the paramount importance of home siting, orientation and layout

If you are going to build a new home consider with attention its siting and its layout and orientation relative to the sun, wind and breezes.

Do not undervalue these issues. They are important for thermal comfort and low energy consumption.

Things like views, the proximity to public transportation, loud neighbors and privacy are obviously important.

But there are other features that are also critical, involving the amount of sunlight, shade or breezes - or nearby immovable obstructions, trees, neighboring buildings, and the surrounding landscape.

Also make sure that local codes do not collide with the best orientation of the house, or with strategies involving heat gains or sun protection, or the instalation of solar panels.Sun's Path in the sky: Virginia Extension

Search hard to get the best site possible.

Home siting in Cold and moderate Climates

Obviously, all depends a lot on your climate. What’s good in a cold climate can be very disadvantageous in a hot one. Image above (from Virginia Coop. Extension): the first home has a South-North axis and gets most of the sun in the early morning and late afternoon; the second (at right) has a East-West axis and the longest wall facing the South, and because of it, it receives most of the sun during the afternoon. That's the best for heat gains, in cold and moderate climates, in the Northern hemisphere...

In a cold or moderate climate, the best sites are those that provide direct sunlight and protection from freezing winds, while in a hot climate you should look for a site able to provide shade and sun protection.

Flat sites or gently sloped sites with a good exposure to the winter sun are great options for homeowners living in moderate and cold climates (sites with a wide east-west lot line are the best for solar heat gains during the winter and for installing solar panels on the roofs).

Landscape & shadingHot climates

In hot climates, buildings should be protected from the sun, and benefit from cooling breezes and shade as much as possible.

Avoid locating the main living areas in the West and East sides. The main living rooms should be located in the more protected sides of the house.

To get it, consider rectangular shaped buildings with a longer east-west axis. It’s a lot easier (in hot climates) to get shade in the South or the North than in the East and the West.

Accordingly, the windows in the East and West sides of the house should be small (or suppressed).

As far as possible, consider also a convenient orientation of the house to the prevailing breezes..

Living areas in cold And Mixed climatesHome Shape and Orientation

The rooms where people spend most of their time should be located, as much as possible, in the sunniest sides of the house; the house should benefit from solar heat gains, during the winter.

Accordingly, living areas and windows should be mostly oriented to the South (in the Northern hemisphere) or to the North (in the Southern hemisphere).

Image: a suggestion of AZSC

If possible, the main rooms should be protected from the wind and cold weather - by using buffer zones and buffer rooms, that is, by locating hallways, garages, closets, laundry rooms and other secondary spaces in the peripheral parts of the building (image above). The goal is to shield the main rooms from extreme temperatures.

Obviously, overhangs and deciduous shrubs and trees, properly located, can also help protect the house from the sun, during the summer.

East-facing rooms

Kitchens, breakfast rooms and bedrooms with east-facing windows can be a good option in moderate and mixed climates. The reason is obvious: the morning sun can help make the rooms more agreeable.

Another possible reason to locate these rooms/windows in the East is that it can make them cooler in the afternoon - a welcome feature in some mixed climates.

Obviously, in hot and tropical climates, where the morning sun can be a cause of overheating and glare, things are rather different, and the rules involving the windows and the rooms in the East are those mentioned below for the West side of the house.

West Facing Rooms

In temperate and cold-sunny climates, west-facing windows can provide welcome sunlight during the afternoon hours. 

But not in hot climates. In these climates, west facing windows are a common cause of overheating and glare. It's very difficult to minimize solar heating gains through west-facing windows, even with horizontal shading devices, or trees and shrubs.

In hot climates, avoid as much as possible to locate windows in the west side of the house; any possible windows in this side of the building (and East windows) should be few, small and very well protected from the sun (through deep porches...).


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