Article by Danielle King, Green Moves Australia
Whether building or renovating a home, keeping comfortable inside comes down to good climate responsive design, and includes appropriate insulation and the windows and doors that are installed. These key features can be expensive to change later and it’s important to get it right at the start.
1. When it comes to doors, size really does matter for both internal and external doors. Wider door widths provide more accessibility for tasks such as moving furniture, give the feeling of space and allowing for people of all abilities and ages to move around the home easily. If you can, aim for a clear opening door width of at least 900mm.
2. External doors should be solid (ideally made from sustainably source materials), secure and well draft sealed to ensure they do not become a weak point in the home from both a thermal performance and security perspective. Internal doors can be whatever you would like them to be, but if you’re using them to seal off areas when zoning heating and cooling, try to ensure they are also draft proofed to maintain the heat/cool where you need it.
3. Use door hardware that is strong and durable and choose handles that are lever or D-pull style. Lever or D-pull style handles are easier to use whilst strong, durable hardware will provide for longevity and minimal future maintenance.
4. Windows are often a key feature in a home. They provide natural light, allow views and can be used for providing fresh air and ventilation into the home. However, windows and their glazing can also be a major contributor to heat loss in winter, and heat gain in summer. This makes window sizing and glazing choices a key design consideration.
In relation to glazing there is significant information available, to the point that it can get quite confusing. So take guidance from your building designer, architect or sustainability consultant.
5. Ensure you consider the whole window as a unit. When reviewing frames, look for systems that are thermally efficient, from a renewable source and that are recyclable at end of life. Timber is ideal but does require regular maintenance. Alternatively thermally broken aluminium or a composite frame may be suitable.
6. The type of glazing, frame, the direction it faces and surroundings (eaves, buildings etc.) determines how well a window can operate. Windows should be chosen to work with the local climate they will be sited in. For example, in hot humid areas louver windows are an excellent choice as they maximise ventilation opportunities, where in colder climates double glazing is ideal to reduce heat loss. The Australian Window Association (AWA) in conjunction with the Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) has created some useful climate zone based guides on choosing windows. For further information visit the Windows Energy Rating Scheme website.
There is also a large range of types of glazing available including Low E, double glazing, toughened glass and laminated glass, all which can work well in the right situation. For any north or west facing windows, be sure to allow for adjustable external shading devices to assist with cooling in summer months.
7. Make sure the manufacturer you choose provides windows that meet Australian Standards and check the WERS ratings for the window you are choosing as it can significantly affect your homes energy rating and comfort levels.
8. One last tip – be sure to check the windows when they arrive on site, before they are installed, to ensure what was ordered, is delivered. Below is a sample of the compliance sticker to look for to ensure the glazing is what you are expecting.
Image: Australian Windows Association
Danielle King is the Founder and Director of Green Moves Australia, a private company created to provide householders with a selection of sustainability services designed to help minimise a home’s running costs while reducing the environmental footprint. Danielle has an MBA, Dip. Management and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. She is also a fully qualified Home Sustainability Assessor listed with Sustainability Victoria and ABSA, and is BDAV Accredited.