Eco Homes

I want to see us go back to sustainable building. We have all these materials close by us, that the pioneers naturally used to build their homes and grew their food to eat. Not that I go totally overboard with it all, but the way that we are living is making us sick. The fact that we design and build houses that need mechanical heating and cooling is just a playground for airborne diseases....

We stay inside more, in front of computers, TV's, computerised (solo) games; we don't read books, play family board games, we can't even exercise on our block any more, as we are building our houses on tiny blocks, so we pay to go to a gym. The quarter acre block of yesteryear has been pushed aside for the "micro-block", a lot that is less than 200 square meters and as small as 80 square metres to go on sale in Perth (2017).…/house-blocks-shrink-to-80-…/8287902

It's suffocating! Let the kids run wild. We live in Australia, we have so much land and yet we are making our blocks smaller and our homes bigger…. Is bigger better? That is for another blog.

If I can educate people, to understand the concept of sustainable, energy-efficient building, then they are the kind of people that I want to design for and work with.

When I was first married in 1985, we lived for our first three years in a brick veneer (brick on the outside wall and timber on the inside wall, as opposed to double brick where both the inside and outside walls are brick) duplex. This living area faced North, and on the Western Wall, was the other duplex. The ceilings were raked (on the same pitch as the roof). It was a three bedroom, one bathroom home that had no heating or cooling. (read the blog on Passive Solar homes). It was perfect, sitting in the sunshine in Winter and cool in the summer. We then desided to build our own home. Hubby is an electrician so he said that a brick veneer home would be much easier to work with and easier to add on to. I had no idea of “Sustainability” or “Passive Solar” designs. We did what most new home owners do, we went to the display home centres and that meant a trip to Perth on a Saturday from Bunbury as there was nothing down here. We went from, non-airconditioned home (I know, right! It’s hard to think that they didn’t come standard with Air Con). We did notice that one home was quite noticably different to the others and found out that it had a Zincalume roof (it’s the shiny ‘tin’ version of Colorbond). I was amazed. So that was it, I drew up a design (I didn’t become a designer until nearly 30yrs later), consisting of a brick veneer and zincalume roof. We were told we were wrong in doing that as it would never sell, we had to have a double brick and tile home if we were ever to see it as an investment.

We shifted into a rental. Double brick with clay tiles, facing east-west, so it was hot and no breeze flow, even worst still, when we had a few hot days in a row, we were living in an oven that just wouldn’t cool down. It was unbearable.

When we finally shifted into our new home, there was something from our duplex that I didn’t take into account. The northern winter sun (again, read the blog on Passive Solar homes). What I took for granted was that the living area recieved the beautiful winter sun! So in our new home, the best room in the house in winter was the laundry!! Yep, good think we put in a glass sliding door to allow all that beautiful sun in. So I put a bean bag in there and that is where I would sit to read a book, when I had the time. Lesson learnt.

See for examples of energy-efficient eco-friendly home designs provided by the City of Cockburn. There are a few things in this that I don't agree with, double brick being one of them. We have been sold the lie, due to great marketing (think Apple) that we need to build in double brick, but it is not only not sustainable, it isn't energy-efficient either (think of the old baker's ovens made of brick). Have a read on their website for more information on Eco homes and have a look at this video.

Passive Design Checklist

I thought that I’d give you some pointers on what you need to look for when looking for that perfect block and the difference it can really make in the Solar Passive design of your home.

The information is again from this is a great resorce that is available online for free and covers all sort of information in regards to building a home.

The information below is for Orientation for passive heating.

The site

You can achieve good passive solar performance at minimal cost if your site has the right characteristics. Where possible, choose a site that can accommodate north-facing daytime living areas that flow to outdoor spaces with similar orientation. In tropical areas, northerly solar access is not desirable: sites that allow maximum exposure to cooling breezes and designs that draw or funnel them through the building are preferable (see Choosing a site).

On smaller sites achieving permanent solar access is more likely on north–south blocks because they receive good access to northern sun with minimum potential for overshadowing by neighbouring houses. In summer, neighbouring houses can provide protection from low east and west sun.

However, on narrow blocks, careful design is required to ensure sufficient north-facing glass is included for adequate passive solar heating.

The house

The ideal orientation for living areas is within the range 15°W–20°E of true or ‘solar’ north (although 20°W–30°E of true north is considered acceptable). It allows standard eaves overhangs to admit winter sun to heat the building and exclude summer sun with no effort from the occupants and no additional cost.

Poor orientation can exclude winter sun as well as cause overheating in summer by allowing low angle east or west sun to strike glass surfaces, creating a greenhouse effect where it’s not required. Choose a house that has good orientation or can be easily adapted for better orientation.

Build close to the south boundary to maximise sunny, north-facing outdoor living areas and protect solar access but avoid compromising the solar access of neighbours. Choose a home with living spaces that have good access to winter sun.

Checklist for designing a new home or renovating

When you build, buy or renovate, there are things you can do or features to look for to achieve the best thermal comfort your site or home can offer. The following points are a brief overview: for more detailed information see Buying an existing home.

  • Relocate living areas to take advantage of winter sun and cooling summer breezes.

  • Maximise north-facing daytime living areas where passive solar access is available.

  • Use smaller, well shaded windows to increase cross-ventilation to the south, east and west.

  • Avoid west-facing bedrooms to maintain sleeping comfort.

  • Locate utility areas (laundries, bathrooms and garages) on the south or west where possible.

  • Avoid placing obstructions such as carports or sheds to the north.

  • Plant shade trees in appropriate locations; landscape to funnel cool breezes and block or filter harsh winds.

  • Prune vegetation that blocks winter sun; alternatively plant deciduous vegetation that allows winter sun in but provides summer shade.

Please contact me if you want to know more about Solar Passive Design

You can download a checklist here

Solar Passive Design

What does the term Solar Passive Design actually mean?

Passive solar design refers to the use of the sun's energy for the heating and cooling of living spaces. In this approach, the building itself or some element of it takes advantage of natural energy characteristics in materials and air created by exposure to the sun.

In other words it is using this natural source, along with good design, to make your home more energy-efficient, ie, lowering the cost of both heating and cooling a home.

The most important consideration to look at when building a Solar Passive home is the Orientation.

The explanation below is compliments of


Orientation is the positioning of a building in relation to seasonal variations in the sun’s path as well as prevailing wind patterns. Good orientation can increase the energy efficiency of your home, making it more comfortable to live in and cheaper to run.

When deciding the best orientation for your home, bear in mind that the climate is warming, and hotter summers with more extreme heat waves will become the norm during its life span. While passive solar heating is still very desirable in climates that require heating, the priority will gradually shift from heating to cooling. Additional attention to shading of windows and walls (particularly west facing) and exposure to cool breezes and other forms of natural cooling is required in all climate zones.

Principles of good orientation

Good orientation, combined with other energy efficiency features, can reduce or even eliminate the need for auxiliary heating and cooling, resulting in lower energy bills, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved comfort. It takes account of summer and winter variations in the sun’s path as well as the direction and type of winds, such as cooling breezes.

Ideally, choose a site or home with good orientation for your climatic and regional conditions and build or renovate to maximise the site’s potential for passive heating and passive cooling, adjusting the focus on each to suit the climate. For those sites that are not ideally orientated, there are strategies for overcoming some of the challenges.

In hot humid climates and hot dry climates with no winter heating requirements, aim to exclude direct sun by using trees and adjoining buildings to shade every façade year round while capturing and funnelling cooling breezes.

In all other climates a combination of passive solar heating and passive cooling is desirable. The optimum balance between capturing sunlight (solar access) and capturing cooling breezes is determined by heating and cooling needs.

North orientation is generally desirable in climates requiring winter heating, because the position of the sun in the sky allows you to easily shade northern façades and the ground near them in summertime with simple horizontal devices such as eaves, while allowing full sun penetration in winter.

North-facing walls and windows receive more solar radiation in winter than in summer. As shown in the diagram below, the opposite is true for other directions — and why, in mixed or heating climates, it is beneficial to have the longer walls of a house facing north to minimise exposure to the sun in summer and maximise it in winter.

Choosing the best orientation

Prioritise your heating and cooling needs. Are you in a climate that requires mainly passive heating, passive cooling, or a combination of both?

Compare your summer and winter energy bills, consult an architect or designer, ask your local energy authority or refer to local meteorological records.

Your local climate research should study:

  • temperature ranges, both seasonal and diurnal (day–night)

  • humidity ranges

  • direction of cooling breezes, hot winds, cold winds, wet winds

  • seasonal characteristics, including extremes

  • impact of local geographic features on climatic conditions (see Choosing a site)

  • impact of adjacent buildings and existing landscape.

Orientation for passive heating

The sun is a source of free home heating. You need to consider the sun’s movement from high angle in summer to low angle in winter to get the full advantage of the sun and how it can affect the home in keeping the house cool in Summer and warm in Winter.

Orientation for passive heating is about using the sun as a source of free home heating by letting winter sun in and keeping unwanted summer sun out — desirable in the majority of Australian homes. It can be done with relative ease on northern elevations by using horizontal shading devices to exclude high angle summer sun and admit low angle winter sun.

‘Solar access’ is the term used to describe the amount of useful sunshine striking glass in the living spaces of a home. The desired amount of solar access varies with climate.

So, there you have it. Confused? A good Building Designer or Architect takes all of this into perspective and combines it with any views the block might have and the design of the home to function well for the family and of course aesthetics is a priority. To be honest with you, you can’t take a ‘cookie cutter’ home design and expect it to function properly on just any block, you’re best to have something designed specifically for you and your block. A designer doesn’t need to be expensive, you can find one that will do a design to suit you and your budget. Just remember the savings in the long run.

Gabrielle EastComment
Front Foyers

Entryways… Entry halls… Foyers

Once you get through a front door you enter someone’s world. It’s the entrance into the rest of their life hidden behind that doorway.  Is it plain? Colourful? Antique? Wide, narrow, vaulted?  Entryways or foyers set the tone for the rest of the house.  Is it where everyone drops their shoes, school bags, sporting bags?  Is it bare with nothing at all and is merely there to get you from the front door to the rest of the house or from room to room. 

The foyer is the first place to welcome old friends and to greet new people. An entryway is an amazing place to display your style. You can go chic, retro, classy, nautical, country or Victorian and have all the fun or elegance you desire.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to make a statement but it gives an impression as soon as it is entered into.

I love entryways, wide entryways.  There is something that I feel about a house as I walk into this area that makes me expectant of what’s to come but also sets the mood for those that enter. That’s why the materials that you use in this area, wood flooring, tiles, timber cladding, dado levels, wallpaper and the colours you use, can really make a difference.

There’s no disputing the importance of this area as the first impression that your house gives to visitors and it’s easy to change. With a fresh coat of paint, a crafted renovation and a new perspective, your entryway can really become a warm and inviting focal point for the whole house.

Front Doors

What's in a front door?....

The first thing a visitor will encounter when they come to your home is your front door, and selecting this part of your home is an important decision to make.  It sets the tone for what is about to follow. A house with a charming and beautiful front door is indeed inviting.

When looking for a front door, you will be amazed by the number of choices you will be dealing with. Even though we want our entry door handsome enough to make a good first impression, it must be tough enough to withstand wind, rain, scorching sun, and would-be intruders. One of the main choices is concerning what materials the door is made from. They may be made from wood, either solid or hollow core, composite materials, metal or glass.

Then comes style… and then colour…This is where an owners character really comes into play.  Depending on the style of the home, you want to choose a door that compliments the home as well as your taste.  So much to think about and this is just the front door!


Selecting the part of your home that a visitor will first come into contact with, is clearly an important decision to make. It sets the tone for what is about to follow. A house with a charming and beautiful front door is indeed inviting and can become the envy of your friends and neighbours. So, it is very important to remember that when you are planning to remodel your home or are planning to build a new one, not to forget to factor in the decision about the part of your house that everyone will first come into contact with.

When looking for a front door, you will be amazed by the number of choices you will be dealing with. Some of the choices may be products made from wood, composite materials, and Metal. Each of the aforementioned styles has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here is an overview of these three options.

Entry doors must be tough enough to withstand wind, rain, scorching sun, and would-be intruders, yet handsome enough to make a good first impression. Unfortunately, meeting those needs is a tall order for many front doors. Most older ones are made of wood or wood veneer, both of which warp, crack, and delaminate after years of exposure to the elements.

Most manufacturers offer dozens of door styles, and you'll find a broad selection at lumberyards, home centers, and door dealers.


Front Entries

Front entries into a house....

It's the first thing that you see from the road verge. It conveys a lot about somebody and their taste. What do you like? Modern, Shabby chic, Federation, Hamptons... A home needs to reflect who you are. It needs to say 'welcome home'; 'welcome back'; 'come sit for a while'. Some say 'don't enter'; 'don't stay long'. The more I looked the more variety of styles I found. Some were rather drab, some said 'look at me'; some showed some fun, a sense of mirth, whilst others show preciseness, minimalism. What ever you choose as an entrance, make sure it conveys who you are and what you want it to say to those who'll come to visit.

What do you want your entrance to say about you?

And just a thought for you, if you choose a neutral colour for your exterior walls, like maybe white, go out there with your front door colour, you can always change it.  It's a lot cheaper to change the colour of your front door than what it is to change the colour of the whole exterior of your house.  Just sayin'.