Book Review: Warm House Cool House

Warm House Cool House: Inspirational Designs for Low Energy Housing

By Nick Hollo

The days are becoming shorter and greyer. You say, 'beautiful day' to a co-worker, sarcastically. At home you're balancing on a wonky footstool trying to pull down your warmest (and unfortunately, ugliest) woollen jumper from the top cupboard where it's been stuffed all summer.

It's during these extremes of seasons that we start wishing our homes could be a little bit warmer (or cooler) without constantly increasing the thermostat (and consequently, the steady stream of bills).

Since its first publication in 1995, Warm House Cool House by architect Nick Hollo has been a go-to guide for simple, passive ways to make homes more comfortable in every season - warmer in Winter, cooler in Summer, and Goldilocks-approved just right for the rest of the year. The updated second edition released in 2011 expands on the original with more recent projects and within the context of climate change and an escalating need for change.

Hollo never over-complicates passive design principles, meaning even non-technical people can benefit from the book's information. The chapter on 'Design principles for comfort', in particular, takes what can be quite complicated (and, let's face it, dry) science, and simmers it down into easily digestible, bite-sized pieces.

Snowy Mountains House
Country Homes

Warm House: Snowy Mountains House by James Stockwell Architects uses high performance glazing and a protective parabolic roof to stay warm indoors even when it's (literally) icy outside. The innovative project is discussed in detail in Warm House Cool House

Throughout the book, passive design principles are complimented and described by built examples - including some you might recognise from Lunchbox Architect! The remaining chapters are broken into project types such as 'New houses', 'Project homes' and 'Improving existing houses', making it easy to narrow in on the information you need. Handy Info Boxes offer bulleted advice for particular situations from, 'Achieving solar access in townhouses' to, 'design responses to different climates' and my favourite, 'Advantages of compact dwellings'.

Like midriff tops, some of the houses leftover from the first edition feel a little dated now. But unlike fashion trends, passive design doesn't go out of style. The principles that applied when Paul Keating was PM still have power today. The latest edition has also been updated with a bunch of contemporary projects. So, if you can overlook a few architectural equivalents of G-shocks and choker necklaces (which I've recently seen on far too many young necks to be a coincidence), you can still learn a lot from the projects featured.

Book Review: Warm House Cool House

Cool House: Horseshoe Bay House by Troppo Architects is on tropical Magnetic Island. The lightweight home has sliding glass doors and louvre windows to catch cooling breezes. A large overhanging corrugated iron roof to protect the house from the hot tropical sun. You can read more about it in Warm House Cool House.

Warm House Cool House pulls together case studies of homes from all over Australia - you'll find it useful and relevant no-matter what climate you're living in. The collation of floor plans and drawings from architectural offices all over Australia can at times leave the book feeling cluttered. While it would have benefited from a unifying editorial style of graphics, it's impossible to discount the value of these drawings for explaining the accompanying principles.

There's a reason Warm House Cool House has become such a popular and well-known resource. Anyone buying, building or renovating will benefit from its simple and straightforward advice. Make space for it on your bookshelf and your home can become a more sustainable and comfortable place. Your reduced energy and water bills will be an added bonus!

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