Siting a Modern Home

Cottage in the Woods - The home site on the undeveloped property with trees in the background.The precise location of buildings has always been one of biggest complaints I have with builders who don’t take the time to do a thorough examination of the site. Very small adjustments can have big impacts on the perception of entry emotion as one approaches a structure. A simple step up or down, or staying on grade can overwhelm the rest of the senses and later on drainage can become the source of rot for a home the sits in a puddle of water, constantly.

The site I had selected had a very narrow flat bench, which became the main anchor for the home to sit upon gracefully. The good news was this was a southern facing slope, ideal for maximizing solar energy and light. As we descended down the easement road onto the site, we would get the slight suggestion of what was about to appear through the veil of vegetation and trees.

When we moved the home up the slope from the bench, we cut off the driveway. Slid it down hill, and it felt like it was going to slide further down the slope. Moved it to the east, and we were uncomfortably close to the neighbor’s property. If we pushed it to the west, the driveway seemed to slice the structure in two. This was tight, but when the daylight/drainage/landscape/specimen trees I had determined were taken into account, there was ONE spot for it to reside.

The issue at hand now is satisfaction of the fire district in which we reside. Currently our drive is almost 1,100 lineal feet. There is a short section of road (less than 100’) that is almost 20% slope downhill. In the district we are located 15% is the maximum allowed, despite the building being sprinkled. So we continue to move the rock quarry up the hill to our road. This is doable; it’s just that this adds about sixty thousand dollars on to the cost of building out this location.

If you are considering a site for your next custom home, think about all the parts and pieces of the puzzle. Easy access is critical. If it isn’t easy, what sacrifices must be made for access? Take the directions of the compass into account, considering southern exposures, northern shadows, trees, views, wind, and weather in general. Then go over the land with a fine tooth comb to take into consideration all the slopes and flat areas. Once you have all the pieces of the puzzle together, then start planning out where to put the home, and the key directions for access and view.

Above all, know that every site has a spirit, something that compelled you to buy the property. Is it the trees, the view, the nature around the property, the location near conveniences to work and play, something that made you stop and choose this spot. Tap into that spirit and make your choices to serve the spirit of the place and your life.

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