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Walking on Sunshine: How to Build to Catch the Light

Building your home to catch the best amount of natural light starts from the foundations – literally. While our house & land packages have already been carefully designed to let in as much sunlight as possible, there are some things to consider when building your dream home from scratch to make the most of sunlight.

Picking a Section

Building a home with an abundance of natural light actually starts before you even lay the foundations. It begins with your choice of section. Consider some of the opportunities and challenges your plot of land presents you with before putting pencil to paper. There are a few things to consider at this stage while you’re out on the hunt.

Existing Obstructions

Look around your potential section for any existing structures that may impact on light throughout the day. This could include buildings that surround the site, like a shed or water tower, or an abundance of trees or power poles. Consider how these might cause the sun to throw shadows. Which living areas will be rendered dark by their presence? What time of day will you lose light? It’s unlikely that any section will have zero obstructions, but it’s helpful to know exactly what you’re dealing with to minimise shade.

Direction and Access

Something many people miss is the limitations access can place on your potential property. For example, if you have to place your garage on the north side of the section, which would normally be the ideal area for the living spaces in your home, then sunlight will be restricted to the rest of the house. Think about where certain aspects of the build need to be when on the hunt. Visualise the build on the piece of land in front of you, and ask yourself what problems the layout presents for access.

The ideal section exposes the largest portion of the house to the north, so double-check if you will be able to build this way. Your home should also be as close to the southern boundary as possible, to provide open northern section for a well-lit outdoor area. If either of these guidelines are placed in jeopardy by the section choice, see if there are any other options in your price range, or be prepared to get creative in the planning stage.

Planning and Building

Your house plans come next. The specifics will depend on what exactly you want for your home; how many bedrooms, bathrooms etc. That said, there are a few things that apply to most homes, sections, and plans that will make suffusing the build with natural light far easier.

Go Open Plan

The more open a space is, the easier light can travel through your home. Consider large, open space for your living and dining area to bathe the area in light and limit obstructions to incoming sun. This also applies to other areas in the house – try to build with as few internal hallways as possible, as these are notoriously difficult to light naturally, and can turn into dark, uninviting spaces.

Let the Light In

You want a good balance of heat gain in the winter and heat loss in the summer, otherwise your energy bill could be impacted. Having a wall of windows is great for the entrance of natural light, but it could let too much heat out or in, altering your internal environment to an uncomfortable degree.

Your window choices unavoidably have an impact on your home’s temperature but they can also be supplemented with your structural choices. Products with a high thermal mass – such as concrete and bricks – are fantastic examples as they can be used to effectively heat your home using the sun. Additionally, try planning to tint any western-facing windows – this lets the light in while reducing the entrance of UV and infrared rays.

Find Creative Design Solutions

Finally, if you feel that your section is the perfect choice for you, but it’s presenting some challenges, we would love to help you get creative with your designs! Work with your builder to create a home that gives you what you want. No section is entirely perfect, but in our experience where there’s a will, there is often a way. Creative solutions to avoid obstructions, like considering double storey or skylight systems are just some of the ways to maximise the light and make your home more inviting, not to mention more energy efficient.

Let there be light!

Classic Builders is one of the best building companies in New Zealand, and we work with our clients to give them their dream homes from site selection through to design and beyond. We’re with you every step of the way - if you’re ready to embark on your journey, give us a call!