With our summers becoming hotter, most people tend to spend more and more time indoors in air-conditioned environments. Avoiding the outdoors in the middle of the day of course makes sense, but to combat the hot weather outside we see our electricity bills soar with the increased use of air-conditioning. We really do need to ask ourselves how hot are our summers going to become, and how effective are our homes in defending our family from the oppressive heat, whilst seriously thinking about the cost to our wallets and environment!
When traveling away from home, I always enjoy exploring new places by simply walking around, looking at buildings and homes, taking in how people live and work whilst always trying to learn what I can, from people’s different lifestyles and their architectural choices. Visiting Brisbane this week for some work and play, with temperatures reaching the mid to high 30s, I must admit walking around has proven somewhat uncomfortable due to that heat and humidity. Taking in this river side city included visiting the Botanical Gardens always a great place to visit, and as I walked around even in the middle of the day, it struck me how the temperature dropped dramatically, the moment the I walked under the large trees and canopies, where the shade and the breeze created instant relief. (No air conditioning in sight!!!)
Located in the middle of the Gardens, in a large flat sun-beaten square is Old Government House, a striking two storey, grand looking edifice from the 1860s. Sandstone, arches and columns, cornices and later additions ... what more can you ask for, it’s a truly beautiful building, built to last with great style inside and out.
While taking it all in, picking the best angles for my pics from the large open square that surrounds the building, I’m truly enjoying the elegant mix of arches, columns and semi circular porticos. Whilst taking my time to absorb the architectural choices and details, that beating mid morning sun is very strong and the heat pretty damn uncomfortable out in the open. Better get under the shade, I thought to myself, and almost was drawn-in as I walked under the building's portico. The moment I did of course the temperature suddenly dropped and just as in the gardens, the shade protected me from the sun and heat. Ahhh, this building feels all of a sudden even better than it looks!
Visiting Old Government house is free and quite a time-travelling experience. The high ceilings, the spacious rooms, the wide staircase... you can easily imagine this place in its heydays. Many of its original details remind me of what grand homes were made of, and I'm glad I bumped into this whilst walking around. But one architectural character is quite remarkably and completely current for our ever changing climate, and a lesson to all who renovate or build new homes: Shade.
The porticoes and wrap around verandas that surround this building not only add an interesting architectural feature to the homes design, but of course they prevent the harsh sun from heating up the external walls, protecting this home from high temperatures inside, and creating a cooler space to sit outside even in the middle of the day. Upstairs too, there are French doors and windows on almost every external wall in every room, all opening onto the shaded fist floor veranda, easily allowing the slight breeze to flow in and through the home creating valuable cross-ventilation… air conditioning 1860’s style!!!
All images by James Treble in Brisbane.
Old Government House is a remarkable building, and good looks aside, it’s a startling example of how to create a comfortable home in a harsh environment. Awnings, verandas and porticos, are aesthetic additions, but also functional elements protecting it from the elements, and although your home may not be made of stone or even have arches, these valuable architectural elements are worth being included in the building or renovating of any modern home.
Our summers are not getting any cooler, and the increased use of air conditioning is not only going to be a burden on our energy bills but also affect our environment. By adopting clever architectural solutions we can build houses, which effectively defend us from the increasing heat in practical and natural ways, allowing us to enjoy our homes all year round, rain hail or shine!
James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James has 3 decades of accumulated experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design and regularly shares his knowledge and experience in adding value to homes through clever design & styling. Watch his free videos on YouTube, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more free information.