The Second Storey

Building a house

Our weekly visit, this week, brought us a quick reality check. The house now looks large, and we can now get a full idea of its double storey scale on the property with the second storey timber frame going up. The roof will be installed next week, given no issues from Mr. Weather Man.

We are pretty happy with the way it is turning out. Although I expected some more winter sun to be impacting the al fresco area.

But then I ask myself: am I going to be outside when it is cold, or snuggled inside?

Timber frame second storey

The front rooms of the house are drenched in winter sun – good for ageing folk who might ( I hope not ), develop arthritic knees and enjoy a good dose of morning sun, in winter.

Summertime will see most of the sunlight on the rear of the house, however this is the section of the house that will be airconditioned, and shaded by eaves, so I feel sure it will work out in terms of its comfort level.

Micro climate and Aspect

This is why we chose a north-facing property. Ideally, we would have purchased a property with the back yard with a north facing aspect, given that the garage limits half what is open to a northern face, as most garages face to the street in new estates.

However, you can’t control what type of structure is built on the parcel of land behind you in a new estate, and with smaller blocks requiring double storey houses to secure a family’s need in a residential house, the northern sunlight in a rear yard might be effectively blocked out by the neighbour’s build.

This is what happened in our previous home. It also equates to more energy use in keeping a home liveable, in winter, unless you are happy wearing thermals and coats, indoors.

Despite living in a sub-tropical climate, our former house was always so cold in winter; much colder than the northern facing townhouse, we are in at the moment. What’s more – because it is a townhouse, the garage can be located at the rear, so all the living areas and bedrooms can face north. Just glorious.

Days here in Queensland are so perfect during a winter day with cloudless skies, little breeze and low humidity; however, the nights can get down to single digit celsius temperatures. Not pleasant if you have a house style made to cope with sub tropical summers. Read: little insulation; lots of open plan rooms and large opening windows without double glazing.

So, a north facing block is for me, in my retirement.

Does aspect and micro-climate figure in your design for a new home?

18 thoughts on “The Second Storey”

  1. North facing is very important. Ideally I’d have a patio to the north/east, and lots of windows in the living area on the north side. Our little house has one window in the living area facing north, but then it has verandah that’s to wide to allow the sun in, plus trees on the neighbouring property. We’re looking at where we can put some solar tubes to allow the sun’s warmth in.

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    1. Solar tubes sound like a grand idea, Chris. And Environmentally friendly. Ideally, yes I would have situated the living areas all to the north, but I have seen loads of houses where their north face has been built out by the neighbours, or trees planted that block the sun. We used to have a huge poinciana beside our neighbours fence, which shaded only our house, and almost none of his garden. It was infuriating.
      Unless you have a block with nothing behind you, or you are allowed to have a garage on the side or rear, (we were not, even though we are a corner block), then you potentially have this problem. I got around this problem by choosing a design with a secondary living room at the front beside the garage, (which will be the MOTH’s man cave) and third living area upstairs next to our bedroom. The kitchen dining will be in the south-east. The man cave will revert to our bedroom if we can’t make it up the stairs in our old age! And I made sure the man cave had loads of windows, even a cornerless window! Which I will enjoy sitting beside come a cold winter’s morning once the sun is up! If only we could all design houses to a custom build. It really amazes me that with all the emphasis on six star efficiency, room design factoring in temperatures and seasonal changes doesn’t figure more strongly. I have seen so many houses with big picture window in their living areas, facing WEST!! Crazy – and just leads to higher energy consumption. We installed a solar tube and skylight in our old house. In summer, the solar tube was a quite hot directly underneath them, so choose their location carefully. In winter, the bathroom skylight was amazing! Warmed the whole room.

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      1. Yes, we have to be careful with the placement of solar tubes with winter sun, and summer shade in mind. Ideally we’d all have blocks that were long enough to have all the living area facing north. I’ve seen designs for environmentally friendly houses built like this, then all the bedrooms on the south have a row of small windows built high over the living area and also facing to the north. I’d love to build again, but I don’t think we will be. I think we’re in this house now for the duration, so we’re just making the most of it.

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      2. Of course. That is a great attitude. Perhaps you could build a little summerhouse style cabin ala ‘tiny house’ in the garden with environmental factors in the design, instead?

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