Older houses are generally not planned to take advantage of passive energy strategies or natural ventilation. Separate rooms, assigned notional functions and connected to each other by hallways and stairs, are still the norm in the majority of new houses, too, despite our growing preference
or multipurpose space.
one of the reasons why people make changes to the way their homes are laid out is to make everyday routines easier and more efficient. Another is to enhance spatial quality by creating open-plan free-flowing areas. But making changes to the layout can also help to make a home more environmentally friendly .
One simple way of improving your home’s energy efficiency is to change the way you use the rooms at your disposal Typically, in storied houses, bedrooms will be upstairs and living areas on the ground floor. This convention has a lot to do with notions of privacy, with ‘public’ arcas, such as living rooms, being casily accessible from the front door and ‘private areas being tucked away on the upper levels.
From an eco point of view, there are certain drawbacks to this traditional type of spatial arrangement. Rooms or areas on the upper levels of a house will be naturally better lit than those on the lower levels. This is because windows that are higher up reveal a greater proportion of the sky than windows at ground or semi-basement level, where the sky is likely to occupy only a narrow margin at the top. Since most of the time we spend in bedrooms we spend asleep, it makes better sense to locate these areas on the lower levels of the house, where the quality of natural light is not as good, and devote the lighter upper levels to living areas and kitchens where we spend the majority of the daylight hours.
Even if your home is not arranged over two or more levels, it can also be worth taking a look at the way the principal rooms are orientated. In the northern hemisphere, rooms that are south-facing will be warmer and brighter than those facing north. Allocating room use so that the main living areas have optimum conditions of natural light and passive solar gain can help to reduce your dependence
on artificial lighting and heating, cutting down on your household’s overall energy consump
One of the most popular types of home improvement consists of taking down partition walls to create
multipurpose spaces- living/dining arcas, kitchen/eating areas and even cooking/eating/living areas. Part of the attraction of this type of layout is the sense of informality and inclusiveness that it promotes. Another benefit is the enhanced sense of space. Knocking down walls doesn’t win you much direct floor area, but it does gencrate a feeling of openness and help to spread available natural light around.
The greatest eco advantage of an open layout is the a improvement in natural light and ventilation. In a typical terraced house, removing the central dividing wall results in a space that is lit by windows front and back, and potentially ventilated by through-currents of air. In warm climates, cross-ventilation assumes an even greater importance.
The complexity of the work depends on whether or not the walls you are removing are structural or not. Structural walls play a supporting role; partition walls are simply spatial dividers. If you remove all or a portion of a structural wall, you will need to install a compensating element, such as a beam or lintel, above the opening to take the weight that the wall had previously been supporting. Always seek
professional advice about whether a wall is structural or not. If it is, you will also need advice about the right size of beam or lintel to put in its place.
Another way of opening up the interior is to remove walls that separate staircases and hallways from main living areas. This type of alteration can also help to aid ventilation and improve the quality of light. If your home is over two stories, however, fire regulations may prevent you from knocking down the wall that encloses the staircase.
You don’t necessarily have to remove entire walls. Internal portholes or windows and narrow horizontal or vertical slivers can enhance the fecling of space, create vistas and views, and spread light around.
On the downside, opening up the layout of your home can make it harder to heat. One answer is to opt for a central source of heat, such as a wood-burning stove, which radiates warmth to the surrounding area. Another is to build in an element of flexibility, such as sliding partitions and screens, so that you can close off areas that are not in use and retain heat where it’s needed.