Sloping blocks: From obstacles to opportunities! [November 23 Update]New Homes, Tips and Advice
Imagine a home that sits among the trees like a modern-day Swiss Family Robinson. A home with sweeping panoramic city views, or a scenic coastal vista, that can be captured from every room in your home. A custom home designed on a 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 for a number of reasons. For starters, site access may be difficult, delivery of materials on site is more time-consuming (and therefore more costly), additional scaffolding may be needed 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.
Despite these hurdles in the design and build process, I get many client enquiries about sloping sites – and I will say that there are significant gains to be made with these as well, you just need to approach them the right way. For an example of a benefit – there are savings to be made in capturing the breeze for natural ventilation, and abundant light can be a positive due to its role in reducing your energy bills.
This isn’t even to mention that in years to come, if you choose to sell your home, you could also experience greater resale on a one-of-a-kind home. Think about it – if you manage to utilise the potential views offered by your sloping block, real estate agents will be lining up to write your listing’s tagline!
After all, 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 – and trying to adapt one to be used here is risky at best, dangerous at worst. Sloping blocks CAN often be cheaper than flat blocks, but in my opinion they are not always the best option for those trying to stick to the lowest of low budgets. If you are set on building a project home design – please take my warning and avoid sloping blocks! You will likely end up spending more money levelling the block than you saved by not just buying a flat block!
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. First, the site is excavated – and the fill is used to build up areas in order to create flat surfaces where the slab can be constructed. One of the main advantages 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 using 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 by splitting the home into levels 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 should always 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 noises that travel throughout the home.
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 and feel free to ask lots of questions to the professionals with whom you have entrusted your sloping block design and build. After all, it’s your project, and it’s important that you get the piece of mind that comes with understanding your designer’s vision.
If you have a sloping site, and you’re wanting to learn more about how an architect can help your dream project come to life, contact dion seminara architecture today!
This post was first published in September 2014 and has been updated, the latest update coming in November 2023.
DION SEMINARA, DION SEMINARA ARCHITECTUREWe are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.
Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 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.