March 30, 2018
A study prepared for the Australian Government (Department of the Environment) has shown that modifying the design of popular homes is a better approach than increasing building specifications. The study was able to use good design to achieve an average increase in energy efficiency of 1 star and at the same time an average decrease in total construction cost of nearly 2%, compared to the original design.
The secret is to design for climate and orientation, particularly the location of living areas and the placement and size of glazing. The study found that great ways of improving thermal performance include optimisation of roof colour, moving glazing from East/West to North/South orientation, mirroring of building design and polystyrene core floor slabs.
While these findings make sense, the traditional approach of passing the finished design to the energy assessor means that an understanding of the thermal performance of the design happens too late.
The study identified other barriers – site constraints, the increased cost of design and analysis, and a lack of home buyer understanding of the importance of thermal performance.