Searching for a home? Property orientation shouldn’t be overlooked.

The weather and where you live in the world may determine your home’s orientation.  Many home buyers will specify that they are looking for a “North-South facing home.”
Ideally, the backyard will have an abundance of sunlight and the interior spaces will flood with daylight, without heating up the room.  When searching for a home keep this list handy, it can help decrease utility bills and brighten your mood!
Home Location / Site Orientation Checklist:
  1. Designed with daylight in mind? In the northern hemisphere (USA), you’ll want to look for homes with most of the windows on the south facade of the house.  The north facade is also beneficial, but benefits of north facing windows are more evident in the southern United States (like South Florida).  There is no mandatory list of rooms that must face south; homeowners should evaluate which spaces they would like the brightest light.  These spaces will cause a glare on televisions or other screens so rooms with media functions should be eliminated from the south facing facade.  Ideally, windows should be between 5-15 degrees of true south.
  2. Reduced utility bills: Using less artificial lighting indoors will decrease your annual bill. However, the lowest utility bills will come from reducing the number of windows on the west side of the home.
  3. Sources of daylight include doors and windows however these openings can also add heat in a room. Placing windows high on a wall will capture the maximum amount of daylight and heat.  Clerestory windows date back centuries before modern conveniences like central heating.  Gothic churches, temples and structures in ancient Egypt all utilized these windows for capturing light and maintaining privacy at the interior spaces.  Today, clerestory windows are still in use for the same reason, and as a means to energy efficiency (see diagram below.)
  4. Physical benefits from daylight – Did you know that Vitamin D from sunlight aids in the prevention of osteoporosis?
  5. Landscape and Terrain: The home’s position on the site should take advantage of existing natural landscape features where possible.  Use existing trees to benefit from heat-reducing shading from high-angle summer sun, yet allow solar heat exposure when they lose their leaves in winter.  Nearby bodies of water can also provide cooling breezes in summer if they are located on the hotter, south-facing side of the home.

Ten Tips about Natural Light

1 – Natural Light can change your mood

2 – Rooms flooded with natural light feel more spacious.

3 – Maximize natural light versatility with window treatments: layering can diffuse light in a variety of ways throughout the day.

4 – Mental health benefits from natural light vs. seasonal affective disorder (ever lived in Seattle?)

5 – Natural light is not just from windows and doors, use skylights and solar tubes

6 – Minimize glazing (windows and doors) on the east and west facades whenever possible

7 – Account for climate in all seasons and review how the topography will effect the changing path of the sun.  Think about the desirable months to use the backyard, where will the sun be during those days?

8 – Calculate the daylighting depth – if the room is too deep, one side will be bright and the other dark.  Window placement actually impacts size and shape of rooms.

9 – Consider the materials and finishes inside a sunlit space and take precautions against fading and deterioration.  This can also be combatted by UV protective films embedding in window glazing.

10 – Consider these treatments for east and west facing windows:

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