Once you find a piece of land to build your home on, the fun is just beginning. One of the first decisions you’ll be faced with is exactly where to place your house on the property. You’ll want to consider two things: the spot where your home is built and the way your home is positioned on this spot. You want to capture the best views, of course, but aesthetics is only part of the equation. Where and how you position your home on your land directly also influences how you live inside of it.
Location, Location, Location…
You can greatly enhance your home’s performance both economically as well as aesthetically by orienting your home with regard to the sun, prevailing winds and your view. Spend as much time on your property as possible, keeping track of where the sun rises and sets, where the wind comes from and what the views are like both with and without leaves on the trees. As you research, watch and learn—a building site may reveal itself to you. Keep in mind, however, that putting up a house will change the nature of the site. You may be better off locating your house where you can see your favorite place, rather than right on top of it.
The Good Sun
Once you have the site in mind, the next step is to orient the house in relation to the sun. To take maximum advantage of the sun’s energy, position your house so its long side faces south—then concentrate the majority of your windows on this side. During the winter months, when the sun is low in the sky, its rays can penetrate deeply into the interior for natural heating (and lighting). When summertime comes, the sun will be higher in the sky and a small overhang is all that’s necessary to shade the windows and keep the heat out. In climates where air conditioning is more of a concern than heating, take the opposite approach and place the bulk of your windows on the shady northern side of the building.
Dose of Reality
But what if your site isn’t ideal for taking advantage of solar efficiency? While facing due south is best, you can probably get away with angling the building up to 17 degrees one way or the other and still reap most of the benefits from the winter sun. If you find there are things such as trees blocking the windows on the first floor, consider inverting the house. You also can preserve a view that’s in the “wrong” direction by paying close attention to the placement of your windows rather than their size.
Setting Your Sites
When it comes to siting and orienting your home, know what adjustments you have to (and can) make to turn a less-than-perfect placement into a situation that’s both energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing. When you understand the land you intend to build on, you can get these two forces working together so you and your home will be sitting pretty.