What is solar passive design?

In the South West we enjoy the best climate in Australia. Our climate is defined as a temperate climate, meaning that we have four distinct seasons, with mild to cool winters with low humidity and hot to very hot summers with moderate humidity. Passive design simply makes the most of these conditions to make your home more comfortable whilst also reducing your bills.

If you are interested in solar passive design principles, download the design information sheet.

How do I go about designing a solar passive home?

To build a passive solar home you will firstly need to appoint a designer, architect or builder who is familiar with or specialises in solar passive design principles. Get a list of homes they have worked on and, if possible, visit the homes and speak to the people living in them.

You should spend some time in advance of your meeting considering your wish list. You will want to consider: the number of rooms you need, how to make the best use of the views, shading and glazing options, outdoor living areas, storage etc.

Often you will receive a free initial consultation, during which the designer will take a brief from you to consider how your wish list can be incorporated into your solar passive home, considering elements such as orientation and materials. Depending on the location of your site your designer or architect should be keen to visit it to gain a better understanding of its features and issues. To avoid any confusion further down the line, make sure that you document the details of any meetings that you have with your designers in writing.

What are the costs of a solar passive home?

If you consider your options for solar passive, energy efficient design at the planning stage, there is no reason that your home should cost any more than a conventional home. And you will save money on bills in the long run. Good design features can reduce building and operating costs.

Decide what suits your budget, lifestyle and home location. There are often design options that have very little impact on building or renovation costs. Any additional costs that may be incurred at the design and build stage should be quickly recuperated through savings in energy, water and maintenance bills.

Also remember that there are standard project homes which can give very good solar passive performance with some minor changes; so you don’t have to compromise on design choice.

Once you have agreed on the final design of your home, measure its energy efficiency through using the National House Energy Rating Software (NatHERS or HERS) packages, available to rate residential dwellings. These include FirstRate, AccuRate, and BERS. All of these packages use the same software engine to provide a rating between 0 and ten stars, where ten is most efficient. A well-designed solar passive house such as the Sustainable Mandurah Home should achieve a star rating of ten.