As we are in the southern hemisphere, the sun tracks across our northern sky – high in the sky in summer and low in the sky in winter.
Our house is positioned to take maximum advantage of the sun.
The house is long and skinny, running east-west, so that the long side of the house is exposed to the north and the narrow ends face east and west. Most of the house is two rooms deep, with the western master bedroom wing being only a single room wide.
Windows on the northern side of the house are large. They allow deep penetration of warming sunlight into the building during winter, but are shaded by eaves of a perfectly calculated width to stop any sunlight entering the house in summer. Within a few weeks of the equinox each year, there is but a thin sliver of light falling into the house – and we know the change in season is upon us!
The layout of rooms is also made with the northerly aspect in mind. Rooms that are frequently used are placed on the north side – the main bedrooms, bathrooms, games room and kitchen / dining (the heart of the house) – get full advantage of the natural light coming in, making them bright and inviting rooms.
The rooms which don’t need the natural light so much are placed on the south side – guest bedroom, garage, laundry, linen cupboard, entry way. They are not so inviting, but who wants to spend all day in the laundry anyway? The lounge room is also placed on the south side, because this is a room most heavily used at night-time, and on the odd occasion someone wants to watch TV during the day, the darker nature of the south side suits.
We are extremely fortunate that we had the space to choose a building site that favoured the views to the north and allowed us to orient the house that way. However, even in a tight urban block, the same principles can be very successfully applied – it just takes a bit more creative thinking!