In this series on Looking Back & Looking Forward, we are reviewing a green home we built over 2 years ago, the lessons learned and more importantly, how we can (or even how you can) utilize those lessons on future builds. Now that we have a set of building plans for an Energy Efficient Green House to work off, we can now get to laying out the building on site.
Layout – isn’t it all on the plans?
Well in some cases it is, while most of the time it isn’t – generally the overall building layout is found on an item called a Plat Map. A Plat map is a scaled map that shows the property lines, easement restrictions (locations of utilities, right of ways, etc…), and the location of the house in relation to all those items. The one big catch though is that the layout is on a piece of paper. You have to actually take what is on that paper & apply it to the site. While this may seem easy, I have seen some real doozies where parts of the house were built on an easement, the property line, or in a few cases, the neighbor’s yard. Can anyone say – lawsuit?
The most important step:
If you are building a new house, adding an addition, etc… the first people you need to call are the surveyors. The Surveyors will first establish where the property lines really are. Based on that & following the Plat Map, they can then mark out where the house will be sitting, or area’s you cannot build on. While your excavation contractor essentially does the same thing (where your house will sit) when they layout for the foundations, they are generally not insured or covered if they make an error.
Location & Orientation:
If you have some room to play with, I recommend that you consider two main items. The first is the placement or location of your house on the land. The second main item is the orientation of your house. While these items sound similar, there are some subtle differences with huge implications based on your choices. For example;
- Location: While the sound of the creek is nice, you do not want to locate your house to close to it, if it puts you in the flood plain, trips a protected wetland regulation, etc…
- Location: While the top of the mountain offers a great view, make sure you have planned for larger wind gusts, clouds, and lightening.
- Location: Is there some trees on the property, you would hate to see cut down, or maybe a grove that would help cut down on the hot afternoon sun – consider not only the placement of your house, but the access and equipment required to build it.
- Orientation: If you live in the southern part of the country, you probably do not want the bulk of your houses windows orientated to the East without plenty of shade trees to help cut down on the heat from the afternoon sun.
- Orientation: If you have a few views on your new property that are to die for, make sure you can capitalize on them with either an exterior deck, the living room, kitchen or master bedroom windows.
Lessons Learned on ours:
Unfortunately, for this house the layout & orientation was already cast in stone. We were boxed in by a hill, a septic tank, and a few other issues. If we had a choice, it would have been nice to flip it 90 degrees to prevent having the windows all facing East & West. In fact, if the house were orientated that way, the house would have automatically been 2 percentage points better than it was based on the modeling software. Oh & the picture above – seeing I can’t find the blue print or plat maps I had filed away on my old PC, I am giving you a hint on the foundation system we choose.