I bought a steep site. HELP!
Congratulations are in order - you’ve purchased a new site! But…it’s not your standard site and now you’re wondering what’s the best way to tackle it. Firstly, how steep is steeeeep? Has your new property got a significant slope that would possibly result in major earthworks such as retaining? Or is it a minor slope and retaining just a small section could work in your favour? It's a hard one to answer for every individual site, but generally if you’re gripping soil with those toes and bending those knees so that you don’t face plant going down the decline - your block is steep! Below will provide you with some points to think about when starting your design process.
A great starting point is access - does your site slope down from the street or does the site slope up from the street? Easy access in and out of your home can remove a potential headache, but unfortunately this is commonly overlooked. Therefore keeping your garage or parking area close to the front of your home rather than down the side or up behind the home will eliminate tricky turning circles or tough backing out maneuvers. The garage is commonly the area worth considering retaining if needed - a nice solid base to park your car on is a plus. The rest of your house can be more flexible and respond to the site as required.
A personal design favourite of mine for steep sites is a split level home. They allow for smaller transitions than a standard full flight of stairs between standard two level homes (approximately 17 steps) and can create perfect opportunities for a home to work with the site rather than against it. Often the stair flights may only be 5 steps - this can be a great option for people who are not very keen on full level transitions. These split level spaces can also allow for visual access to views from multiple areas rather than having to select only one space or level to have the view lines.
With steep sites, another great option to look at for the construction method is pole home construction. The pole home construction method allows for the home to adapt to the slope without requiring mass retaining and large amounts of fill. The pole heights can either go up or down in length to suit the slope, which also creates potential for flexible finished floor levels. If you are trying to access a certain view or wanting to have a house that sits into the site, look to pole home construction.
A number of my clients have been won over by the pole home option and the associated minimised earthwork requirements. However; not all building companies are experienced in this type of construction. Talk to the builders in your town, City, etc. to determine who has the experience to complete a home of this construction method. If you can’t find someone in your region, a good option can be to discuss the construction with a builder or a consultant that can provide information or is willing to travel to the area in order to complete the build. Using locals is always best, and hopefully if the main team leader brings their experience into your project from outside the local pool, they are still able to incorporate the skills of the local tradesman.
If you have chosen to move forward with a steep site, it's worth discussing with an architect and meeting on site to review the potential of your project. Check out Schlager Architects socials for images of homes that are similar to what I have described above or contact the office direct. Thanks again for reading.