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Expert advice on how to create a bright home

Architect and member of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) Roisin McCann of Marshal McCann Architects suggests how you can create a bright home.

When it comes to designing homes, either a new build or an extension, there is so much to get right. Your head is bubbling over with excitement with paint colours and space and furniture…but before we get to that stage, we need to get the absolute basics right. 

Where do I start?

Engaging the right architect for you is the most fundamental decision you will make. Get this right, and the rest will follow. Look at their design style, their ethos, energy efficiency credentials; and, importantly, see if you have a good rapport with them. Is this somebody you feel comfortable with, can see yourself working with, somebody who inspires you and who understands what you are trying to achieve?

Design

Once you have engaged your architect, they should consider your wants and desires; the quality of light; the thermal comfort; and the unique features to your site.

Your architect should orientate the house to make the most of the views, taking full advantage of the available light, maximising winter solar gains, whilst minimising the overbearing summer sun.

As we move towards energy efficient and Passive Houses as standard, heating our new-build houses is becoming less of an issue; overheating, especially in the summer, is what we need to be considering. In our cool climate, we do not wish to see our energy bills rocket due to the cool air requirements for an ill-designed house.

Solar Gain and Glazing

The decisions we, as architects have, is to balance glazing so that your house benefits from the heat of the winter sun and excludes the strong overbearing summer sun; whilst ensuring we have maximised the views and natural light. That is in addition to taking into consideration your brief and aspirations, so that your home is a beautiful, bright and comfortable place to live, throughout the seasons.

Sun Shading

As well as careful design of the glazing to exclude unnecessary solar gains, the use of canopies or solar shading can be an essential part of a modern energy efficient house. Due to the higher altitude of the summer sun, canopies can be a great way to exclude the summer sun; the winter sun is much lower in the sky, so peeks under the canopy, reaching into the depths of the house, giving the winter interiors much needed heat and light.

Ventilation

Modern houses are well insulated with a high standard of air tightness (which prevents hot air ‘leaking out’), therefore there is a need for good quality natural ventilation to be designed into houses. We always design into all new houses a Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery package. This is a system which brings fresh air in, which passes by (without contact) the warm stale air. The fresh air is heated by the stale air, and provides ventilation, free from internal contaminants. However, this does not help cool our houses. 

Preferably, cooling of our houses should be by natural, non-energy usage means. Cross ventilation, where window openings are opposite in the room, allows cool air to flow through the house - cooling it down. In our Lough Foyle house (pictured inset), we designed in a double height space, with an openable rooflight in it. When opened, the rooflight acts like a chimney, drawing warm air up and out of the house, proving to be a very reliable method of cooling the house, even on a warm day.

If you would like to discuss your project, more information can be found at www.rsua.org.uk or www.MMcCarchitects.com

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