Making your home great: All things SOUTH

This is Episode 4 of Season 1.

So far this season, we’ve been exploring the idea of orientation. And the importance of knowing yours when designing, renovating or building your home. We’ve talked about northern and eastern orientations and sunlight.

In this episode, we’ll talk about all things SOUTH.

This episode will help you get it right if you’re seeking ways to make your home feel great, and also if you have you have a south-facing home … or a home that faces south-east or south-west.

So what do you need to be aware of with southern sunlight? (And is there such a thing, given that in the southern hemisphere, our sun moves through the north?)

A southern orientation can be challenging to work with if you want to maximise northern sun in your home.

This podcast outlines 5 specific design strategies you can implement in creating your new home or renovation, that will bring northern light into a south-facing home.

Let’s dive deeply into:

  • What southern light is like
  • What’s not great about southern light
  • How we need to shade and shelter from southern light (it’s actually the sunlight on the edges of our southern orientation)

You’ll understand in detail:

  • What rooms need to be facing south
  • What rooms don’t need to be facing south
  • 5 key strategies to use in your design

And if you have a south-facing home, you’ll learn:

  • What your priorities should be if you’re designing a home for a south-facing orientation
  • What can go wrong in designing for southern sunlight
  • Some homework for you as you research your project
  • What else you need to know about designing for a south-facing home

Listen to the podcast now to learn more about southern light. In the southern hemisphere, the southern orientation receives very little direct sunlight. So home designs certainly require a specific response for your them to still feel great, even though it’s facing the ‘wrong’ direction.

And scroll down to see images for some ideas when designing for all things south.

undercoverarchitect-sunseeker-south-edgesThis diagram shows how southern orientation can have harsh (morning and afternoon) direct sunlight on the edges (that pink zone!). The full range of southern orientation is shown by the yellow semi-circle. However, on the equinoxes, the sun rises on due east, and sets on due west (shown by orange dashed lines).

Between the spring equinox and autumn equinox (as we experience Summer), the sunrise moves south of that position.

Here’s some inspiration for your project about how to manage a south-facing orientation and grab the northern light you need …

Design Strategy number 1: Get northern light from above


This single skylight that faces north does wonders for bringing natural light into this home. The sculpted ceiling helps enlarge the amount of light entering, and is a fantastic design strategy to make the most of a small opening. By Tribe Studio. [Image Source]

Design Strategy number 2: Get northern light in from the sides

south-facing home in melbourne

This south-facing extension squeezes out past the width of the original home to grab some northern light. It also uses higher level glazing (just visible in this photograph) to bring northern light in. By 4-Site Architecture. [Image Source]

Design Strategy number 3: Think of your home seasonally


This Melbourne extension is north-to-street, and tucks an upper floor north-facing outdoor area behind the original home. This brings beautiful northern light into the upper floor living spaces, and brings winter warmth. By Dan Gayfer Design. [Image Source]


In the same extension, the lower floor living area opens out onto a south-facing courtyard. By Dan Gayfer Design. [Image Source]

Design Strategy number 4: Flip your floor plan


I was Project Architect onWaterline Bulimba whilst at Mirvac Design Queensland. We had a range of homes that faced north-to-street. This was one design solution – where a 2 storey outdoor room was located on the front of the home. It brought northern light into the single-storey living room that opened out onto it. If you visit this development now, you’ll see the landscaping conceals these front gardens and outdoor areas, privatising them from the street.

Design Strategy number 5: Shape your floor plan


This courtyard home in Marrickville arranges single-storey structures around this outdoor area. You can see this allows northern light into the courtard (over the single-storey) and provides natural light to the rooms surrounding it. By David Boyle Architect. [Image Source]

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  • Nela
    January 7, 2017, 8:10 pm  Reply

    Amelia, absolutely loved this blogpost. I have a semi which is south facing overlooking the beach. As it goes over 3 stories, I cannot see how any of the 5 solutions can be implemented. Would you recommend any further solutions for small south facing spaces. Thank you!

    • Amelia
      January 8, 2017, 2:49 pm

      Hi Nela,
      Thanks for your feedback. The podcast has a lot of detailed information in it that builds on this blogpost and will provide info for you. For your home, I would consider how you can access northern light from the street-side of the home, and bring it into your house via top-lighting and voids. Also think of your home seasonally to create living spaces at either end (and have a north-facing living space for winter use).
      Best wishes for your home,
      – Amelia, UA x

  • Fred
    January 10, 2017, 11:15 am  Reply

    Hi Amelia, brilliant post! Finding your blog posts very informative and delivered in a way which can be very easily understood.

    Looking at a KDR of a south-facing plot at the moment and considering a C-shape around a courtyard. Should the opening of the “C” face the east or west direction? My feeling is east so that the courtyard and the back part of the house can collect the morning sun?

    • Amelia
      January 10, 2017, 11:38 am

      Hi Fred,
      Thanks so much for your feedback – I’m glad you’re finding the podcast/blog useful.
      Yes, I would face the opening to the east. The latest podcast talks about west-facing orientation, and what rooms to locate on your western side. Basically, you want to shut down your home to the western side as much as you can. I hope that helps.
      – Amelia, UA

  • Tim
    February 20, 2017, 9:43 pm  Reply

    Your blogposts on orientation are simply excellent. Confirms feelings I’ve had with my existing home, considering what I need to keep and what to change when I renovate or rebuild. I have a near perfect south rear facing yard. House is street facing N/NE 5 degrees, so almost fully North street facing. Love the sun coming through during winter, but not good in summer.

    • Amelia
      February 20, 2017, 9:48 pm

      Hi Tim,
      Thanks for your kind feedback. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blogs / podcasts. That can be a challenging orientation if you’re seeking to grow your home into your rear yard. I hope the podcast has given you some insights as to how to get it right. I also replied to your other comment regarding off-the-plan choices and whether to renovate or knock-down. It is very difficult to find a home that’s off-the-plan to suit a south-to-rear site! I can see why it’s been challenging for you. Wishing you the best for your project,
      – Amelia, UA

    • Tim
      February 20, 2017, 10:05 pm

      Well we’re seeking to extend to the front, so from the front street facing forward. However orientation is only half my woes, front sloping is the other, and a building envelope which is mainly square, before the land falls away, which from the financial aspect, has me looking more at knock down rebuild, which is still making me dizzy.

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