When we talk about aspect what we are really talking about is sunlight. Aspect infers the potential amount of sunlight from a compass bearing where direct sunlight would hit and enter through the windows of a property. It is often an overlooked and undervalued factor in any property purchase especially in low density neighbourhoods. A detached dwelling sitting on a generous lot, you could effectively manipulate the floorplan in order to achieve a favourable aspect.
What is a favourable aspect? It’s not just about where the sunlight is coming from but also which part of the dwelling it faces. In the southern hemisphere, a northern or north-eastern aspect to the living areas of the dwelling where we generally spend most of our waking time is preferred. Aspect must go hand in hand with ‘solar access’ This is a technical term used to relate to the amount of sunlight radiation that actually hits the property. A preferred northern aspect is useless if it is completely blocked by another building or trees reducing the amount of sunlight to the property.
In apartments and other high density neighbourhoods, aspect and solar access is particularly important. You may think can I compromise on sunlight if I can purchase an apartment on the wrong side of the best street in my favourite suburb?
Health and Sunlight
Sunlight is very important to human beings in general. Without delving into great detail, at a biological level. Human beings require sunlight for ultraviolet-B (UVB) -induced vitamin D production in the skin. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to weak bones, fatigue, poor immune system, depression, and can lead to other chronic diseases.
With insufficient access to sunlight, a property may become damp and dank. Mould can appear on walls and in clothes, it increases the likelihood of contracting tuberculosis and other respiratory problems. Sunlight is a matter of public health. Sunlight is nature’s Glen20.
It can satisfy our lighting and heating needs during the day reducing energy costs which can amount to hundreds of dollars every year.
The ‘Right to Light’
Despite its importance to our overall well-being, there is no ‘right to light.’ In NSW there is an express provision in the Conveyancing Act 1919 that states there is no right to solar access to or for any building ‘by reason only of the enjoyment of such access.’ Due to its nature, apartments can have issues with sunlight, and as a minimum requirement for new apartments. The State Environmental Planning Policy No. 65 sets out the minimum solar access standards for apartments. These design standards are:
- Living rooms and private open spaces of at least 70% of apartments in a building receive a minimum of 2 hours direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm in mid-winter in the Sydney Metropolitan Area and in the Newcastle and Wollongong local government areas
- In all other areas, living rooms and private open spaces of at least 70% of apartments in a building receive a minimum of 3 hours direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm at mid-winter
- A maximum of 15% of apartments in a building receive no direct sunlight between 9am and 3pm at mid-winter
These standards as well as general building height restrictions and floor space ratios can indirectly protect solar access for properties. As a requirement of the development application process, the impact of the proposed development upon neighbouring properties must be assessed prior to approval. We can conclude that the state government and local council will not impede development that may adversely affect someone’s solar access. Yes, there are minimum standards, but they are as stated ‘minimal.’
Searching for Sunlight
When we look at how aspect is advertised with property, it can been quite stretched in order to convey a favourable aspect despite not being a true reflection of its potential solar access.
The onus for identifying aspects and potential solar access is completely on you. The Buyer. We only really get about 10 minutes at an inspection at a particular time of day at a certain time of year. It’s important that you take this into account when inspecting properties. You have to ask yourself:
Is this light that we see in the 10 minutes inspection part of the 3-hour minimum for sunlight?
Are we seeing this property in winter or summer, what is the difference in sunlight?
In what rooms does the sunlight hit?
What is surrounding the property?
What is the zoning?
Could it be blocked out?