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How Climate Should Impact Home Design

Living area with large windows overlooking snowy landscape

Designing a home involves many elements. Architects need to consider the structure, layout, materials and decor. A homeowner’s style and budget are also important factors, but the temperature can impact design strategy. 

Here are a few things to remember regarding climate and home design. 

1. Prepare for Rainfall 

The intensity and direction of rainfall influence home design. Houses with eaves over the windows and sloping roofs can handle heavy rain better. Another critical factor is having good drainage. Storm runoff should not accumulate because it can cause ground instability or mold growth. People living in high-moisture areas should redirect downspouts away from the foundation.

Here are a few more ways to maintain proper drainage:

  • Buy rain barrels
  • Plant trees
  • Create a rain garden
  • Install permeable pavement
  • Have a green roof

2. Consider the Sun’s Impact 

Most homeowners want plenty of sunlight in the winter but not too much in the summer. Architects determine access to the sun through the home’s shape and slope. A south-facing angled roof captures more sunlight in the winter in a cooler climate. In addition, think about the color. Darker shingles can increase the attic’s temperature.

Designers can add building coverings, such as pergolas, to keep away the heat in hotter climates. Planting trees around the yard will also shade the exterior. Providing the proper amount of sunlight keeps homeowners comfortable and lowers electrical bills.

3. Think About the Wind Speed 

The direction and strength of the wind can impact design choices. How much airflow the location receives influences where to place doors and windows. Designers may place casements on the edges of the siding in windier areas. They should have proper weatherstripping to prevent wind from entering through cracks, as well as storm shutters. 

Use door stops to prevent overextension, and design a porch around the entryway to help block the wind.

4. Look up the Average Snowfall in the Area

Heavy snow can impact the structure of the roof and siding. That’s why it’s important to have a strong exterior that can handle the snow. The design of lintels, rafters and beams is influenced by how much moisture the area receives.

Locations with heavy snowfall should have properly ventilated roofs. Architects can use exhaust vents to allow warm air to escape the attic, preventing ice from melting. They should also invest in durable roofing materials like metal. 

 Exterior view of a single-family house with gable roof and solar panels

5. Pay Attention to the Microclimate 

The temperature surrounding the property varies slightly from the regional temperature. 

Factors that influence this include adjacent buildings, vegetation and slope. That means the location may have its own temperature, humidity, wind and rain levels, which impacts energy performance and the type of plants that can be grown. 

Designers should look for warmer areas sheltered from the wind that require more heating. They can also determine which sites get the most sun exposure so homeowners can plant gardens here. 

Another critical element is designing around the microclimate’s needs. Even if it’s a warmer area, insulation may be necessary if the building is exposed to excess shading. 

6.  Be Mindful of Climate Change 

Climate change is causing a fluctuation in temperatures and more frequent storms, so it’s important to consider how to create structures safe for severe wind and rainstorms. Also, designers need to prepare for hotter summers and wetter winters. Plus, coastal properties must be protected from rising sea levels and erosion. 

Here are a few steps builders can take to combat these issues: 

  • Increase the steepness of the roof pitch 
  • Install vulnerable equipment, such as HVAC systems, as high as possible
  • Use openable, securable windows
  • Add external movable shading
  • Have adequate ventilation

7. Determine the Foundation Depth 

The foundation should be placed below the maximum frost depth, which is the point at which the groundwater freezes. Knowing this number protects the home from exterior damage. When the water freezes, it expands, creating cracks. 

A slab on grade may work perfectly fine in sunny places such as Florida. However, colder regions, like Minnesota, may need a deeper foundation. The frost depth is determined by the area’s moisture, soil content and average temperatures.

8. Think About Overall Shape

The weather also impacts a home’s size. A compact shape is ideal for a colder climate because the structure loses less heat in the winter. Plus, it minimizes the surface-to-volume ratio. 

Creating multiple stories in a single-family home can conserve warmth. These homes are also good for the environment by reducing carbon emissions. It even helps to lower a homeowner’s utility bills. 

Why Climate Is Important in Home Design 

Each area has its own unique climate, and architects should keep this in mind when designing a home. It influences factors such as orientation, shape and building materials, which can significantly impact the house’s overall functionality and comfort level.

Author: Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated. Her work focuses on interior and architectural design and has been published by Build Magazine, the National Association of REALTORS and other online publications.