Building on Sloping Sites
Embarking on building a new home can be a challenging prospect; if you have the additional intricacies of a sloping site then careful planning needs to take place well before work gets under way.
There are several options to make a property on a slope thrive, all of which integrate the change in level into the scheme rather than see it as an inconvenience. Early on in the process our architects will visit your site to analyse the plot and discuss potential ideas with you as well as offer advice on the opportunities a sloping site can offer.
There are a number of options to consider when building on a slope. One is to ‘cut and fill’; creating a level plateau by removing soil and building up the levels, which can be useful in offsetting the cost of spoil removal from site. However this can limit the height of the proposed retaining walls, as well as affect access on steeper sites. Basements can be used to cut into the slope and create a lower ground level, this height can then be used to provide a more even access to the upper level; with an entrance at the higher end of the slope.
Careful design of these structures requires early input from Structural Engineers; this helps to ensure the walls are designed sufficiently to withstand the pressures of both the earth they are retaining, and also the inevitable flow of groundwater around the walls.
'Cut and Fill' and 'Basement' methods are both viable solutions to building on sloping plots.
The ‘cut and fill’ theory was used on a recent Oakwrights project; the site had existing planning permission for a new dwelling on a sloping garden, the design concept had a large cut in order to create a level area on which to build upon. Our clients wanted to create a new dwelling, but understandably use the site contours instead. Helen Needham, Architectural Department Manager met the client on site and sketched an initial concept; where a basement construction method was used due to the significant slope. An oak framed vaulted storey above allowed for the possibility of an upside-down house, where living spaces are typically above ground floor bedrooms. A garage and parking were located separately on a higher level again, on the small lane from which the plot is accessed.
The clients also commissioned a high quality 3-dimensional topographical survey which allowed David Bryan, one of our Architectural Designers, to develop the scheme into a detailed planning design. He created a ‘skin’ in our 3D SketchUp modelling software to consider the implications of the slope and the contour levels in relation to the proposed design. This means truly building from the ground or you could call it a ‘landscraper’!
The image above shows an initial concept utilising the slope with a combination of basement and ‘cut and fill’. The master suite sits on the entry level meaning that the occupants can largely live on one floor with the additional rooms such as guest rooms, and plant spaces being located at the lower level.
The finished design used an upside down concept where the bedrooms are located in the lower level.
The design developed to a point where we applied for and gained planning approval on behalf of the clients. The consented drawings incorporated a garage with storage area underneath, which allows site entry and parking to sit level with access to the garage and the house. An upside down concept was chosen to provide light throughout the main living area with the bedrooms in the concrete basement structure beneath. The inclusion of a wrap-around rear balcony provides access to stunning views of stretching countryside and picturesque treescape towards the boundary. Having the elevated external space and balcony aspect from the first floor not only provides a connection to the garden but also an al fresco living area.
There is no doubt that building on a sloping site has its own nuances, what’s important is to get the advice of architects and tradesman that have specific experience of this type of build. In some of the most successful homes we have designed and built over the years, the change in level is intrinsic to the beauty of the design. If you are considering purchasing or building on a sloping site, please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss how the incorporation of an oak frame can give your design the extra wow factor.