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    BASIX #1: Orientation. Harnessing the Sun's Movement



    Orientation Considerations for Achieving NatHERS 7-Star Compliance in Sydney Homes

    Designing a new home in Sydney to achieve NatHERS 7-star compliance demands an extraordinary level of expertise.

    Factors such as site orientation, narrow blocks, and shading from foliage or neighbouring structures must be carefully considered especially where the objective is to harness the benefits of the sun's movement and leverage it to optimise energy efficiency and year-round comfort.

    Harnessing the Sun’s Movement: Seasonal Considerations

    During the hot summer months, when the sun takes a higher trajectory, it becomes crucial to shield northern windows from the intense midday sun. This can be accomplished through the clever use of eaves or window hoods. Additionally, it is essential to minimise or shade eastern and western windows, especially on the western side, to mitigate the impact of the harsh afternoon sun. As the sun assumes a lower position during these times, vertical shading solutions become necessary.

    Conversely, in winter, when the sun follows a lower path, one can capitalise on its radiance to capture maximum sunlight and warmth. Designing with north-facing windows allows the entry of sunlight, thereby reducing the need for excessive heating systems.


    A fundamental principle of home design involves aligning the longest axis of the house along the east-west direction. This arrangement maximises exposure to the winter sun while minimising direct sun exposure during summer. Living areas and kitchens, the heart of any home, are ideally positioned towards the north/northeast, while service areas find their place towards the west and southwest, and studies and bedrooms towards the southern side.


    Design Solutions for Challenging Environments

    Nevertheless, designing for non-north-facing rear orientations presents its own set of challenges. Homeowners yearn for living areas and kitchens that seamlessly flow into their backyards, accompanied by ample natural light throughout the year. Moreover, the lower trajectory of the winter sun casts longer shadows, potentially shading south-facing backyards, contingent upon the height and configuration of the upper floors.


    To tackle these challenges, various design solutions can be used, such as the incorporation of summer and winter living areas, courtyardsvoids, stairwells, skillion roofs, celestial windows and skylights.

    It is essential, however, to note that some of these solutions may impact the achievement of a 7-star rating, particularly when it comes to elements like voids, courtyards, and high glass-to-floor ratios on southern elevations, where living and alfresco areas are typically located.


    For houses with non-ideal orientations, narrow blocks, or significant shading from the north, skillful design becomes imperative, often necessitating integration with landscape design. Striking the delicate balance between aesthetic aspirations, functionality, and energy efficiency in such scenarios demands expertise and meticulous planning to meet NatHERS 7-star compliance while creating a comfortable and sustainable living environment.

    Engaging a Custom Home Designer/Builder: The Key to Overcoming Unique Site Challenges

    Consequently, it becomes clear that for sites with these unique challenges, the services of a custom home designer/builder become indispensable. Even without the new 7-star rating requirements, it is highly unlikely that off-the-shelf or standard designs can deliver the desired outcomes in terms of natural light and year-round comfort. This is particularly true for knock-down rebuilds, where each site possesses its own distinct characteristics and complexities. The 7-star requirement only amplifies these challenges, further impacting the budgetary considerations.

    In summary, the endeavour to design energy-efficient homes that meet NatHERS 7-star compliance is an intricate task that demands careful attention to detail. It is a delicate dance between aligning with the natural movement of the sun, addressing unique site conditions, and striking a balance between aesthetics, functionality, and energy efficiency. Only through the expertise and craftsmanship of custom home designers and builders can homeowners truly achieve the desired outcomes—a comfortable and sustainable living environment that harmonises with the natural elements.

    Related articles:

    BASIX #1 Orientation. Harnessing the Sun's Movement

    BASIX #2 Windows. The Importance of Window Selection in Achieving a 7-Star Home

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