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In Australia, the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice is behind us and we can now begin to set our sights on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice on Sunday December 22. The summer solstice is about 5 hours 15 minutes longer than winter solstice. It is therefore timely to turn our minds to what good solar orientation consists of and the benefits derived from it. This includes reducing reliance on mechanical methods for cooling and heating our homes, which can lead to lower energy bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved comfort.
Sensible home design and layouts should be based on the orientation of the individual building lot and any other factors that influence orientation for a new home or renovation. That is, aiming for ideal orientation rather than precise orientation on a lot will often make more sense in the long term and suit the owners needs more closely.
Whilst orientation is primarily about positioning of a building in relation to seasonal variations in the suns path it is also important to consider other factors such as prevailing winds and existing built form. Therefore, it is sensible that regulations allow for a degree of variation when determining the ideal orientation of dwellings.
State and territory regulations generally make adequate allowance for this and provide guidelines and principles to be satisfied rather than any mandatory requirements. For example, in Victoria, the ResCode Standards for two or more dwellings on a lot require the designer to consider orientation from a number of perspectives; site layout and onsite and offsite amenity impacts. Similarly in Western Australia the Residential Design Codes Volume 2 – Apartments outlines the intent, objectives and acceptable outcomes for the solar and daylight access in apartments.
Operating in combination with good solar orientation and passive solar design, the thermal performance of a new home works to complete the essential basics for an energy efficient and comfortable home.
Further detailed information regarding orientation can be obtained from the Australian Governments website YourHome - Passive Home, Orientation.
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