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Building a home for the sun

When Fowler Homes began building homes 36 years ago, many traditional homes weren’t built like they are now. 

Based on designs inherited from our forebears, they mimicked homes of the Northern Hemisphere, built with an emphasis on street appeal and resulting in many of the living areas being tucked away at the south side of the home.

Fowler Homes managing director Tony Hill says he and his team quickly saw the value in flipping that ideal on its head to design homes for the New Zealand sun.

“It’s one of the cornerstones for Fowler Homes, and all of our earlier homes that we built 30 years ago in Canterbury are notable for the fact that they have been well oriented to capture the sun,” he says.

“It has been noted by real estate agents; all the houses that they have been into by us have been warm; it is a really important aspect to give some forethought to.”

Capturing the sun for as much of the day as possible not only lets in an abundance of natural light, but also harnesses much of the sun’s energy.

“There’s over 1200 watts per square metre of energy available from the sun, so well-situated windows can help meet energy needs in the home,” Tony says.

“It definitely saves money in the long term and it actually dries the fabric of the home and drives moisture out when you have a well-situated home.”

Fowler Homes innovated a Sun-Angle Tool early on in their journey, which is used in every home design and build to get the orientation of the home and its rooms just right. 

By placing the tool over a floor plan it mimics the progressive path of the sun over each individual plan and identifies both the Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice, accounting for all the days in between.

“A lot of people don’t know this but, in New Zealand, magnetic north or compass north is actually between 19-24 degrees east of true grid north on a map” Tony says.

“The rationale is to harness the free energy from the sun and situate the rooms so that they take the best advantage of the sun.”

Using their knowledge of the sun and their local knowledge, Fowler Homes regional directors guide their clients on smart home design. 

The company has a vast array of previous floor plans and works with each client to tailor a design specifically to their site and their vision.

“We help the clients make discerning choices with the best orientations,” Tony says.

Alongside good positioning, homeowners in New Zealand now have an abundance of materials and technologies to help them lock in and retain the sun’s energy.

Large glass doors and windows, thermal breaking, polished concrete floors and above standard levels of insulation are increasingly popular features, alongside an increased interest in technologies like photovoltaic solar panels, Tony says.

“There’s a sense of wellbeing that comes with being in warmer, sunnier homes that is really important.

“Humans thrive on it;  it makes a home feel better if it is light and airy,” he says.

If you need help with designing a home that is perfect for you, and for the sun in your area, contact your nearest Fowler Homes-Regional Office. A free Sun-Angle Tool is available at all regional offices.