Friday, 17 August 2012

Your building plot

What makes the basis for a good new home design?

These blogs are designed to assist anyone, homeowner or professional housing designer, to gain expertise or knowledge regarding the subject of good home design.

So the very first question has to be what makes a good house, or bungalow, design?  The answer to this has to be a good plot of land.  It need not be a large plot, unless you require a large house, but you do need to consider several factors very carefully before committing to the purchase of the land, these are known as the constraints with some of these being:

1.      Is the plot level?  A slope exceeding 1:10 gradient is going to necessitate the use of a split-level design; or force you to into an ‘underbuild’ situation, where you have to put up walls and steps up to reach your front door!
2.      Orientation and views?  Which way does your plot face?  It is no good having your main views to the North if you are looking forward to sitting in a lounge flooded with sunlight whilst you enjoy those views, it just won’t work without a ‘through’ room.  Think in terms of your breakfast area and bedrooms facing East, to take advantage of the early morning sunshine (definitely NOT West for children’s bedrooms).  South or West is great for living rooms used extensively during the daytime; West for dining rooms used in the evenings.  Reserve the North walls for the kitchen, utility, cloakroom, bathrooms, garage etc.  This, as you will see, is not however always possible.
3.      Ease of access?  If you will need a short driveway off a very busy road then you also need space to turn your car around on the drive.  Also remember that a steep drive can become a nightmare in the case of snow or ice.
4.      What surrounds your plot of land?  It’s not just the views out of your new home that matter.  Generally the Local Planning Authority will want you to fit in with the style of surrounding properties so, if your plot is within an estate of mock-tudor houses they may not look favourably upon a proposal for a modernist cube of blue concrete with glass blocks for windows!  You also need to ensure that your home and areas of the garden you wish to be private are not unduly overlooked by your neighbours.  In turn (neighbourliness) you need to ensure that you do not create a situation where you will be causing overlooking, or overshadowing, of their homes.
5.      The lie of the land?   A stream at the bottom of the garden is a lovely feature but are you sure that it will not become a flooding issue.
6.      Drainage and services?  You need to check if you have all of the main services that you will require, electricity, mains water, gas, telephone; and do not forget to check on fast broadband availability as this is not yet available everywhere.  If mains services are not all available (or at a distance from your plot) there are ways around this, but remember the additional costs that may be involved.
7.      Old disused wells and septic tanks/cesspits?  These are still quite common in rural areas and will need to be capped off or filled; another cost!
8.      Previous land use and possible ground contamination?  Most Local Planning Authorities will insist that you check up on these possibilities and provide information with your Planning Application.  This can now be carried out reasonably cheaply through specialist web providers.                       

This is just an overview and all of these issues will be covered in more detail in future separate blogs, as each is quite an extensive subject on its own.

In my next blog we will look at the basics of how best to lay out your new home, on the basis of a fictitious client brief for a specific building plot.