Building a home for all seasons

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From very cold winters to hot summers, New Zealand’s climate has its extremes. Is it possible to build a home that provides comfort and energy efficiency no matter the season? How we experience our interior climate depends on the levels of heat, air and moisture in the house. So let’s look at how we can influence them in the design of your new home.

Design for the sun

The position and direction of your home plays a significant part in how warm and cosy it can be. Apps like Sun Seeker or Sun Locator let you see where the sun hits your location at different times of the year.

Place the house on the sunniest part of the section, sheltered from prevailing winds (if possible), and have the main living areas facing north. Also consider where you might plant trees for shade and shelter.

Ventilation and heat recovery

Excess moisture in the air is unbearable at any time of year. It makes your home hard to heat in winter and muggy in summer. Controlling humidity levels increases efficiency of heating systems and feeling comfortable at a lower temperature. Installing a good ventilation and heat transfer system helps maintain an even temperature. A balanced pressure system is a two-way operation great for airtight new builds. It works by bringing in fresh air as it pushes out the old.

Systems can also be fitted with a heat exchanger to recover heat energy from the outgoing air, which it uses to warm up the air coming back in.

That’s great for winter, what about summer? Some systems offer additional features to avoid warming incoming fresh air when it’s hot. They’ll bring in cool air in from the south side of your home and distribute it throughout to get rid of hot, sticky air.


Most people associate insulation with winter and retaining heat. But it also improves the comfort of your home in summer too. It reduces the amount of heat from the outside that transfers through to the home.


Windows are the main source of heat loss and gain in any home. Double-glazing traps a pocket of air between the two panes. This air is not good at conducting cold or heat, making double-glazing a must throughout the seasons.

Window location

On the south face of your home, have fewer windows and make them smaller. Have medium to large windows on the north-facing side to capture free solar heat.

Shade and shelter

To avoid too much sun coming in the windows during summer, but still letting in plenty during winter, north-facing windows need overhangs.

Plants and trees can also be used strategically to provide shade in summer but let in light during winter. This can get quite technical as it depends on the type of plant (tree, shrub, evergreen, deciduous, etc) and the sun’s position in the sky. It may pay to consult with a landscape designer for ultimate results. And the earlier on your talk to them the better; they might have some advice on planting that relates to where you put the house on the site.

Control the design process

Online Design & Build has created a modern home-building tool that puts you in the driver’s seat when designing your new home. Using the online tool you simply pick a house plan and customise it to suit your winter and summer needs. Then we take care of the rest, building you an affordable, top-quality home. Give it a try now. 

Published:  30 May 2018
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