When you're building a new house, there are a million things to consider. Most of them come down to cost: can you pay now to save later? Your windows and doors are one area where high-quality options will pay dividends further down the line.
The right choices will be long-lasting, beautiful and energy efficient. They also significantly increase the re-sale value of your house. Here are some principles to consider when making your decisions.
Passive solar home design
Passive solar home design aims to maximise the sun's impact in winter and minimise it in summer. Correctly incorporated into your design, it's the cheapest way to keep your house comfortable year-round
Some elements of passive solar design are easy to design into a new build, but almost impossible to add afterwards. Awnings and overhangs are perfect examples of this: they're great for shielding your windows from the sun, but very difficult to add to existing houses.
Placing your windows
Window placement will be affected by your environment, climate and house design. If you have a stunning view you'll want to take full advantage of it with large windows. On the other hand, if you have a close neighbour you might want to consider skylights, to bring in plenty of natural light without compromising privacy.
The direction your windows will face also makes a difference in their size and treatment. South-facing windows might be larger, to take advantage of the winter sun. Windows on the east and west side should be big enough to bring in natural light, but smaller than your south- and north-facing windows, and well insulated.
Energy efficient windows will save you money on heating and cooling bills, whereas leaky, poorly installed or badly treated glass will create problems later on.
Double-glazed windows with sun-reflecting treatments are highly effective heat barriers. 'Broken' aluminium frames – frames with a non-heat-conductive material sandwiched in between aluminium layers – also provide excellent insulation.
Glass doors and windows also need to be properly installed, as gaps and cracks increase 'air leakage'. If your windows are badly installed, it doesn't matter how high-quality the glass or frame are; you'll boil in summer and freeze in winter.
Installing aluminium windows and doors can be tricky, so it's worth consulting a professional. Most manufacturers will also install their products, or provide instructions if you're a confident DIYer.
With all the different factors to consider, it's worth seeing if custom windows and doors are an option for your new build. They can be tailored to your exact specifications and dramatically improve your energy rating.