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5 Basic Design Principles to Incorporate into your New Home

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Ever walked into a house and thought….woooooowwww!? By incorporating a few proven design principles into your design, you would be amazed at the differences made to the behaviour of the building through its lifecycle. This resultes in spaces that create invitation, character, climatic response, warmth, appropriate light, ultimately creating a building which responds to its surroundings, thus solidifying its place in the world. Throughout this blog, I will breakdown a design of ours and illustrate how we have responded and incorporated design principles.

Context + Climate

Where is the building to be located? Inner city? Outer city suburbs? Rural farm land? Coastal? Victoria? NSW? QLD? NT? WA? SA? TAS?

There a number of factors to consider when identifying the buildings context, with ‘climate’ being numero uno. Ever noticed the difference in house design up north compared to down south? Down here in Victoria we generally experience cold winters and hot summers. Thus, we require buildings which can respond and perform appropriately to these conditions.

Orientation + Solar

Ever wonder why properties with a northern aspect are so valuable and rare? In my humble opinion, the north facing orientation is up there with the most important principle of all. We as humans are a photosynthetic bunch; we chase the sun, so why should our homes / buildings be any different? Here in Victoria, ideally an elongated façade facing north with plenty of glazing and healthy eaves produces a fantastic outcome. Rooms best benefited by northern orientation are the common living area, as these areas are most demanding for natural light. East / Morning light is appreciated in bedrooms and breakfast spaces, whilst western sun is most appreciated during the winter months yet undesirable in the summer period. Can you see how we are already beginning to design a house around our living habits as human beings?

Figure 1.0 – Solar Response Plan, Backwoods House

Figure 1.1 – Solar Response Section, Backwoods House.


Ventilation within our homes is necessary to remove the stale air and replenish with fresh air. By doing so we are able to:

- Moderate internal temperatures

- Moderate internal humidity

- Replenish oxygen

- Reduce accumulation of moisture, odours, bacteria, dust, carbon dioxide, smoke etc.

There are typically two ways to ventilate a building:

1. Passively

2. Mechanically

Passive is when the building can naturally ventilate itself without the assistance of a mechanical device or machine. When passively ventilating a space we like to assess two forms. Cross Ventilation and Stack Ventilation.

Cross Ventilation – This is the movement of air moving across the space, generally in a horizontal motion.

Stack Ventilation – This is the vertical movement of air, similar to an exhaust duct or chimney. This is most applicable in taller buildings.

Mechanical Ventilation – Using a mechanical device to induce the circulation of air, generally using a temperature controlled unit to heat / cool spaces to desired temperatures. An example of this is a Heating Ventilation + Air-conditioning unit, with ducts spreading to desired locations of the building.

Figure 2.0 – Ventilation Response Section, Backwoods House.

Predominant weather

Every region has its climatic traits which the Architect needs be aware of. Here on Victoria’s Surf Coast, we are faced with weather patterns that are sometimes overlooked by those who haven’t spent a whole lot of time on the coast. Hot summers, Cold winters, howling winds and ocean salt filled air. It’s safe to say, buildings near the ocean suffer a beating and need be up to the task. Another consideration is usually that the desired ocean view is located in the same direction as the predominate weather, whilst our previous north aspect is in the opposite direction. Fortunately, a little local knowledge can optimise all these factors and satisfy sound design principles.

Figure 3.0 – Predominant Weather Response, Backwoods House.


What are we going to build this building from? Straw? Timber? Bricks? Well if the big bad wolf can blow over a straw house with a single breath, it’s safe to say a south-westerly wind off Bass Straight will knock it over relatively easily. Materials are a very important factor to your building’s context. Remember what we said about buildings near the ocean cop a floggin’? Well, you can bet a steel structure not treated appropriately will rust through, timber cladding wears off its new coating, or Cockies eating away at your precious cedar windows and doors. Careful selection of materials in responding to your environment is paramount for the success and longevity of your new home. So, do your research! If that seems easy enough, don’t forget to consider fire retardant materials for those bushfire prone areas, whilst also considering a material with healthy thermal mass to help maintain a consistent temperature inside the dwelling. Combine a well thought out wall system with generous thermal mass, quality insulation and clever design, you will notice a world of difference in your house’s thermal performance!

It is important to remember that these are just a FEW basic tips and tricks I personally use. The subject of design can go on forever and ever! After all, there is no right and wrong, just better or worse.

Keep those masks on and washing those hands, hopefully we will all be free to carry on whatever it was we were doing in March, before this disaster showed its face.


Phone: 0407 964 717

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