Pointed in the Right Direction

orientationBy Matt Henke, Builder

I watch a lot of junior high girls basketball these days. Not because I have a natural interest in it; I have a paternal interest in it. It can be painful, watching arms flail and shots fall painfully short. But every once in a while something magical happens. One of the players breaks free with the ball and sprints for the far basket. Incredibly she is all alone and scores an easy lay-up. Giddy with excitement she turns to discover she is the only one celebrating. She has just scored in the wrong basket.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how passionate or how much effort you put into something, if you are pointed in the wrong direction, it is to no avail. Believe it or not, the same can be true for our homes. The orientation of our homes can have a huge effect on our utility bills, our comfort, and our view. Sites that face south are ideal. This has two significant advantages. In the winter, when the sun sits low in the south, your home will receive the optimum benefit of the sun’s warmth. In the summer, when the sun is high in the sky, you avoid the hot afternoon sun to the west. So ideally, you should orient the longer axis/ridge of your home along the east/west line. This is nothing new. Early Spanish designs were long rectangular structures with the longer walls facing south and long porches to shade from the sun. For 21st century homeowners, this orientation can result in 30-40% energy savings. That’s huge!

So when you’re designing your home, here’s a few things to consider: 1) Orient the business-side of your home (kitchen and day-use areas) to the south; 2) Place things like your garage and laundry room to the west, to act as an additional buffer from the hot summer sun. You will be glad you did. It would be a shame to build your dream home, only to find yourself sweating it out in your living room.