Image: Courtyard House / Ha Architecture

When you’re dealing with a tight site, a courtyard could be your answer to let in light and breezes and create a usable outdoor space. So, what are the benefits of a courtyard design? Some of the projects we’ve featured recently are perfect examples. So let’s take a look…

1. Light

Natural light can be harnessed to heat your home during cooler months naturally, and, of course, there’s nothing better than basking in spring’s first sunny days from the comfort of your couch, cuppa in hand.

Unfortunately, many inner-city blocks are long and narrow, and you may not be blessed with a perfect orientation. Hands up if you’ve got a dark, south-facing backyard. This is a situation where a courtyard design can be a real boon.

You’ll be able to get light into the rear spaces and create a sunny outdoor space in the middle of the home. And it’s not just suited to south-facing backyards, either.

You can grab north light from the side with a courtyard design too, so even if neighbours are breathing down your neck on all sides, creating some space for light in the middle of your home could be the answer.

2. Breezes

Speaking of breathing, a courtyard design could also mean a breath of fresh air for your home.

You might have heard of cross-flow ventilation? It’s basically a fancy way of describing throwing all the windows open to let breezes into the home. But cross-flow ventilation works best when you have windows of opposite sides of the room.

This becomes a little tricky when you’re building on a long, narrow block with neighbours on either side. You’ll either end up with a stuffy house with little ventilation or a wind tunnel through the middle that ends up knocking granny’s plate off the wall, destroying your heirloom and any hope of blowing away the stale curry smell from last night’s takeaway.

A courtyard design breaks the house into smaller, more manageable areas, with more walls opening onto the outdoors, so it’s much easier to encourage a gentle breeze and an airy home.

3. Separate Zones

When it comes to energy conservation, it’s ideal to be able to divide your home into separate zones, so the whole house doesn’t need to be heated or cooled at once.

A courtyard design is a perfect way to do that. Bedrooms can be on one side of the courtyard and living areas on the other. Don’t be afraid to make the two zones completely separate, either – meaning you go outside to move between the bedrooms and the living areas. It might sound like a pain, but in our modern world, we spend so much time in artificially conditioned spaces, that it’s a healthy relief to step outside, get a glimpse of the stars and breath in the lemon-scented gum down the road or that distinctive aroma of fresh rain on dry soil. A courtyard design might help you save money and feel more connected to nature.

4. Creating Indoor-Outdoor Connection

And there’s one of the greatest benefits of a courtyard design – creating a great indoor-outdoor connection.

With a courtyard design, you can have between two to four walls opening onto the courtyard. With the addition of sliding or bi-fold doors and windows, you can create a home which seamlessly transitions between inside and out.

An added benefit is your indoor spaces can afford to be slightly smaller if you have the option of spilling into the courtyard. This will save money on the build and for the lifetime of your home, plus you’ll find you spend more time outdoors which has numerous proven health benefits.

5. Connect Old and New

If you’re extending an existing home, a courtyard design could be the perfect way to differentiate between old and new.

In any extension, it can be difficult to know where to start and finish the internal works – does ‘will we replace all the floorboards so they’re all the same?’ sound familiar? The benefit of a courtyard design is creating a clear distinction between old and new – the existing home gets left pretty much as is, while the new addition stands alone, and both old and new can benefit from the light, breezes and connection to the outdoors.