Smart Architecture: The importance of site orientation


With the rising cost of utilities and our diminishing resources in South Africa, it has never been more pertinent to design sustainably.


One of the most fundamental practices in sustainable architecture is site orientation. The basics are to examine your building site and take note of the natural environment. Identify the seasonal recurrences, prevailing wind patterns, the path of the sun over the plot and natural resources such as trees. Site orientation drastically increases the energy efficiency of your home while decreasing the effect of your building on the natural environment. It affects the heating and cooling of your building, and when done right will help you maintain an optimal temperature in your living environment. The effect on your bottom line is noticeable, reducing the need for aircon in summer and heating in winter.


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Although this trend is currently gaining traction, it is based on an ancient building practice called ‘passive solar’ that has been around for thousands of years. Let the orientation of your site guide the design of your home, the plan of the rooms and the angle of your building on the property. The ideal orientation for passive solar is having the main axis of your roof running from east to west. The sun’s path is lower in the sky in winter and higher in summer, resulting in more direct sun on the sides of your house in winter, and your roof taking the brunt of the sun in summer. Trees and walls can also be used to increase the effectiveness of your orientation. Tall trees to the east of your home will offer shade in summer and will not block the sun’s rays in winter.


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The internal plan of your rooms should also take your site orientation into account. With South Africa’s hot, summer climate in mind, plan your living rooms like bedrooms, kitchen and lounge away from the sun. The rooms which receive the most direct summer sun can be used for laundry rooms or garages. As an architectural firm that specialises in green design and sustainable principles, Evolution Architects makes site orientation a priority. Doing it right from the start will give you an optimal home in the future. We take all environmental factors into consideration, including:

·      Seasonal and diurnal (day and night) temperature ranges.

·      Humidity ranges.

·      Wind patterns, including hot, cold and wet winds.

·      Seasonal recurrences.

·      Impact of the local natural environment and features on climate.

·      Impact of adjacent buildings and existing landscape.


If you need assistance with building your dream home, contact us. Together we can design something spectacular that meets your specific needs and tastes and is optimised to your site. We’ll make sure your home is comfortable all year round and utilises its natural environment.