooms to build. You can save something in the interior finishes and fittings to build a comprehensively better house. 

_ Simplicity and details: a simple volume is cheaper to build and more efficient than a complex one. Attention to detail during design and construction makes the difference between an efficient and an expensive-to-run building.

 

  As a general trend, the cost of utility bills is constantly going up, and so are the minimum construction requirements. Building beyond the minimum requirements means building a future-proof building.

On the real estate market, a certified, better-built, and efficient house may also be more appealing and valuable than a relatable standard construction.

Blues Bay 1
Concept Design
for Dickson Rothschild


HOW IT WORKS

 

  Sustainable design means building for the climate. Australia has 8 main climate zones (as specified by the National Construction Code), and it is important to make sure your home is designed to suit your climate zone. Different passive design strategies suit different climates.

NEEDS, QUALITY, LOSSES, KNOWLEDGE

  Efficiency starts with building what is needed, not what the real estate agent or your neighbours say should be built. It is simple: the more you build, the higher the construction costs, maintenance, heating, or cooling. Clarify what on your wish list is a core need, what would be nice to have, and what is a luxurious extra, and then find your right balance.

  Build to perform and to last: what goes inside walls, roofs, and floors is generally harder to replace and it is what will make a difference in terms of performance and durability. Investing in better walls, windows, and doors will generally give you the best return in terms of comfort and well-being, and will also contribute to lower utility bills. 

  Reduce losses: air leaks, oversized windows, and thermal bridges are the most common causes of undesired heat losses. Poor design or construction can cost you a fortune over time. The money spent to cool down your home in summer, or warm it up in winter can quite literally go out the window. 

  Understand your house and develop sustainable habits: how a building is operated strongly influences its performance. Best practices and habits, developed over time, can help you to get the best out of your sustainable home.

PASSIVE DESIGN

  A quick run-through of the key elements to consider at the design stage. It is important to understand that all elements listed below contribute to the performance and comfort of your house. 

_Orientation is the way you place your home on its site to take advantage of the sun and the prevailing winds in your location. Good orientation can significantly improve comfort and reduce your heating and cooling needs. Ideally, the building should develop from East to West, to maximize the northern exposure.

_Solar access is key to quality living spaces, so be sure that the kitchen, living, dining, and home office or family room get plenty of natural direct light. 

_Appropriate shading (which can include eaves, awnings, shutters, and plantings) can maximize thermal comfort by allowing in winter sun but blocking summer rays. Ideally, shading devices are located outside the building fabric.

_Passive solar heating lets in the winter sun and ensures that the building envelope keeps heat inside. It must be matched by careful design and management of summer heat and direct solar radiation.

_Passive cooling techniques cool both the house and the people in it, using elements such as air movement, evaporative cooling and thermal mass to reduce indoor temperature or keep it at comfortable levels during the hottest hours.

_Insulation acts as a barrier to heat flow and is essential for keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer. Some types of insulation can also help with soundproofing.

_Thermal mass is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy. Appropriate use of thermal mass in your home can reduce daily temperature variations and save significantly on heating and cooling costs.

_Glazing (windows and doors) has a significant effect on your home’s thermal performance – up to 40% of a home’s heating energy can be lost and up to 87% gained through glazing. Choose the right glazing for your climate and orientation.

_Ventilation with fresh air is essential for a healthy home, but it should be controlled rather than through unwanted air leaks. Sealing your home is one of the simplest upgrades you can make to increase your comfort and reduce energy costs.

_Condensation in a home can cause rot and mould. With a more airtight home, you must pay attention to appropriate building membranes and the management of ventilation.

AVAILABLE RESOURCES, SYSTEMS, PROCESSES

  Every site is unique and has a unique exposure to natural elements and access to resources. Harvesting sustainably the renewable resources available on-site can reduce utility bills and increase resistance. Living off-grid might not be seen anymore as an unavoidable condition but as an opportunity and a possibility also within the urban area. Energy and water self-efficiency will reduce your exposure to service outages and rising utility costs. 

 

  The most common resources available on-site throughout most of the humanized Australian territory are sunlight (and solar radiation), rain (and snow), wind (on the coast and bush), groundwaters, and geothermal.

 

  The roof is a key component of any construction: it protects you from solar radiation and precipitations and can collect water (rain, snow, condensation). It's the ideal location for PV and solar hot water panels, it can be used as a terrace and can be an extension of your garden (green roofs).

  The collected roof water can easily be stored in tanks (thermal mass) and be used in the house or in the garden. Grey waters from the house shall be locally treated and re-directed to the garden as an in-ground irrigation system. Groundwaters can also be safely harvested (bore water) for outdoor uses.

 

  Winds, if carefully managed, can help passively cool your home through cross ventilation, or power small wind turbines. Efficient heat pump systems can provide for your daily cooling and heating needs and hot water needs.

Milano 1
New Development, Concept
ATD

"PASSIV HAUS"  (Introduction to)

  Passiv Haus is a design and construction standard developed in Germany during the 1980s that focuses on energy efficiency and improving users' comfort.

 

  It is based on passive design principles, air-tight and well-insulated building fabric, mechanical ventilation, and a heat recovery system.
The Passiv Haus construction standard is ideal for peak or extreme weather conditions (very cold or hot conditions over an extended time) where the passive design solutions can only mitigate thermal discomfort. 

 

  To perform at its best, a house designed to this standard shall operate as a fully enclosed space, so there is no accidental heat loss/gain, and the sophisticated mechanical ventilation system can keep ideal comfort conditions stable. A passive house can also be operated "manually" as any other building: windows and doors can be left open to enjoy the natural breeze and temperate temperature. The house will start to operate as it should, once all windows are closed again.

More information regarding "Passive Haus" to come.

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