Dealing with extremes: Designing for life in Queensland
‘Bloom where you are planted!’ is a saying that can be applied equally effectively to both people and houses. 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. This is true on a micro-level (size of the block, orientation etc.), intermediate-level (makeup of the neighbourhood and community) and a macro-level (environmental and climatic factors peculiar to a particular region, state or country). At dion seminara architecture we can help you to clearly think through the issues related to all of these levels as we work with you to design a home that will be a ‘perfect fit’ for you and your family. One of the things that we can help you with is to design a sustainable home that will truly ‘bloom’ in the climatic conditions that prevail in Brisbane and the State of Queensland.
Four distinct climate types in Queensland
The first thing that we should say about designing for the ‘Queensland Climate’ is that we will have to be a bit more specific than that! Most people outside of our state tend to think that Queensland (or most of it at least) is characterised by a uniformly tropical climate. This is not the case, however. There are at least four distinct climate types that can be found in our state. They are:
1) Tropical – The coastal strip North of Mackay (including Townsville and Cairns) and the far North of the state
2) Sub-Tropical – The Coastal Strip from the New South Wales border to Mackay (including the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Bundaberg and Rockhampton)
3) Hot Arid – The interior of the state, excluding the Far North (including Emerald, Longreach and Mount Isa)
4) Warm Temperate – A narrow inland strip around Toowoomba.
When designing a home its position within these climate zones should obviously be carefully considered. Of particular importance will be the way in which the extremes of heat and humidity that are common across most of these zones can be dealt with.
Tools to create effective design house designs in Queensland
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. With the rest of this article, we will attempt to show how home design in the subtropical zone (where most of the Queensland population live) can contribute to a comfortable and welcoming living space all year round. We obviously also design homes in other 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.
Some of the features of the subtropical zone are:
a) Hot summers
b) Very high humidity in summer
c) Significant breeze activity, and
d) 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 narrow spaces (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.
Ventilation: A ventilation system should be designed that will allow heat to escape in summer while retaining it in winter. This can be achieved through the careful placement of doors, windows and vents.
Building materials: 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.
Insulation: Heat transfer from the roof can be minimised by reflective foil insulation. Insulation will also assist in keeping the home warm during winter.
These are just some of the strategies that we will consider with you as we work together to design your ideal eco-friendly home. In this way, we can deliver a result that will fit in perfectly on all the levels (micro, intermediate and macro) that we discussed above. This is obviously a world away from the ‘cookie cutter’ designs that we so often see around us, designs that take very little notice of the specific context in which homes are placed. If you want to ‘Bloom where you are planted’ in a home that really fits into the environment then you should seriously consider discussing your project with Brisbane based dion seminara architecture!