Sloping blocks: From obstacles to opportunitiesTips and Advice, New Homes
Imagine a home that sits among the trees like a modern-day Swiss Family Robinson. With sweeping panoramic city views or a scenic coastal vista that can be captured from every room in your home. A custom designed sloping block home can achieve this ultimate vision.
A sloping block of land offers you an exciting opportunity to create an impressive and unique home. Of course, there are some extra costs associated with a sloping block. Site access may be difficult; delivery of materials on site is more time-consuming and therefore more costly. Additional scaffolding may be ordered during the building process due to the fall of the land. Retaining walls and drainage considerations owing to the very nature of the land’s contours will require resolution and a greater investment.
But there are significant gains to be made as well. There are savings to be made in capturing the breeze for natural ventilation and abundant light in reducing your energy bills. In years to come if you choose to sell your home, you will also experience greater resale on a one-of-a-kind home.
If you remove the budgetary considerations from the equation, there is one thing a sloping block can offer that a flat block just can’t compete with – the outlook. A sloping block invariably provides an elevated hillside position that affords a greater view of the surrounding area and beyond. Highly sought after views or other opportunities can be investigated as part of your sloping block house design.
With a sloping block, one thing is for certain – a custom designed home is the only choice. Project homes are just not designed for sloping blocks.
Two main approaches for sloping block house designs
Cutting & Filling
The first method of cutting and filling is a common solution for sloping block house designs. The site is excavated and the fill used to build up areas to create flat surfaces to construct the slab. An advantage of this approach is that the home sits on the ground, allowing you to walk out straight from the house to the yard.
For the cut-and-fill option, retaining walls, drainage and the suspended slab design are the primary considerations.
Splitting the levels of the home to contour with the land can also be achieved with a cut-and-fill approach. Split levels can be utilised to build the home as a series of interconnected pavilions, allowing you to define the various living zones with the home.
Creating a unique connection to the land, splitting the home into levels to contour with the land is more complex to design and build. The additional complexity of the sloping site requires additional building costs which must be considered before purchasing property of such a nature. This approach, however, does provide a solution to the disconnection between internal living zones and the outdoor areas.
An Elevated Home
The other alternative to the cut-and-fill approach is to create an elevated home by raising the house off the ground. Posts are inserted into the ground to support a level frame on which the house is built.
This second approach is less disruptive to the environment and allows for a natural watercourse which avoids potential drainage issues that can arise with the cut-and-fill method.
The key to the success of this type of project is to embrace the uniqueness of the site and to treat it as an advantage. Rather than treating a sloping block like it is a flat piece of land, your architect will work with the site and its contours to create a home that rests lightly upon the land.
By turning obstacles into opportunities, your architect can create a home that reveals itself as you travel through it. The different levels provide the chance to create distinct living zones, physically separating the various purposes of the home and limiting the noise from each type of activity.
Architectural solutions and innovative designs can allow you to take full advantage of your sloping block and realise its true potential. Ensure you get the right advice; ask lots of questions of the professionals to whom you entrust your sloping block design and build.
This post was first published in September 2014 and has been updated.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTURE
Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.