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Orientation and Your Home

Click here to download Secret Agent’s orientation guide

This week, we’ve put together a short guide to help you maximise the benefits of passive design solutions by understanding orientation in your home. With a particular focus on light and wind, we break down each aspect and offer suggestions for a more environmentally friendly and comfortable home.

North

  • Mornings generally receive Northerly winds from the inland due to land breeze. During winter this is the dominant source of wind. In summer, Northerly winds can be quite hot.
  • Direct sunlight and an excellent source of passive heating.
  • Necessary to use shading methods, such as planting deciduous trees (which permit low-angle Winter sun through) or installing eaves and blinds.
  • Suitable for daytime, living and dining rooms or courtyards.
  • Ideal orientation of the home with the long side facing North, or 20-30° off from the center.

West

  • Be wary of hot Northwesterly winds in summer and cold Southwesterly winds in the cooler months.
  • Evening sun can be quite harsh and hot in summer.
  • Option to strategically plant trees and shrub to divert undesirable winds and provide shading in the evening.
  • Alternative is to place utility areas facing West (e.g. laundry, bathrooms, storage) which insulate and shade living areas.

East

  • Little to no Easterly wind all year round. Design should promote cross-ventilation from other rooms.
  • Direction of sunrise and cool morning light.
  • Suitable for kitchens, breakfast rooms or bedrooms, as morning light is beneficial to regulate our circadian rhythm (natural body clock).

South

  • Evenings generally receive Southerly winds from the ocean due to the sea breeze effect. Southwesterly winds in the cooler months can be quite harsh.
  • Indirect light, therefore requires little to no shading. Borrowed light methods include use of skylights or reflections off neighbouring buildings.
  • Should be properly insulated as there are minimal passive heating options. Active heating may also be necessary.
  • Suitable for bedrooms or artist studios, as South light produces cool and controlled colour values.

Lessons from Jan Gehl

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For the fifth consecutive year, Melbourne has been named the world’s most liveable city by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual survey. While the ranking is based on a range of factors such as healthcare, culture, education and infrastructure, Secret Agent believes that Melbourne’s success is due to thoughtful urban design.

We owe it to Jan Gehl, the Danish architect and urban designer who worked together with Melbourne City Council in the early 1990s to transform the city from, in his own words, “neutron-bombed, not a soul – not even a cat”, into a place for people. Much of our laneway culture and outdoor dining today can be attributed to Gehl’s visionary thinking and humanistic approach to urban design.

Three main principles can be drawn from Gehl’s work:

1. Design the city at 5km/h

Cities had always been designed for people, who move at a modest speed of about 5km/h, up until the boom of the automobile in the 1960s. New cities were then designed at 60km/h – wider, further apart, less accessible by foot. Gehl’s intervention in Melbourne applied the human scale of the older, 5km/h cities, giving birth to our laneway culture that is now inseparable from the city’s identity. Narrow, dense and brimming with life, there is a certain magic that comes with compact spaces.

Thanks to Gehl and planning changes, Melbourne CBD has gained 20 hectares of footpaths over 15 years. Designing walkable urban spaces encourages people to do so, resulting in a healthier population. Think about how far a person has to walk to get from A to B; is it a comfortable distance? If it necessarily becomes a lengthy walk, can it be a safe, pleasant and eventful journey?

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