new guide offering architects and building designers comprehensive information on how to design for optimum thermal comfort according to climatic conditions will be available at the end of the year.
Environmental architect, Tone Wheeler, principal at Environa Studio in Sydney, is currently working on the guide, which will be produced in both print and online forms. “Most of our houses haven’t been designed to meet our climatic needs,” he tells BPN. “They’re not designed to minimise the amount of energy needed to be comfortable and the energy we use to keep ourselves warm and cool is about a third of all the energy that gets used in the house, so in most cases in Melbourne it’s more heating and in Queensland more air conditioning. Because we now rely more on air conditioning and air conditioning is based on electricity, we’re using more greenhouse gases. We’re want-ing our houses to be more thermally comfortable [but] they’re getting worse in design, they’re poorly insulated, poorly orientated, with not enough thermal mass in them. So we’ve lost touch with the climate. We have beautiful temperate climates in Australia and you could easily find enough sun in winter to keep a place warm, and enough breezes and shade to keep it cool in summer.”
Only two similar guides exist, the first written in the 1960s, the second 15 years ago, neither of which is particularly user-friendly. “We don’t understand the climate because it’s not presented to designers in an understandable fashion,” Wheeler asserts. “People talk about extremes of temperature or principal winds but you don’t get the detail needed.” To this end, Wheeler, in association with researchers at the University of Newcastle and at Think Brick , which is publishing the guide, known as Climatic Design Guide, are translating this kind of information into six different aspects of climate.
1. air temperature
2. heating and cooling
3. solar radiation
The reason such a guide has not been readily or recently available is due to the huge task of crunching a very large amount of data, not just in numerical but in intellectual terms, Wheeler notes. “It’s only because I’ve been involved in sustainable design for 25 years that I can take a long view and say what this means in terms of a design outcome.”