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The Top 4 things to look for when purchasing your next home

Are you buying a new home and interested to know the top 4 things to look for?

These 4 features will save you money in the retrofitting journey to create your sustainable abode.

When we look at older homes the common conception is that they are built inefficiently, however the principles of passive solar design have been around since the 1970’s so you could be onto a winner without knowing it!

So shag pile rugs aside, what do you need to look for?

  • Living areas with Northern Windows

North living areas are ideal for you to make the most of the free energy from the sun for lighting and heating. This includes existing north windows to the rooms that you will spend the most time in or North facing walls that could have new windows installed. Not a particular good view to the north? Then consider installing highlight windows. Rooms that are naturally lit from the sun are generally healthier and more pleasant to be in.

  • Thermal mass

Internal thermal mass is your heat and cool bank. It is your tiled floor or internal brickwork that absorbs heat in winter and releases it later at night back into the space – making your heat source work more efficiently for you. In summer your internal mass is cool to the touch and keeps your internal temperature more moderate and not fluctuating to the extremes as the outside temperature has a tendency to. In the Victorian climate your thermal mass is best located near your heat source - your fire or near a north facing window where the low summer sun can heat it up for you. The trick here is your thermal mass needs to have thickness, you just won’t get the same result from tiles over a timber floor.

  • Eaves and Shading

What happened to eaves? They were here one minute and then disappeared? Your North windows need shading to block hot summer sun yet invite in the winter sun. Eaves at the right height and width do this perfectly. The rule of thumb is 45% of the height of the window to the eave. Refer to the image above sourced from Your Home (

Make sure that the eave does not begin at the top of the window as you will have the top part of the window always in shadow which is a source of heat loss in winter. Shading is easy to add to northern windows, and you may decide that adjustable shading works better for your lifestyle. Keep in mind that it is always easier to stop harsh sun entering the home than trying to cool the home afterwards.

  • Solid Structure

A solid structure is important in terms of the longevity of the home. Here you will be examining the ‘bones’ of the home. Is the structure free from cracks, damage, moisture build up, pests and added stress? If you have a good structure then you have a good base to work on. Pay extra attention to brickwork over lintels, steel lintels, movement around windows and doors, foundations, stumps and inspect the underfloor.

Once you consider these elements next time you walk through a potential home you will be amazed at how perceptive you will become on how the home feels. Homes with northern glazing, internal thermal mass, eaves and a solid structure are more comfortable and cost less to run!

How does your existing home rate on these features?

Want to read more about these elements?

Your Home is a fantastic resource written by leading Australian Architects.

Till next time,


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Fiona Golding is an Architect at Live Architecture, a Warrnambool-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.


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