Innovative Roof Design Cools a House in the Desert

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The so-called “Desert House” is located in the desert region of Australia, more precisely in Alice Springs. It was designed by the Dunn & Hillam Architects firm and the designers wanted to create something that works in total congruence with the desert wasteland, and doesn’t leave a huge environmental footprint.

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Cooling is a large consideration when it comes to designing a home in the desert, especially if you want to make the home as sustainable as possible. With Desert House the architects solved the problem by adding a secondary roof that floats above the residence where it helps to reduce solar heat gain while providing shade. The roof is lifted above the house in a kind of canopy structure that provides enough airflow and cross ventilation to keep the house cool during the long days. The areas under the floating roof are amply insulated, while the designers also built them in a way that allows them to be cooled through the contact with the ground. The entire structure is also so well insulated as to have no thermal bridging.

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The homeowners also wanted the house to fit well into its desert surroundings, so one of the priorities of the designers was to seamlessly blend the indoor and outdoor places. The designers opted for an enclosed inner courtyard, which gives the owners the sense of being outside in a desert, while still being protected from the harsh environment outside. The courtyard features a deck area for lounging, which extends into a plot of wild desert terrain. Since the house is built in the desert after all, they also made it so that it can be closed off when the external conditions get worse.

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Large, glass sliding doors were installed in the walls facing the courtyard to create an open feeling and maximize natural daylighting. The designers placed a concrete block at the base of the structure, which provides thermal mass for the residence. They also installed a photovoltaic array on the flat part of the roof, which is able to provide power for the household.

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The interiors were kept white to give the home a more spacious feeling and to complement the desert surroundings.

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  • Lou Silver

    So when the roof was described as “floating” what the author meant was “ridgidly attached and not at all moving”? Do I have that correct?

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