Dear James: I am looking for a building lot. The nicest lots have already been taken in subdivisions. What should I look for in a lot, even if none of them appear to be perfect for my house? — Michael Y.
Dear Michael: In many new subdivisions, the best lots are sold to the representing realtors' clients long before the average person is even aware of the new development. Out of 100 building lots, most architects would consider less than 10 to be "perfect" sites for a home.
Even though the lot may not look appealing at first glance, get out of the car and walk onto it where a house would likely be located. Look in all directions to find some pleasant view or positive aspect. A smart, experienced architect can take one of the less-than-perfect building sites and use it to its maximum potential. Typical problems one finds with building sites include wrong orientation to the sun and sloping topography.
The orientation of the house to the sun is important for several reasons. One, obviously, is the possibility of passive solar heat gain to lower monthly heating bills. Another is natural lighting of the house. A home is much more inviting and pleasant to live in when natural sunlight floods the rooms.
The long side of the house should be facing within 30 degrees of south. This can be either to the east or to the west. When you evaluate the solar orientation of a specific lot, keep in mind the position of the sun, both east and west, and the variation of its height in the sky throughout the year. These variations are most pronounced the further north in latitude your area is. You can find solar charts at your local library or online.
If the lot you are considering is not oriented properly toward the sun, consider a unique house shape or placing the house at an angle on the lot. Your architect should be able to provide you with several design concepts. People often think the sun should come in the front, but it is actually better to come from the back of the house. This allows you to keep shades open without having every passerby looking in.
Sloping topography provides both problems and advantages. If it slopes downward from the street level, people often build a walkout basement with a deck off the back of the first-floor level. The deck is nice, but it creates a dark area underneath the deck, so the walkout area from the basement will seldom be used.
With this type of lot, instead of having the garage in the front with the entrance on the first-floor level, locate it around the side on the lower level. This is more attractive from the street and provides more off-street parking. Locate a smaller first-floor deck over just the area of the lower level used for the garage. The rest of the lower level can be a bright walkout area.
For a lot that slopes parallel to the street, building a house with the main floor on slightly different levels is attractive outdoors and indoors. Have the foundation step down so the rooms on the downhill side have a higher ceiling height indoors. From outside, the house appears to be integrated and one with the land. The addition of landscaping can make this approach very attractive.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: 3844328 at Pixabay