Dealing With Extremes: Designing For Life in QueenslandLifestyle, Tips and Advice
Queensland architect – Dion Seminara – gives his best tips for designing for life in Queensland.
‘Bloom where you are planted!’
This is a saying that can be applied equally effectively to both people and houses. So before a professional architect can begin a design he/she will want to know as much as possible about the place where a proposed home will be situated. (You can think of this as the soil where the house is ‘planted’). They will examine it on a micro level too. They’ll look at the size of the block, the orientation and more. They will examine it on an intermediate level in terms of the makeup of the neighbourhood and community. And they’ll examine it on a macro level in terms of the environmental and climatic factors peculiar to a particular area. Today we’ll be talking about the macro level—specifically, how to design for life in Queensland.
Queensland Architect: Designing for Life in Queensland
When designing a home that can handle the extreme conditions of Queensland, you need a Queensland architect. Locally-based architects, like our Dion Seminara Architecture team, are experts at solving the problems that come from the local (and in our case, harsh) climate. Some Queensland architects are also experts at passive design, and our team are one of those. When you work with our Queensland architects we can help you to design a sustainable home. And one that will truly ‘bloom’ in the climatic conditions here in Brisbane and the State of Queensland. And we also ensure that you’re creating a home that embraces cutting-edge sustainability practices.
Four Distinct Climate Types in Queensland
When we’re designing for the Queensland climate it isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Most people outside of our state tend to think that Queensland (or most of it at least) as characterised by a uniformly tropical climate. But this is not the case. There are at least four distinct climate types that can be found here.
- Tropical– The coastal strip North of Mackay (including Townsville and Cairns) and the far north of the state
- Subtropical– The coastal strip from the New South Wales border to Mackay (including the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Bundaberg and Rockhampton)
- Hot Arid– The interior of the state, excluding the far north (including Emerald, Longreach and Mount Isa)
- Warm Temperate– A narrow inland strip around Toowoomba
When you are designing a home you need to carefully consider its position within these climate zones. A Queensland architect will understand that need implicitly. And they will also pay particular attention to how the extremes of heat and humidity common in these zones can be dealt with.
Queensland Architect Tools to Combat the Queensland Climate
As a Queensland architect we have the tools to efficiently and sustainably manage the harsh Queensland climate. When we embark on a design we will make use of tools like sun maps, breeze charts and temperature readings to effectively determine the best possible design criteria for your proposed home. This is the first step regardless of whether you live in the far north tropical climate, or the warm temperate climate around Toowoomba.
We of course design homes in all parts of the state and will be more than happy to assist you creatively design living spaces that will blend in with the other climate zones. Check out our galleries of interior designs and see how we design with your lifestyle in mind. However, since we live and work in the subtropical zone (as do most of the Queensland population) we’ve focused our article here.
Design Elements for the Subtropical Climate
The right design can contribute to a comfortable and welcoming subtropical living space all year round.
Some of the features of the subtropical zone are:
- Hot summers
- Very high humidity in summer
- Significant breeze activity; and
- Cool (but not freezing) winters.
The focus of home design in this area should be on mitigating the effects of extreme heat and humidity while making the best possible use of cooling breezes. Care should also be taken to preserve heat in winter. This might seem like a bit of a tall order but these are certainly goals that could be achieved through careful design. Here are some of the things that we will consider when designing a home in this zone:
Building orientation and shape
Northern exposure and breezeways (to promote better air circulation) can be quite effective in regulating internal temperatures in the sub-tropical zone.
Use of vertical shading
North-facing homes will gain significant heat on eastern and western walls after sunrise and before sunset. Creative use of vertical shading (through screens, blinds and trees) can mitigate this effect. A verandah will help shade these facades as well.
A ventilation system is essential for a healthy home. It should be designed to allow heat to escape in summer while retaining it in winter. This can be achieved through the careful placement of doors, windows and vents, and through the implementation of a ventilation system that you can control. Cross ventilation is key.
In areas that are particularly hot, lightweight building materials (e.g., timber and steel) should be your first options. This will allow hot air to be released as the evening cools down. Light coloured roofing materials will also lessen heat transfer from the roof.
Heat transfer from the roof can be minimised by reflective foil insulation and bulk insulation. We can add insulation in walls to assist in keeping the home warm during winter and cool during summer.
Thermal mass is simply how well building material absorbs and stores heat energy. When you use materials with the appropriate thermal mass you can help your home to remain at a more stable temperature. And this means you’ll need less cooling and heating. You will need to carefully consider thermal mass, however, as it may not suit all climates in Queensland.
Queensland architects use glazed windows and glass doors to significantly impact on your homes ability to stay cool in summer and warm in winter. In fact, you can save up to 87% through glazing.
Sealing your home is a very simple upgrade to make. And it’s one of the most efficient at reducing your energy costs and increasing your comfort.
Read also: Subtropical design tips
Working with a Queensland Architect
As Queensland architects these are just some of the strategies that we’ll consider as we design your ideal eco-friendly home. We aim to deliver a result that will fit in perfectly on all the levels (micro, intermediate and macro). We will never give you a ‘cookie cutter’ design. Instead, you can be assured that we’ll always consider the specific context in which your home is placed. Working with us you can always be sure to ‘bloom where you are planted’.
If you’re ready to redesign your home with the subtropical climate in mind, get in touch. Our Brisbane-based Dion Seminara Architecture team is here to help.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTUREWe are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.
Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.