The Right Direction

The home's north/south orientation, combined with the careful selection and placement of landscape elements, contributes mightily to this home's energy efficiency.

July 01, 2003

The home's north/south orientation, combined with the careful selection and placement of landscape elements, contributes mightily to this home's energy efficiency, says Jennifer Languell, of ConstuctGreen, but it does so in a way that is hardly noticeable.

"Major living spaces are concentrated on the north side of the home where the hot afternoon sun will not be a problem," says Languell. "The areas of the home where people spend less time, including the garage, main entry, hallways and guest rooms, face south, east and west. This exposes a lot less of the living area -- and glass -- to the sun."

On areas that must be subjected to solar gain, Languell recommends "softscaping," or the use of landscaping elements such as trees and shrubs, to create natural shade. Plants and trees were selected for their drought-tolerance as much as for their appearance.

"In this way," she says, "we can have the landscaping work with the house design itself to provide optimal energy efficiency."

Creating a landscape plan for this home presented landscape architect Koby Kirwin with a challenge, he says. Although the use of native Florida plantings would provide the most efficiency in terms of drought-tolerance and care, they really did not provide enough of a "wow" factor for key areas, such as the entry and pool terrace. "People who relocate to Florida are not always in love with the look of native Florida plants."

"We designed the plan for this home to reflect what I call 'on-stage' and 'off-stage' landscaping," Kirwin says. "In areas where the views were not overly emphasized, we took a more conservative approach using conventional Florida vegetation."

High-impact, but high-maintenance plants, such as statuesque palms, were reserved for creating drama at the entry and around the pool terrace, he says.

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