Saturday, May 25, 2019

Choosing your lot

Many years ago, people buying lots in a subdivision would come into the office bragging about the corner lot they had just put a deposit on. They invariably felt they had been lucky to get such a prize. In many instances they left to go back to change their selection. Their realtor, of course, had been very enthusiastic about the lot, which was often more expensive than its neighbors.

Why would we, as architects, care what lot they had chosen? And wasn’t one lot just as good as another? In fact, the corner lot offered us an opportunity to have our work on prime, exposed locations. Yet we would often suggest that the corner lot was not the best lot for their family home.

The response was not to the lot itself, but to its intended use. If it was a commercial lot being bought for a service station, it might be perfect. But for a family home site it may not be. The purpose of a family home is to be a retreat from the world and to establish their most private space. For that purpose the family chooses a piece of property they can “defend “against the eyes, noise, dust and other unwanted elements of the outer world. That is why the oblong lot, which offers the smaller dimension to the street and the public and its longer dimension to give the family privacy deeper into their property, has become the standard shape for a lot. The design of the house strengthens this dynamic, with the public parts of the house (entrance/foyer, sitting room etc.) facing the street and the more private areas deeper into the site, often opening to the back yard.

The first problem with the corner lot, then, is that it doubles the exposure to the public by having two street frontages, two zones with less privacy. It also has no backyard, because the backyard from one street is in fact the side yard for the other street. Thirdly, because street frontages require the greatest setbacks, less of the lot is left for building the house. The overall reduction in the opportunities for privacy and outdoor living makes spending premium money to be on a corner a questionable decision.

Of course there is also the final question of the intrusion of street noise, dust and pollution from the two streets. This contributes to higher maintenance cost for the building and a reduced quality of life for the family.

As demonstrated by the discussion of this one type of lot, the selection of a lot is more complex than it seems. The selection may have huge implications for the lifestyle of the family, the extent to which they enjoy their home environment and the cost of maintaining the home. This same discussion is warranted for the selection of any lot, but especially those in special locations, those with unusual shapes or sloping lots. The purchaser might consider that the realtor should not be the only professional advice sought when purchasing a lot.

• Patrick Rahming & Associates is a full-service design firm providing architectural, planning and design services throughout The Bahamas and the northern Caribbean. Visit its website at www.pradesigns.com, design blog at https://rahmblings.wordpress.com and like its Facebook page. The firm can be contacted by phone at 356-9080 or by email at pradesigns@yahoo.com or prahming@gmail.com. The firm’s mission is to help clients turn their design problems into completed projects through a process of guided decision-making, responsible environmental advice and expert project administration.

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