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House of the Rising Sun

robert-towell-architect-caymanWhen engaged on a new design project the first thing an architect looks at is the optimal orientation of the building on the proposed site location: orientation should take into account sun patterns, natural breeze conditions, privacy concerns and of course the views.

The importance of each of these design considerations cannot be overstated. All work to maximise energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve both humidity and comfort levels and reduce the operational cost of the building.

No one likes expensive utility bills. By utilising conceptual design and taking advantage of correct building orientation, an architect can create a building that saves the owner money and, at the same time, reduces environmental impact.

In hot, humid climates, the architect’s main goal is to minimise how much direct sun penetrates the building, thus decreasing the “heat gain” – that is, the transfer of heat into a building from the sun’s rays. The heat absorbed by the structure increases dramatically during the summer months as solar radiation intensifies.

The best approach to decrease heat gain is to use quality window products, which include either tinted windows or low eminence glass that reflects long-wave infrared energy (or heat).

Design consideration should also be given to the east-west orientations of the building as these sides have significant heat gain due to lower sun angles. Therefore, the most energy efficient design has a long axis with the narrowest elevations of the building facing east-west. This will decrease potential glare and over-heating sun conditions.

The use of large roofed terraces, overhangs, louvres, screens and above-window eyebrows will add to the shading components of a structure. It is also beneficial to make use of extensive landscaping to provide additional shade.

Non air-conditioned spaces such as garages or covered terraces serve as buffering or insulating zones and will minimise direct solar admission into a building. An architect will study the sun’s patterns and suggest the best placement of these spaces.

Should the owner of a building decide to install solar panels, the roof orientation must also be taken into account. To work most efficiently, solar panels should not be shaded by higher roofs, adjacent walls or trees.  A flat roof provides an ideal condition allowing a 5 to 10 degree angle on each solar panel which leads to maximum absorption from the sun. Thus, a south-west orientation of solar panels will be advantageous to match solar production and your electrical needs.

Consideration should also be given to prevailing winds: the use of well thought out cross ventilation combined with external breezeways will allow natural airflow into interior and exterior locations.

Of course, the greatest design criterion of all, especially for an oceanfront property, is capturing the natural views while maintaining the practical considerations mentioned to create an amazing looking building.

To learn more contact, Robert Towell Architecture Ltd.: Call or visit: www.roberttowell.com


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