Why do some homes just ‘work’ while others do not? They are a practical living space as well as a sanctuary from the outside world.
GeoExchange Australia understands the importance of design as an integral part of a successful heating, cooling and hot water system as well as a joyful home. While we have great engineers, it is also our design philosophy that sets us apart.
In order to give you a tailor made solution to your heating and cooling needs, the framework we adopt for the assessment and design of a geoexchange system is the LEAF Design Philosophy – an acronym for the following principles:
- Liveability: Liveability goes beyond comfort and puts the joy into living in a home.
- Efficiency: Is the homeowner going to fear their utility bills or celebrate them?
- Aesthetics/Acoustics: Are the indoor and outdoor aesthetics and acoustics compromised by the mechanical components of the space conditioning system?
- Future-proofing: Have current and future trends with respect to technology and utility costs been considered? What will the adopted system look and feel like in 5-10 years? Will it be obsolete?
While our focus is on energy efficient heating, cooling and hot water systems, we believe that these principles apply equally to many other elements of the home.
The commencement of any design project is full of possibility and carries equal measure of both excitement and overwhelm for both the designer and the homeowner. The dreams are grand, time seems infinite, budgets are flexible and the possibilities are endless.
At this stage, ‘why?’ is an incredibly powerful question for both the designer and homeowner to ask themselves as to whether any particular system or product should be incorporated into the final home. This is especially the case for the mechanical systems such as those for heating, cooling and hot water or what we often refer to as ‘space conditioning.’
An understanding of values (the designers and the homeowners), vision (the designers and the homeowners) and economic reality (the homeowners) is required during this process.
A strong framework in which to consider any system or product properly, on its merits and with respect to the bigger picture, the ‘why’, is required.
Have you ever stepped inside a home that is an absolute joy to live in and visit? What about those other homes that ….well they just are not.
The contributing factors vary greatly and include the use of natural light, the flow of air and ventilation, acoustic considerations, colours, art, floor coverings, feng shui or energy flow and the list goes on.
The contribution of any space conditioning system to liveability is in the maintenance of the highest levels of comfort and air quality with nearly zero acoustic impact. Whether it is with radiant heat or central air, great systems are designed to ensure the following:
- Temperature control within a small band to eliminate fluctuations;
- Even distribution of heat and cool through the home;
- Choice of hydronics or ducted air as best suits the design and the homeowners habits;
- Flexible zoning that adjusts with the living habits of the homeowner;
- Humidity control to ensure optimal comfort; and
- Quiet operation that will not impede on the serenity of the home or that of the neighbours.
Liveability is what makes a house a home and is too often ignored when it comes to heating, cooling and hot water systems. The result is often noisy, drafty systems that take the gloss off a fabulous design.
Liveability is achieved by considering space conditioning systems early in the design process and not waiting until post design or especially when construction is near complete before seeking professional advice on heating, cooling and hot water.
With respect to energy associated with heating, cooling and hot water, the efficiency of a home is a function of the passive design elements and the ‘active’ mechanical systems and how they relate with the local climate. The passive design elements include aspect, shading, insulation, glazing and build quality. The greatest benefits for least cost are available from the passive design elements, so get these right before you even consider the potential mechanical systems.
Efficiency considerations include both energy usage and the financial and are very much inter-related. Whether we measure it in kWh, tCO2e or $, it has an impact on the relationship with the homeowner and their home.
It is all too common for us to meet homeowners who just never realised the real cost of heating and cooling their home. We regularly meet homeowners with their dream home that quickly becomes a (dream) building as they can’t afford to make it a home. That, or they go into a mild panic whenever the utility bill arrives in the mail or temperatures range beyond mild and mechanical heating or cooling is required.
Consider potential mechanical systems early as proper integration is the key to optimal outcomes. Further, early consideration permits proper assessment of options based on real outcomes and good design. Efficiency is key and most homeowners are surprised to see the efficiency benefits and their impact on the family budget once a quality system is properly designed and costed.
High efficiency space conditioning systems are about more than reduced costs and a feel good factor. They clear the conscience and improve the relationship with the home.
AESTHETICS & ACOUSTICS
Whether external or internal, aesthetics and acoustics are important to the final result. With respect to space conditioning systems, the main items to consider are outdoor units (air sourced heat pumps), outdoor gas bottles (LPG), extractors / ventilation shafts (gas), wall mounted items, registers and even thermostats.
Minimise visible external plant so that is not an eyesore or an earsore to either the homeowner or their neighbours. The cost of potentially expensive shielding is rarely factored into the cost of a conventional system and it of course should be.
With respect to hydronic heating, underfloor heating systems always score highly on aesthetics and acoustics while radiator design has improved dramatically over the years and they can now be part of the home design.
Centralised air ducts remove wall mounted units from every room so that walls can be used for furniture, art work, family photos or just ‘space’, while through careful consideration, registers, grills and thermostats can be designed and located to minimise negative aesthetic and acoustic impacts.
Allow design elements and art or photo collections to be the internal and external features of the home, not the heating, cooling and hot water systems.
Sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations. In the context of the family home, we can adopt this concept to assess whether the design will serve the homeowner not only in their first year but over the next 10 to 20 years, whether they are still in the home or are looking to sell for the best price possible.
The sustainable development concept is becoming increasingly important to homeowners. There is a professional and moral responsibility to consider both the present and future implications of decisions. Importantly, future proofing in this context is not just about the feel good greenie stuff – it also has a very hard economic component.
Utility rates are increasing, fossil fuels are on the outer, on-site renewable energy generation is readily available and on-site energy storage is not far away. Not only will a homeowner expect a system that will serve them well while they live in the home, they will also want something that will add value to the home in the event of a future sale.
To this end, it is apparent that with on-site renewable generation such as solar PV readily available and storage a very near reality, the future-proof solution for many homes is electric. It makes both economic and environmental sense.
As for adding capital value, that transition has commenced. It is not far away when it will be universally accepted that a home with low living costs will attract a higher resale value than one that you can barely afford to keep comfortable.
Is the home meeting the needs of the current family and their next generation, while also adding capital value in the event of a future sale?