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The key reason for facing your home to the north is to allow the sun to enter and warm your house in winter. In winter, the sun is lower so it can get under the roof eaves, into windows and warm deep into the interior spaces.

“Operable shading is an ideal solar solution because it allows you to constantly adjust your home to the sun, just like trimming a yacht to the wind.” - Kris Mainstone, Director, Maine Architecture

Temperature seasons

It’s interesting to know that the temperature seasons and the solar seasons are different. Due to ‘Seasonal Lag’ the sun is at its highest from November to January but the hottest months in Perth are January to March. This means that even with the best solar design you can be out by two months. A great way to overcome this is shading with deciduous trees because they tend to follow the temperature seasons. Operable shading is ideal as it allows you to adjust to the sun daily, hourly, or more, like trimming a yacht. People naturally do this with curtains but the benefit of shading externally is much greater due to the greenhouse effect created once the sun hits the glass.

Emotional effects

All of the above is great for reducing your power bill but something that really interests architects is how orientation can improve the way your house feels and affects your emotions in turn. A simple example is how dark houses can be depressing, especially in winter. The cutely named Seasonal Affected Disorder (S.A.D) describes this phenomenon scientifically.

“Architects have a great interest in how orientation can improve the way your house feels and affects your emotions and moods every day.” - Kris Mainstone, Director, Maine Architecture

In practical terms architects combine this understanding with the actual way you may live. For example, placing a bathroom on the east side of house allows it to be filled with morning light, helping you to experience a natural boost first thing in the morning. The same can be applied to a breakfast bar or a morning porch. In summer, the south of the house can be a great refuge during a hot day. This can be combined with soft landscaping, water features, and the south-west sea breeze to create a cooling effect.

Block choice

When choosing a block, having a long side boundary to the north allows you to maximize your northern glazing. Ideally the block will still be wide enough to fit in a northern outdoor area also. Having your street boundary facing north may seem good, but it can be complex combining glazing and privacy. A rear boundary facing north is arguably ideal as these tend to be the most open, glazed and private orientation.

When choosing a block and thinking about your home’s orientation, try and go beyond simply facing north. Think about how you live, the seasons, the landscape and more, because a well orientated house can complement your lifestyle and maximise the enjoyment of living in it.