15 Thoughtful Exterior Design Choices for Cold Climates
All the suggested design choices below are motivated by these five main goals.
- Use design strategies to block the wind.
- Use orientation to get the most out of sunlight.
- Install infrastructure to provide comfort and improve quality of life.
- Incorporate color to bring the winter scape to life.
- Mindfully incorporate light elements in the design for a good spread and intensity.
These goals are reflected in guidelines for designing in colder climates, such as the international building code 2018.
1. Choose the Right Window Orientation
You want a window orientation that gives you the most sunlight. You get the most sun to the south in the northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere gets it from the north. So, you can design your house to be well insulated on one side and large windows on the other to let the most of the sun in.
2. Choose Metal or Asphalt Shingles
You need a roofing material that can withstand the cold and rough winter storms and stand fast under a layer of heavy snow. Weaker shingles standard in harmer areas like slate doesn’t work. It would help if you had metal or asphalt shingles.
3. Choose the Right Window Styles
The reason to choose the right window style is to prevent air and wind from coming in or leaking out.
Your preference should be window styles with tighter seals. For upper floors and smaller windows, you should use awning windows. For the ground floor and more oversized windows, casement windows will be a better choice. You can use PadStyler to get multiple home renderings with different window styles to see which you like the best.
4. Avoid Bad Roof Designs
If you expect snow, you need to make sure that there is no place on your roof to accumulate snow. For a simple traditional home, you need a simple gable roof with clear slopes and no nooks and crannies.
5. Avoid Bad Chimney Positioning
For a snowy climate, chimneys can be incredibly comforting. But vents can also become a nightmare if poorly positioned. Vents in the middle of the roof’s slope create a wedge for snow to accumulate and weaken the roof. Place your chimneys at the top of the roof’s pitch, or place them at one end of the house.
6. Invest in a Snow Melting System
You can use choose between multiple types of technology, such as electric and hydroponic snowmelt systems. They keep your driveways and crucial paths free of snow and dangerous black ice and sleet by automatically heating up when the system senses the surfaces are at freezing temperatures. Very costly, but worth it.
7. Make Snow Friendly Paths
If the house expects a significant amount of snow, then you should expect a lot of shovelling. But, flat concrete driveways are much easier to shovel than dirt and gravel pathways. Gravel pathways may look better, but they are not worth it.
8. Add Railings on all Steps
Most houses have different levels between yards, gardens, sheds, entrances, and so forth. Cold climate houses generally also have raised flooring. To prevent any injury from frozen and slippery steps, all such changes of levels should come with a railing for support.
9. Add Solar Panels
Solar panels directly are not a design choice, but the implementation of solar panels while construction allows you to optimize the design around solar panels. Solar panels will significantly help with the heating costs of maintaining a comfortable temperature inside the house.
10. Use Color
Winter scape inside the city can be drab. The lack of warm sunlight and reduced greenery is not that lively. If you are designing a house, shop, or building in the city center, add bright colors to the exterior to offset the darkness.
11. Block Wind through Mounds
While designing parks or backyards in colder climates, you can create small mounds to block wind towards a specific direction for an extra layer of protection.
12. Use Lightwells
Modern house designs can incorporate sloped lightwells to deal with the snow while letting in crucial natural light and warmth inside the house. If the lightwell is well insulated, it won’t affect the heating requirements either.
13. Block Wind through Evergreen Trees
Evergreen trees are another great option to block the flow of cold wind and add a sturdy layer of protection from rough stormy winds. However, these trees are placed at the perimeter of houses and parks instead of immediately next to a building.
14. Allow Sunlight through Deciduous Trees
Trees that shed their leaves during the winter can be used to surround houses. They give a pleasant color and warmth in the summer but shed everything in the winter to let the crucial sunlight hit your homes.
15. Install Canopies and Overhands at all Entrances
All types of buildings should have canopies and overhangs over all of their entrances. First, it is to prevent getting locked in by heavy snow. Second, it is some much-needed protection from the elements for pedestrians and yourself while you are fumbling with your keys.