Selecting the right small block

Karrinyup small blocks.jpg

decisions, decisions..

All these lots in Karinnyup look suitable being east - west orientation.

The middle block looks best from a dimensional point of view, but I would worry about the block to the north being built out with a 2 storey MacMansion that could block access to winter sun, and the house would be looking at a 6m wall.

Depending on the traffic condition, the 300sqm end block may be best. There wont be any neighbours to the north and there is the benefit of 2 street frontages for parking and access.

At leanhaus, we love the challenge of designing homes for small blocks because it fits right into our philosophy of delivering more, for less. Small blocks present many design challenges, that’s why it is important to pick the right block in the first place! Here are some key considerations:

  • orientation - which way is north? Ideally the homes living and outdoor spaces will face true north or +/- 15 degrees of north. This makes it easier to make the home solar passive, which means that we can shade the summer sun, but allow the winter sun to provide natural warmth.

  • dimensions and size - can the block it fit the size house you want? This may dictate room sizes, and whether you can provide bedrooms on the ground floor. The planning codes also have a requirement for a % of open spaces. An R30 or R40 block requires 45% open space, so 81 sqm of an 180sqm block. If you are only left with a building foot print of 100sqm, after providing parking there may only be 80sqm available to provide habitable rooms.

  • site levels - are any additional works required? There’s no point purchasing a small block to save money if there is retaining walls and earthworks required before you can start building. It may be better to pick a different block or spend more on a site that is ready to go.

  • aspect - what can you see from the site? Lifestyle on a small lot can be enhanced if you have views to some greenery, open space or water. However, we need to make sure the design can take advantage of the aspect and it is in the right direction. Theres no point paying a premium for views to the south, if your living space has to face north.

  • access. How will you, your visitors, and the builders access the site. Parking on or near site will likely be limited so how will your visitors access the home? Is there an access leg from a nearby street, or verge parking available. The logistics and costs of building can be impacted by a lack of access or parking.

  • context Small blocks are often more adversely impacted by overshadowing by neighbouring properties. Ideally this overshadowing will not impact your living and outdoor spaces. Also, assuming the home is to be built on two floors, do we need to consider the neighbours privacy in the design? The R-codes requires privacy screening for windows and balconies if they are within a ‘cone of vision’ of a neighbouring property. Privacy screening is built to around 160cm above floor level, which is just high enough to block any views and may rule out the value of a balcony.

All things considered, in order of priority the following is the best blocks to choose, regardless of size.

  1. A corner block with the long boundary to the north. That way there will be no buildings blocking the sun or your view of the sky from the living areas.

  2. An east west oriented block with minimum 12m width to the street. This allows the home to be built on an east/west axis for optimum Solar Passive Design. If the block is narrower than 12m, it can difficult to provide rooms and outdoor space with solar access

  3. A block with a north facing rear boundary and street access to the south. Regardless of block width, a north facing rear yard is essential. This allows the primary living and outdoor spaces to face north and be away from the street.

If in doubt, its always best to consult with leanhaus or your architect before purchasing your site. There may be some hidden complexities that can impact the design for your future house, or there could be some great design opportunities that no one else can see!