The direction of the property is essential and has an impact on psychological, sustainable and cultural aspects of the lifestyle of the people living there. The direction being mentioned here is the facing or orientation of the front of the property corresponding to the compass directions.
Investing time in selecting the appropriately aligned property with respect to the ensuing factors will not only result in a functional and aesthetic structure, but also greatly improve the quality of living.
Here are the main factors of why the direction of the property matter:
- Aesthetics: Orientation of the property with respect to appealing views ( e.g. monuments, mountains, lakes, beaches, etc.)
- Psychological – Daylight exposure: Longer side of the property towards North
- Cultural – Vastu: North or East facing property
- Cultural – Feng-shui: South facing property
- Positioning outdoor spaces: Placement in the South or West in colder climates and in the North or East in hotter climates.
- Reduced energy consumption for heating and cooling: In cold regions, longer side aligned with the North-South axis, and in hotter regions, alignment with East-West
How is the orientation of the property important?
Aesthetics: Views and privacy
One property might be winning everyone’s heart more than the others. The reason behind this could be monetary, or it could be the aesthetic setting surrounding the property. In such a case the orientation of the property with respect to the view would prove important to actually derive maximum gains.
A property with its longer side directed towards pleasing elements – hillside, mountains, waterbodies or valleys would be preferable as they would provide more opportunities for the view to be framed with windows. Moreover, properties with direct views of aesthetic elements, rather than indirect or partial views, are more favourable owing to their orientation with respect to the aesthetic element.
In contrast, there might be some unavoidable physical attributes in a setting one might want to steer away from (neighbouring properties, dump yards, power supply poles, etc.). This situation is especially common in smaller parcels of land, where built structures result in being placed closer together. Keeping in mind the orientation of the property will allow one to design and build the structure in a way that would allow complete privacy from nearby structures, wherever required. Collecting information on similar attributes at early stages would prove to be beneficial and manifest in the form of savings of time, money and effort.
Psychological: Daylight exposure
Appropriate orientation of the property would allow glare-free daylight to be experienced in desired spaces. Considering daylight as a necessity from the conceptual planning stage can impart the freedom to design and control the flow of daylight indoors in an optimum amount. In colder regions, windows towards the South and West would allow for maximum daylight while also providing solar heating. In warmer and tropical climates, daylight from the Eastern and Northern facades would be desirable as they would eliminate solar heat gains.
Daylight or the visible radiation of the solar energy reflected by the sky shapes the way one perceives the world. While it allows sensing and enjoying our surroundings, it also plays an important role in the psychology of the perceivers. Seasonal changes greatly affect a person’s health and mood, as observed accurately by Hippocrates and exposure to daylight is a contributing factor here (1).
In colder climates, where daylight is not as abundant compared to their tropical counterparts, one term that keeps coming up is SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. Coined by Dr.Normal Rosenthal, SAD reinforces the influence of the daylight exposure for human wellbeing. (2). For the homeowners to fully enjoy their homes, it thus becomes paramount to have enough exposure to daylight indoors.
According to this ancient manual, a property facing the North or the East is favourable and auspicious. Properties facing South or West are avoided as it is believed negative energies are more prominent in these directions and impact the well-being of the home-owners (3). Vastu-shastra, an ancient handbook prominently referred to in the Indian subcontinent is a befitting example of cultural factors taken into account, impacting the orientation of the property.
Tracing its origins to rig Veda, an ancient collection of Sanskrit hymns holding religious significance in the Hindu culture, Vastu-Shastra is a science emphasising harmony between living beings , ecology and the passive energy surrounding both. Harmony between the elemental forces is achieved by planning and arranging spaces according to the guidelines suggested in the manual. While Vastu-Shastra is relevant even today, there are evidences of Vastu-shastra compliant temples, monuments and cities from as early as 4th century BCE.(4)
According to the ancient Chinese tradition, the most auspicious property would be one which faces South, as it would enable the absorption of Chi-energy which promotes family harmony. (5). Feng-Shui is the traditional practice based on harmonising individuals with natural forces by balancing energies for well-being. Believers of this ancient tradition lay emphasis on the orientation of the property since ancient times- there are instances of ancient significant structures built employing Feng-Shui in China.
Stemming from the ancient practise of Taoism, Feng-shui is still relevant and is widely referred to in Western as well as Eastern cultures. The entire practise of Feng-shui is based on Chi, or the life force that inhabits all forms of life. Composed of Yin and Yang, two opposite but complementary forces, Feng-shui emphasises the balance of both to improve the flow of positive Chi energy.
Positioning outdoor spaces
Outdoor spaces, both functional and recreational depend on the direction of the property with respect to the sun’s path. In colder climates, solar heat is important and hence a property oriented in the South or West directions will enable one to full utilize the sun’s potential by positioning patios, gazebos, vegetable gardens, etc. in these directions.
The concept of a solarium is colder climates works only when it is planned in the South- Western side of the property to maximize solar heat gains and provide a comfortable indoor temperature. In hotter climates, outdoor spaces can be enjoyed when placed away from the sun. To enable this scenario, planning such spaces in the North and East directions where solar heat gain in minimal will prove favorable.
Outdoor spaces have the maximum impact of environmental conditions. From blazing driveways to icicle-clad gazebos, undesirable conditions stemming from the local climate are innumerable. Such conditions can be controlled and factored into the design by simply putting thought into the direction of the property with the sun’s path. This would allow for passive design techniques to overcome any troublesome situations and contribute to a better living experience.
Reduced energy consumption for heating and cooling
In colder climates, where temperatures are below thermal comfort range, aligning the longer side of the property to the North-South axis provides the opportunity for taking advantage of solar heat through windows, thus reducing the dependency on artificial heating. In hotter climates, where solar heat poses a problem and is to be minimized, a property with its longer axis aligned to the East-West axis would be favorable to reduce the energy consumed for artificial cooling (6).
Energy is consumed to maintain thermal comfort indoors, which indicates an optimum temperature range of 20 °C to 26 °C or 68F to 79F. If the indoor temperature does not fall within the range, artificial temperature controls in the form of heating or cooling are resorted to. If the direction of the property is taken into consideration, one might not have to resort to artificial temperature controls at all, resulting in overall reduction of energy consumption. (internal link: https://prefabie.com/energy-efficient-modular-homes/)
- Park, A. (August 08,2017) Why sunlight is so good for you Time https://time.com/4888327/why-sunlight-is-so-good-for-you/
- Beute, F. (2014). Powered by nature : the psychological benefits of natural views and daylight. Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. https://doi.org/10.6100/IR780722
- Naha, N. (December 17, 2020) Home direction as per vastu:best house facing according to vastu https://www.magicbricks.com/blog/determine-direction-of-house-vastu/ 117984.html 4. Acharya, P.K. (1946), An encyclopaedia of Hindu Architecture, Oxford University Press 5. Feng-shui for your new home Joy design & build https://joycustom.com/blog/feng-shui-for-your-new-home/ 6. Gromicko N,Building orientation for optimum energy (https://www.nachi.org/building-orientation-optimum-energy.htm)