Building on narrow lot home has become more popular as many people are moving back to inner-city living and with it, the use of subdividing to encourage new development in older areas. This has led to some innovative designs and creative living spaces as designers try to make the most out of limited space.
Whether older homes are demolished and multi-developments rebuilt or home-behind-a-home, special considerations need to be taken into account on each project.
Designs that put the main windows facing East and West are typically harder to cool in summer. The morning sun will heat the house through the glass in the morning and on the other site of the house continue to heat the house through to sunset. This can turn your rooms into a sauna during the middle of summer. Unfortunately, you do not benefit from this natural heating in winter. Since Australia in in the southern hemisphere, during winter the sun is lower in the sky and gives most of its light and heat to northerly facing windows – the east and west aspects receive little direct sunlight.
Depending on the location of the build there may be different by-laws, zoning regulations or overlays that may apply. For example, in the Town of Claremont the Scheme states your garage cannot be more than 50% of the width of your lot. On a block narrower than 12m makes this impossible, since most double garages are 6m wide. Since most lots in this area are 10m wide this results in the requirements to build a carports which is open on three sides.
Narrow lot homes don’t necessarily need to be 2 storey homes. With careful planning and innovative design the minimisation of wasted space or “dead-space” can be greatly minimised. Utilising open plan living and dining areas can give the feeling of space and openness without cramping style. Floor to ceiling windows can be used to capture as much natural light as possible while split roof eaves or skylights can also provide plentiful natural light.
Narrow lots do sometimes come with complications however, an experienced builder will be able to overcome the issues associated with narrow block building such as; local council zoning regulations and planning for small lots, potential limited access to the block from some aspects and residential overshadowing.
Comparing some designs for example a well designed 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom 185 sq. m home could be just 5.5m wide, an incredible feat when you think a lot of people have the perception that narrow lots mean small houses. This means it is not only more affordable but also more sustainable as the smart design makes it easier to heat and cool.
A renewed interest in inner-city living and an avoidance of traffic congestion commuting into the city means that narrow blocks are becoming more appealing. Depending on the design even narrow homes can feel spacious. Previously, narrow homes felt narrow because they were compartmentalised into small rooms. Open floor plans and modern living has given rise to the ability to abolish walls and free up the space within to make the room seem bigger.
The depth of buildable area will influence the design and knowing your areas by-laws on setbacks upfront will avoid any heartache later into the design process. For example the City of Nedlands Scheme requires all lots to have a 9m setback. If you have planned for just a 4m setback you could find yourself having to lose 50 sq. m off your design.
Raising the ceiling can make even a modest floor space feel spacious. Double-height entries or living areas can improve the feel a great deal. The use of loft space can double as an upstairs room as well as a double height ceiling for the rooms downstairs.
Very narrow lots will require vehicular access to garages that are beside or behind the house. This is good for lots that require garage widths to be minimised or setback from the front of the lot however if this requires an access road down the side of the house then it is sometimes difficult to build without the design looking as though it was intended for vehicles rather than people.
Ideally, a garage with a rear access alleyway will allow you to build a wall-to-wall house and have a detached garage that is accessible from a rear alleyway. This means you then have what is called a carriage house that creates a courtyard space between the house and the garage.