EVEN THE PLAYING FIELD
Though a sloping plot of land may present its challenges from an engineering perspective, these are overpowered by the many lifestyle benefits fostered by such angled terrain. Often embracing exceptional views and an abundance of natural light, a sloped plot provides ample opportunities for intrepid home designers to craft a beautiful and creative home tailored to the residents’ way of life. Sydney Home Design + Living’s Emma Warner Allen explores how to get the most out of these unique blocks with Paul Marano, owner and director of Definitive Drafting.
Written by Emma Warner Allen.
AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain” and this mantra applies to sloping plots of land. From a technical perspective, “Any sloping block poses challenges,” Marano explains. Significantly more work will be required just to get the land to a stage that is appropriate to build upon, which means cost associated will be higher than building upon flat land. Factors such as excavation, spoil removal and foundation costs should be considered before committing to a particular build. “Many people fall into the trap of considering a price per square metre building rate in forming their budget, however, site related costs and the associated building costs that come from designing a home around that slope have a massive impact on that rate.” While there may be additional costs and work associated with building on a sloping plot, the benefits of uninterrupted views and a sun-drenched home will often outweigh the negatives in the long term.
As a result of all the pre-construction attention required, “The most difficult [plots of land] are those that have slope down and across the property. Designing around slope in one direction is easy enough, particularly if that slope is to the rear of the property as the ceiling and design can open up into the living areas and onto the open space at the rear of the property. Adding cross slope or designing around land that falls steeply to the street is the most challenging,” the expert asserts.
RISE ABOVE IT
While an angled terrain can promote creativity, there typically tends to be only a couple of approaches to crafting a home on these plots of land: building up or building into the ground. Regardless of your approach, “Whichever way the slope goes, it’s always best to work with it rather than against it. Design the house to step with the natural slope of the land. The only time I would suggest otherwise is if a basement garage is sought or is the best design approach for that particular property,” Marano states.
That being said, building into the ground doesn’t mean that you have a subterranean level completely closed off from the light of day – other than perhaps a basement garage. “Cost aside, natural light and ventilation access is a big consideration. There are also several development controls which may limit the possibilities. These can include the maximum depth of excavation, maximum permissible fill and maximum overall dwelling height – to name just a few,” the draftsman elaborates.
To counteract these potential challenges, the expert recommends doing your research before committing to a build. If you’re uncertain about how to navigate the waters of developmental planning, Marano recommends that you “discuss it with a designer or builder”. Harnessing their industry knowledge and expertise is a fantastic way to gain access to ideas and innovative concepts that you may not have considered yourself.
THE ONLY WAY IS UP
Already posed with a challenging plot of land, when combined with an unusual shape, the residences constructed have to adapt to the difficult environment, which is a driver for innovation. With land availability decreasing, narrow plots of land are often the only ones readily available. “This is an area we’ve been forced to gain a lot of experience in. It starts with narrowing down the client wish list, to prioritise the necessities versus ‘the nice to have’,” Marano advises. “Our design intent is always to minimise wasted space and create functional and practical designs, regardless of the size of the home. If you are limited in footprint, steer clear of researching grand designs on Pinterest or Instagram.” Understanding what you are working with is the first step to creating a home that will meet your needs and look exceptional on the lot you’ve been given. From there, you can be creative; understand what you want from your home and work with your builder or designer to create a space that is functional and works with the space afforded to you – often multi-storey homes are an excellent way to maximise the available space.
Regardless of the plot of land, “natural light is always a strong consideration during any design. We always prioritise solar access to living spaces. Sometimes the orientation of the land isn’t favourable, in which case we can look into design alternatives like raked or raised ceilings, highlight windows or skylights,” Marano states. Inviting light into your home is the easiest way to keep it bright and open, creating a lovely environment to spend your time in. Essentially, seek to “maximise living spaces and minimise wasted space”.
Ultimately, sloping blocks can offer excellent ways to get creative with what you build while also affording you beautiful vistas and a unique living space. To ensure you get the most out of your home, be sure to consult the experts as they will have a myriad of useful tips and tricks in their arsenal to guarantee you get the most from your sloping plot of land.
Home automation is more than just a glorified do-it-all remote control. It’s all about how you get your home to listen to you and your changing needs throughout the day, which merely requires setting up a few quick commands to follow a routine. Carter elaborates, “We also like to program events for our clients to turn on automatically at a certain time, for example you can wake up in the morning to a preheated, pre-lit bathroom with your favourite music playing. Or arrive home from work with your house at the perfect temperature, streaming your favourite music.” The futuristic house of your imagination can very well become a reality.
Beyond these more glamourous features, home automation’s true convenience comes from the added security it brings. “A smart home also makes your home safer,” Carter affirms. Any homeowner would find it reassuring to be “able to control [their] home while [they] are not there, to check in on the locks, cameras and garage doors from across the street or across the globe”.
Best of all, “you can integrate existing equipment with [Connected Audio Visual’s] automation controllers and platform”, meaning not only will the addition of home automation improve your lifestyle, but attaining this luxury won’t cause you any added inconvenience.