When building a house or adding an extension to your existing home, you may excitedly think about all sorts of things — the theme, the fixtures you want or simply the extra living quality. But it is very rare that people think about the shadows in home design. Shadows that their new home or home extension may create.
For me (and you), shadows in home design play a critical role in every building and renovation project. Let me explain why and give you a few tips to keep your neighbours as friends.
Taking shadows in home design into consideration, you want your main living areas to be well-lit.
Before I start preparing a home design plan, I first consider the direction of the sun in relation to the direction of the property. I consider where the house sits on the lot in relation to the sun, wind and surrounding topography because it can make a difference in your heating and cooling needs and their cost.
You don’t want to position your living room, kitchen or dining room in a place that gets a lot of shadows because it will be dark and cold. These main living spaces should be north facing where possible because they can have good daylight most of the day and the year, even in winter. It may, however, require horizontal shading to prevent overheating in summer.
In fact, one of the first things I do when designing a new home or extension is to create a quick mock-up by just drawing a box where the house will be. This immediately provides me with an idea where the shadows of the new structure will be and what impacts I have to consider.
My design team and I create different renderings of the house to show where the shadow will be at different times of the day – 9 a.m., 12 p.m., and 3 p.m. We do this for two dates in the year – June 21st and Sept 21st – as council will require these.
By knowing the extent of shadows in home design, we can find ways to minimise the effects on the home and the homes of your neighbours.
A house sitting on a south sloping hill can create enormous shadows because it sits parallel to the direction of the sun from the north.
Any house extension may cast shadows on the house next door, affecting their share of sunlight.
The computer drawing on the left shows how significant shadows can be on an area.
I always advise homeowners that before going through any construction, they should speak to their neighbours and explain their project. If the shadows from your house may affect theirs, let them know and ask their thoughts. I cannot emphasise enough how important and beneficial it is to involve your neighbours in this process.
If you face significant resistance, work out a plan with your home designer to minimise the shadowing effects on your neighbour’s property.
Additionally, it is valuable to keep your neighbours in the loop for any construction activity that could pose some disturbance to their daily lives. This shows that you respect their right to peaceful and orderly surroundings, and that you want to cause as little disruption as possible.
Before you can start construction, you need to get your plan approved by the state government or by the local council. They have standards on shadows in home design that you need to comply with before your building approval will be issued. Your neighbours will be notified of your building plans.
The image on the right shows an example shadow diagram I created for a past project. The colourations are there so you can see the shadow indicators more readily.
The Building Code of Australia (BCA) is a uniform set of technical provisions for the design and construction of buildings and other structures throughout Australia. The BCA is given legal effect by building regulatory legislation in each State and Territory. Any provision of the BCA may be overridden by, or subject to, State or Territory legislation. The BCA must therefore be read in conjunction with that legislation.
It is important to consult with your home designer for these concerns so you can be given the right advice before you submit your plan to the state or local council.
A designer is essential in guiding home building and renovation projects aesthetically and – as we have seen – even socially. Shadowing is a skill that not all home designers pay careful attention to, and I suggest you look for a professional who has this expertise.