Australia records some of the longest sunshine hours in the world, paired with some of the world’s harshest UV rays. This brings some unique design challenges (and possibilities) to Australian residential architecture, which has historically struggled to fully capture the benefits of the local climate.
Victorian styles in particular are not known for their energy efficiency, tending to be cold and dark in winter and overly hot in summer. In contrast, Queenslander architecture pays tribute to its surrounds and tends to be a good base to work from when designing a modern energy-efficient home. In particular, the trend of adapting traditional Queenslander homes to include contemporary features such as motorised louvres and outdoor screens is a great way to combine sustainable design with classic Australian architecture. Some charming examples include Keith Street House by Fouche Architects and Bowler House by DAH Architects, as well as bureau^proberts’ Queenslander-inspired apartment building.
As mentioned, louvres are a great option to increase a home’s energy efficiency. They also make a stylish addition to residential architecture and give occupants the flexibility to enjoy the weather or take cover when needed.
There are a number of ways to use louvres, but one popular option is the use of motorised louvres in roofing solutions such as pergolas. Louvretec’s Retractable Opening Roof, for example, is a good solution for architects looking to specify operable overhead cover for outdoor areas. According to Louvretec, this style of opening roof allows you to automatically retract the louvre blades back; either from the middle stacking evenly to each side, or all louvres retracted to one end.
The Retractable Opening Roof can be a good solution to help occupants reduce their overall energy consumption, says Louvretec, as it provides ventilation and allows the user to control the amount of daylight and glare, reducing the need for air conditioning. It also allows for winter sun (passive solar heat gain), which can reduce heating costs. Plus, being made of aluminium makes it a durable (yet recyclable) option.
One stunning example of this product in use is in a luxury residential project at Orewa Beach on New Zealand’s North Island. Louvretec’s Retractable Opening Roof was specified on the penthouse apartments of this opulent building, which boasts beautiful beach views. Hopper Developments chose to specify the roofs for the penthouses to maximise light and sun control and to create a functional outdoor living space.
Windows are another key opportunity to maximise energy efficiency in a residential build. Getting into the more technical side of things, Norman’s PerfectTilt G4 motorised shutters have some interesting features. According to Norman, all of the company’s shutter products have an inbuilt InvisibleTilt mechanism, which operates the louvres with no need for an external connecting rod and allows all mechanical components to be hidden inside the shutter stile.
The G4 motorisation system also features built-in jam protection for children and pets, is water resistant and has over 30 custom louvre positions available. Perhaps one of its most compelling features is that each shutter contains a solar panel to extend battery life, which according to Norman can sometimes last for years on a single charge when installed in a sunny location.
If you’re looking to achieve sun protection while adding architectural flair to a structure, attaching louvres to a building’s facade can be a great option. Louvreclad, for example, provides louvre solutions that are a mixture of proprietary components and custom-designed fixing systems to suit the project at hand. This is because different facades require different external shading solutions based on the facade’s orientation towards the sun.
According to Louvreclad, who also focus on bespoke solutions for large scale commercial projects as well as multi-residential projects, their systems can be designed to be fully responsive to external conditions, maximise airflow, provide added weather protection, reduce noise and even offer security through bullet-proof resistance.
A good example of this product’s application is in Gallery House, a Queensland residential building designed by Cottee Parker Architects. The structure, which includes a combination of riverfront residences and retail destinations, was designed to interpret and reflect the calm yet dynamic nature of the Brisbane River, while also responding to the dynamic mountain ranges beyond.
Louvreclad worked closely with the architects to design and detail a custom Caprice Series vertical sun blade solution which included a new 110mm chamfer end cap designed and cut specifically for the project. Broken into 3m sections and fixed to the structure with a custom fabricated end plate/spigot connection, the 577mm deep chamfer blades run vertically up west and east elevations to provide the necessary sun protection. This bespoke connection detail allows for thermal expansion and slab deflection, while still providing the required 45-degree tilt of the blade and fitting discretely behind the sun blade to maintain the continuous louvre aesthetic.
Screens can be a more subtle yet still effective option for improving energy efficiency in a home. One interesting option is Verosol’s SilverScreen solar control fabrics, which can be used on window coverings to regulate heat and light in buildings. According to Verosol, this product uses a technique called metallisation, which involves vaporising aluminium to allow it to bond and infuse into the fabric.
Used in a range of the company’s blinds and window coverings, SilverScreen reflects up to 85 percent of solar radiation and virtually eliminates UV radiation. This means there is no fading and damage to interior furnishings, and glare is significantly reduced – all while leaving views to the outside world unaffected.
According to Verosol, blinds incorporating SilverScreen are proven to reduce energy consumption (and in turn, costs). In air-conditioned buildings they can cut costs by 20 percent, while in buildings without air-conditioning they cut costs by approximately 10 percent, which equates to significant reductions in CO2 emissions and good energy cost savings.
Finally, for architects and specifiers looking for an alternative to conventional facade design, Innowood’s screen systems could be a good option. They provide a softened timber look to internal and external wall surfaces and soffits, which not only greatly enhances their appearance, but also protects the building and its occupants from harsh sunlight. The screen systems are also low maintenance, water and termite resistant, and are available in a variety of colours and finishes. It is also worth noting that they utilise composite timber recycling technology, preventing global forest depletion by eliminating the need for chopping down new timber.
One good example of their use is in The Pavilions, a set of 14 townhouses in the coastal Sydney suburb of Freshwater, designed by Nettleton Tribe. The idea behind the design was to combine a natural timber look and feel with a contemporary design that is functional and highlights the clean lines of the build’s natural sustainable finishes. The builder, Reform, specified Innowood’s bi-fold screening system for all 14 townhouses, with project manager Alex Swiney noting that “It provides a real look and feel whilst having a durable UV and weather resistance”.