Choosing a block of land for your new energy efficient home

One of the first important decisions to make when planning to build an energy efficient or sustainable home is choosing the block of land on which to build.  A few simple considerations may assist in ensuring you select a more optimal block of land to make the home as efficient as possible; taking advantage of solar passive design and meeting your lifestyle needs.

Energy efficient or sustainable homes all work on the principle of passive solar design.  Passive design uses the natural climate to its fullest; without the need for additional heating/cooling input.  This makes passive designed homes more comfortable to live in, year round, and results in reduced energy (electricity) costs.

Attributes of a block of land can impact passive design principles, and it is therefore important to consider the following:

Orientation of the land

With passive solar design principles the living areas of a home should be located to have a northern aspect.  The house designs that take most advantage of the northern aspect therefore have a long axis which runs east-west.  The longer the east-west axis, the more northern exposure your home will have, and the more it may take advantage of solar passive design principles.

Size and shape of the land

The size and shape of the land can be an advantage or disadvantage to solar design principles.  Ideally the size and shape of the land should enable enough flexibility to orientate a new home east-west to increase the northern aspect.

The trend toward smaller blocks of land often means this attribute is confined; and it may be overcome by orientation of the land, or with good innovative design.

Surrounding infrastructure; current and future

Overshadowing of neighbouring buildings, which may include two-storey homes, can impact the advantages of solar passive design.  To assess this impact, assess what infrastructure is on the north side of the land, and what infrastructure may be constructed in the future.  A block of land that has a roadway, for example, to the north will mean overshadowing is limited.

Alternatively assess the size of the land, to ensure the block is large enough that the home can be offset from the northern boundary, to minimise overshadowing of your new home.

Slope of the land

The slope of the land can influence the northern aspect.  If the land slopes to the south, access to north is restricted; conversely land that slopes to the north can open a range of opportunities to enhance solar passive design of your new home.

Presence and location of trees

The presence and location of trees on the land is important.  Where native trees are present, they should be maintained.  The shadowing of the tree and the ability to construct a home without interfering with its canopy or root zone should be considered before purchasing the land.

Location of the land

The location of the land and its proximity to your families’ regular destinations (such as work or school) and access to public transport will naturally be considered.  Proximity to conveniences, such as shops, may also be taken into account.

Of course, that perfect block of land may not always be available; so some compromise may be required.  No matter what block of land is purchased, a home designed specifically to your land and your lifestyle needs is important.  The design should take utmost advantage of the land and passive design principles, and result in creating a home to meet your lifestyle, and reduce your living costs.