With many of us going from our homes, to our cars (or public transport), straight into our workplaces, only to return at the end of our day back into our cars and returning to home there is a great emphasis, for our health to be letting in more light. More sunshine, more time in the fresh air, more time outdoors - light, light, light. As Kiwis we all know we run a fine balance between soaking up enough rays for our health and running the risks of sunburn but as soon as people start to look at a house build one of things they commonly ask for is lots of light.
This, on a number of levels is not so ideal for your family or your home. What people associate with “lots of light” is a dry, warm home, free of dampness and chill – these are easily mitigated in a rammed earth (RE) home. But let’s look at a few reasons why the management of light into a home is an important part of our design process.
One of the wonderful things about rammed earth is it’s ability to maintain an ambient temperature – cool in the summer, warm in the winter. Well designed verandas and overhangs are there to not only protect RE walls but will reduce summer sunlight whilst still allowing light through in winter. Trees and vines can also help with this – losing leaves in Autumn/Winter letting in more sunlight then growing back their leaves, bringing more shade for summer.
Another problem particularly applicable to New Zealand is photo-rendering – this is the technical name for the breakdown of curtains and upholstery in UV light. Dyes fade and fabrics loose their flexibility and strength, effectively falling apart. Fabrics have come a long way in recent years but NZ’s sun has long been known to disintegrate even the most advanced fabrics and this will be particularly heartbreaking if you’ve gone for beautiful, eco-friendly materials.
It’s also worth bringing in some ancient wisdom to make some sense of the effects of sunlight in the feel of our homes. Ayurveda considers sunlight “noisy” – that is that it’s enlivening but the radiation scatters energy. You’ll perhaps know yourself if you get too much sun it can make you cranky and restless. A well thought out home is peaceful, restful, calm and has a sense of stillness – frenetic energy is not always so welcome.
In Feng Shui, sunlight (in fact all light) is represented by the element of Fire and is considered Yang or male energy – again it’s expansive, active, energetic and fast moving and in cases of too much yang energy, leading to hyperactivity, impractical and impulsive decision making and a lot of throwing things away (that last bit isn’t always bad)
Feng Shui also talks about the “exposure” that Yang energy brings, as Yin is all about privacy – an interesting take on things and kind of vital in good home design.
Maybe take some time to relook at dream designs and homes filled with light with this information in mind. You’ll see the light managed by blinds, sheer curtains, opaque glass and window films, wide verandas and mature trees managing and softening overt amounts of light. Or you’ll now see the starkness that shows a mismanagement of sunlight – where you might feel inclined to pop on your sunglasses or avoid those areas during certain parts of the day.
Morning light is invigorating and revitalising and evening light is soothing, just is Nature intended. Light is vital to our wellbeing but stepping out of the sun into the enveloping welcome of a beautifully built, solid, rammed earth house is quite the salve to anyone’s soul.