- Architecture /
- Design /
At Ecohabit we love this home! Situated along the coast in idyllic Waikiki Beach, the home was designed to make the most of solar passive design principles whilst also taking in the gorgeous west facing views of the ocean. Such criteria are always a challenge for an architect. The number one rule of solar passive design, avoid glazing to east and west elevations of your home to keep out that hot summer sun as it rises in the east and sets in the west. How do you resist putting large expanses of glazing on a western elevation when you have those fantastic ocean views? We didn’t! What we did do was to maintain as much protection to the glazing as possible through awnings and blinds. We also designed the construction of the living areas of the home from lightweight framed work rather than masonry. Through understanding our client’s lifestyle, we knew that during certain times of the day that they would want to expose the home to the sun, as those views are just too good to resist!
The home was going to warm up during the evening unless we added expensive double glazing and solar shading devices that would invariably obscure the view. By utilizing lightweight framing materials to the northern living areas we knew that the home would cool quickly once the sun had set. Good design of external openings allows the clients to maximize airflow in the evenings and the home is back to a cool comfortable temperature quickly. A masonry structure would have maintained its heat well through the evening and night. Understanding when our clients use their living areas was paramount to achieving a good design solution. The occupant’s lifestyle is a key aspect to good solar passive design.
Another key aspect to the homes thermal performance is an old tea tree to the front of the home. Located just to the south west the tree provides valuable shading to the front of the home and main living area. It protects the home from the worst of the hot summer sun as it sets while allowing most of the setting winter sun to bath the living areas through much of the day and late into the afternoon. To many people this scraggly looking tree may be detracting, but to our clients it was a reminder of the family home that stood on the site for many decades. Creating a building that incorporated it as a part of the design now means it’s a living part of the home.
Whilst the northern living areas of the home have been constructed using lightweight framework, the southern sleeping areas have been constructed using double brick. It was important to stabilize the temperature of this part of the home. In winter you need these areas to be warm and in summer cool during the evening when they are used. The thermal mass of the concrete ground slab and masonry walls does just that providing a comfortable stable environment.
As you can see the thought process in designing the bedroom areas of the home is quite different to how we have designed the northern living areas. It is important to adapt design and construction techniques to suit the building’s location and the occupant’s lifestyle. Too often homes are designed with little consideration for these factors. Chosen designs that are “safe” or have construction methods we deem “the norm” act only to the detriment of our own comfort.
I loved the times that I popped down to see our clients after their home was built. She would be sipping coffee on their deck while her husband was raising crab pots in the bay on the still morning ocean. It makes us feel great that we could be a part of their journey and able to help them create that lifestyle. Simply wonderful.