Jason Orme, property expert and presenter of The Real Homes Show, explains how house design can make the home a happier place to be in.
It’s a common belief that when we improve our homes, we improve our wellbeing. Our homes usually reflect our personality; there’s not a perfect off-the-shelf solution but we create a balance between what we want from our house and adapt it to suit our lifestyle.
Natural light plays an important part in creating a sense of health and wellbeing but is often an overlooked opportunity. Older style properties like Georgian houses have more walls and smaller windows while more modern properties are heavily glazed. Here, vertical light is often introduced for relaxation, through the installation of roof lights or closed roof lanterns, which create the impression of having wide open skies and enable sky watching.
Sound insulation is another critical factor. There’s a common belief among environmental consultants that noise pollution can lead to ill health. So, if you live on a busy road or have noise neighbours, triple glazing is key to creating a relaxing home and facilitating sleep.
Sustainability is another important area. This is where the build quality of the home will have an impact on the level of noise that is generated and the energy that is expended. It is thought that sustainably grown timber houses are more sustainable than concrete homes. However, this is a difficult circle to square, as you could argue that concrete and brick homes gain more heat during the day and then release it slowly at night, and the buildings will generally last longer than timber.
What is more effective is to consider how you reduce the energy the house needs to operate. So, run low energy lightbulbs, for example, which can reduce your energy consumption by up to 90%. Review your heating and hot water mechanism by looking at the latest efficient and reliable boilers. Insulation is also key; natural products such as sheep’s wool is twice as thick as manufactured insulation board, and good triple glazed windows will not only cut down noise but also provide high insulation properties.
The design of the house is very important to create sustainability. In a Passivhaus, large windows are placed on the south and west side of the property to sap the heat of the sun, reducing artificial heat. While the north of the building is usually colder, so windows are not built in. Although, a word of warning; in hot summers, houses can overheat, so introducing bi-fold doors, which can be opened to alleviate the heat, is a good design principle.