The Australian Dream Series



The direction that a site faces will influence the layout of the home and its positioning on the site.
On a list of items to look for when selecting a site for your new home, the orientation of the site in relation to north needs be one of the top items.

By placing Living areas to face towards the north, not only will the most used areas of the home benefit from warming winter sunshine, but the rooms will be brighter and have a friendlier feel to them.
In this context, the selection of a building site and the selection of a home design and layout should not be treated as two separate items.

The physical properties of any land selected to build on, such as slope and width to length ratio and orientation, will dictate the style and layout of the home to suit the particular block.
If you have formed definite ideas on style and layout, then the land purchased must be suitable for that design - including the orientation.
This may sound very basic, but the situation arises frequently where people have spent a great deal of time discussing and deciding on a particular type of home and then selected a block of land primarily on the attributes of its views or location etc only to find down the track that the two are not compatible or that compromises need to be made on the home design.

The type of early subdivisions of land in Australia, with their regimented and uniform grid layouts, have gradually given way to the more aesthetically pleasing estates with their curved roads and larger grass verges, but until recently there has not been an emphasis on subdividing land to maximise on solar access to sites.
There are now a range of subdivisional guidelines covering aspects including the recommendation for the long axes of sites to be within a range of N20W to N30E or E20N to E30S to enable better site use in regards to home heating and cooling costs.   

With the requirements for a minimum level of energy efficiency for new homes  mandatory across Australia we are now seeing the situation in some locations with existing subdivisions, where various stock home designs cannot be economically placed on certain sites due to their layouts, and window placement etc.
As an example, in Victoria where a level of 6 star energy efficiency is required an 'off the shelf design', depending upon its window placement etc, on a north south orientated site may not only be uneconomical to build but may possibly not be able to achieve the requirements necessary to enable a building permit to be issued without major reconfigeration of the design.

Be sure when signing contracts for this type of home that the required energy rating is attainable for your particular site.

The diagram above shows 3 sites with varying north orientations. The shaded areas indicate the optimum living area locations to maximise upon winter sun penetration.

Site C with the sun over the back fence enables privacy from the street to Living and Family areas looking out to the back yard and entertaining areas.
With site B, windows looking onto the back yard may need to be screened in summer from hot easterly morning sun but would be good for morning winter sun warmth to kitchen or breakfast areas.
There is the possibility of shading from neighbours on the north side especially with 2 storey construction blocking low winter sun.

Site A, with solar gain to the front of the home could be the most challenging.
Ideally the home would be better placed to the rear of the site to allow for a privacy screening from the street to open spaces and outdoor entertaining areas at the front of the home.
This could be a problem in for example Victoria where homes are required to start in the front one third of the block.

Site orientation and the layout of your design go hand in hand. Select a site to suit your design or select a design to suit your site.


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