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  • Writer's pictureKate Hamblet

Here Comes The Sun, The Most Important Design Consideration For Any New Home Build or Reno

Healthy Home Design Corner | By Kate Hamblet, Wellness Architect |Healthy and sustainable design tips for your upcoming home renovation or new home build.

If you're getting started on renovating or designing a new home, you're probably simultaneously full of excitement and overwhelm! You're about to embark on an incredibly exciting adventure. But you might be wondering "Where do I start?!'

As an architect that specializes in healthy, high-performance custom homes, I get asked this a lot. And it's a fair question. There's so much that needs to be considered when designing a home, whether it's a new build, a renovation, or an addition, and it can feel daunting. The fear of getting your design wrong is a very common one. But there are a few critical things to do upfront, right at the beginning of the design process that'll help you avoid major pitfalls and set your house up for success.

The most important design consideration to get right is to plan the orientation of your build according to the home's sun exposure. For any home in the northern hemisphere, it is likely that you will want the rooms you enjoy most to have a south-facing orientation. However the closer you get to the equator, the hotter your southern-facing rooms become during the day. So depending on where you live, it's vital to understand the home's sun exposure and use it to your advantage.

What does this mean? Imagine your house as a simple rectangle. With southern orientation, you would place the long sides of your home facing north and south and the narrow sides of your house facing east and west. Placing the majority of your windows along the south walls ensures that these rooms will get the most sun during the day. (Since I live in the NE part of the US, this is essential. If you live in the southern hemisphere, then the north-facing windows would get the most sun.)

Why is it important? South-facing windows provide the most abundant natural light in your home throughout the day, and in the wintertime, you can use the sun's warmth to help heat your house for free! Having natural daylight in your house helps conserve energy since you don't need to turn lights on until it gets dark, helps improve your mood, and helps align your circadian rhythms so you're sleeping better at night and feeling more energized during the day.

How to benefit from south-facing orientation:

Put the most used rooms along the south wall so they have access to natural light and warmth. This is usually the living room, dining, and kitchen areas. And if you work from home regularly, make sure your home office is also getting southern light If you live someplace very warm most of the year and you are worried that south-facing rooms will get too hot, then planting shade trees can help mitigate the heat and sun rays directly into the home. But it's vital to understand and plan for the best sun exposure during the initial stages of your build or renovation.

Is this useful if you're renovating?

Yes! If you're doing an extensive renovation then you may have the opportunity to relocate rooms within your house so they are along the south side of the house. You can also add more windows to the south side of the house to gain all that wonderful southern light. And if you're putting an addition onto your house, try putting the addition along the south face. If that's not possible, you could also consider building up by either adding another story or adding dormers to your existing roof.

Improve your wellbeing

There is nothing better than placing your house with the right orientation to capitalize on free heating and free lighting. Not only is it good for the environment, it can help improve your mood and your sleep. And the best part is, it's free! It doesn't cost you any more to get the orientation of your house right. But it is essential to figure out your orientation as soon as possible during design! It's not an easy thing to fix once your house is built. This is why I start every project, whether it's a renovation or a new build, by figuring out where south is on the property, and then laying out the house so that we can use the sun exposure to your advantage.

Quick tip: If you aren't sure where south is on your property, put the address into Google. Google Maps will show your property and should have north facing up on the screen. Make sure you're in satellite view. If the little red arrow on the bottom right of the screen is facing up, then you know north is up. If it's not, just click on it, so it toggles back to north being up.

By, Kate Hamblet The Wellness Architect Balanced Architecture

Kate helps health-conscious families create homes that support and promote health, happiness and longevity. You'll find her at

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