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Big houses on small blocks

By arescarti42 - 9 June 2010 25

One thing that always strikes me as strange when I’m driving through the new suburbs of Gungahlin is how the majority of the houses are single storied.  My understanding is that most blocks being released up north are between 400-600 metres square (with some as small as 230 metres square).  

If you build a large single storied home with a 320 square metre floor plan and garage on a block like that, you don’t end up with a whole lot of usable outdoor space, which I thought was the whole reason people wanted to live on a suburban block in the first place.

Why don’t people build two storied homes so they can have a few hundred square metres of backyard? (i suspect cost is probably the main factor here).

Another thing I find bizarre is that houses are built so far back from the street.  Why have 30 metres between your house and the house across the road, but only 5 metres between your back door and the back door of the neighbour behind you?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to build the house say 5 metres closer to the road, given that people don’t generally seem to use their front yards as much as their back yards?

I’d be particularly interested to hear what people who live in Gungahlin have to say about the arrangement.

What’s Your opinion?

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25 Responses to
Big houses on small blocks
arescarti42 5:51 pm 09 Jun 10

It sounds like half the problem is just getting people realise they don’t have to accept off the plan homes.

The point squidofman raises is very interesting. Does anyone have any idea what the logic behind restricting 2 storied homes to certain block is? I just can’t see what possible benefit that could have.

-Captain RAAF – I guess for me, a normal suburban block is whatever you need to achieve the suburban lifestyle (BBQs, gardens, and kids playing on the lawn come to mind for me). Without a doubt the average has been dropping over time, but if you can achieve what you set out to on a 400m^2 block, then I don’t seen any problem with that.

What perplexes me is that if people don’t see any value in having a yard and don’t mind living on top of their neighbours, then why don’t they live in apartments or townhouses? It seems like you get all the inconveniences of suburban life with not many of the benefits.

sepi 5:50 pm 09 Jun 10

If you get a landscaper to set up your garden, there will be almost no maintenance required. You can have paved paths and areas, a few trees, shrubs that need no maintenance, and it will look gorgeous. I would hate to live without a garden.

When I bought my house in Downer (580 metre block) it was described as ‘small block’. Now it would be called ‘huge family living’ or something…

Clown Killer 5:41 pm 09 Jun 10

400-600 square metres is the average block size. Bloody hell! I’m with Captain RAAF. I love every square centimetre of my 1360 square meter block.

Pork Hunt 5:06 pm 09 Jun 10

Captain RAAF said :

I’d be interested to hear what Arsecat42…

I’ll pay that. Lol

Gungahlin Al 4:21 pm 09 Jun 10

ConanOfCooma said :


Good GOD people! What is wrong with going DOWN?

We need more subterranean housing.

I like it! And should think more about it.

In thinking about “the next house” I’ve been mulling over a lot about making maybe half of the roof flat and using it as garden and private open space. The off-set though is much less area for catching rainwater for the tank. But then, another “next time” thing will be even bigger tank buried under the garage or driveway so when it does rain nothing is lost to overflow.

Hosinator 3:49 pm 09 Jun 10

People just don’t want to maintain gardens anymore, everyone claims to have no time at all.
God forbid we get off our ass’s for 2 hours out of 48 to do a little bit of maintenance.

And before you say that gardening takes the whole weekend, well it doesn’t. Plan exactly what you have to do and stick to the time and focus on your to do list.
It’s like washing dishes after every meal or washing dishes at the end of the week, if you don’t maintain your garden for months on end, then yes it will take a whole weekend to do anything.

ConanOfCooma 3:44 pm 09 Jun 10


Good GOD people! What is wrong with going DOWN?

We need more subterranean housing.

Captain RAAF 2:41 pm 09 Jun 10

I’d be interested to hear what Arsecat42 and others think is a ‘normal suburban’ block?

If it’s 400-600 Squares then people really have begun the crawl towards oblivion and slum life. The size of the blocks around Gunghalin are the reason why I bought elsewhere and now have 950+ squares and to be honest, I would’nt have an inch less.

Privacy is dead and you can blame government and developers for it by squeezing as many people as they can into as tight a spot as they can.

Hells_Bells74 2:29 pm 09 Jun 10

G1? or GA rather.. sorry kept thinking your name here was Gungahlin1 for some strange reason.

Hells_Bells74 2:24 pm 09 Jun 10

G1 – I agree, although sometimes I thought in Palmerston that some of the houses were stupidly close to the street as well, especially around roundabouts and corners. The way people drive, I dunno how they sleep sometimes. Dunlop springs to mind too.

Sitting on someone’s fence mustn’t be fun either, so many of those ‘almost touching bar a fence’ homes in Gungahlin.

squidofman 2:11 pm 09 Jun 10

I just built a house in Franklin, and all the blocks were mandated to be either single-story or double-story. As in, if you bought a block of land that was designated single-story, you couldn’t build a two-storey house, and vice versa.

rosscoact 1:59 pm 09 Jun 10

I live on a 288m2 block.

On that block is my passive solar house. A two storey, four bedroom home plus balconies and double garage. There is also a 36m2 wonderful sunny deck, three apple and one peach three plus vegetable garden.

Also, a one bedroom apartment with its own garage.

It may not suit everybody but we love it and we’re coming up to our ten years here

Holden Caulfield 1:43 pm 09 Jun 10

indigoid said :

Gungahlin Al said :

Note what is upstairs though – apart from that one multipurpose room, the entire house is “accessible” – accident leave you unable to use stairs? No problem. Wheelchair? No problem.

And you never know exactly when that might happen…

…especially if you fall down the stairs!

indigoid 1:03 pm 09 Jun 10

Gungahlin Al said :

Note what is upstairs though – apart from that one multipurpose room, the entire house is “accessible” – accident leave you unable to use stairs? No problem. Wheelchair? No problem.

And you never know exactly when that might happen…

When my father rebuilt his house after it was destroyed in the 2003 fires, he put in an upstairs room, and after a nasty combination of multiple myeloma and swimming in the ocean, ended up in a wheelchair 2 years later. The rebuilt house, built on a slope like most of Duffy, also has a 4-stair level split, which was addressed (at hideous expense) by a wheelchair lift system. The upstairs room is great for visitors and art/craft activities, but it sucks that 25% of the household simply can’t use it.

The problem with backyards is that you have to maintain them. I’m absolutely loving living in a cheapish penthouse apartment with a BBQ + potted plants on the balcony. I will happily concede that it may not work so well if I start spawning little runts, and I think at that point I’d hire a gardener. Leisure time is a precious resource

Gungahlin Al 12:47 pm 09 Jun 10

You are right. Cost is a factor. Builders will immediately start shaking their heads and mumbling about costs when you say ‘upstairs’. Ours estimated that the single living space/office/rumpus room upstairs added around $40,000 to the cost as opposed to $25,000 (ballpark) at ground level.

However, having a yard for the kids to play in, to grow some fruit trees and veges and for a large deck area, were more important for us, so up we went.

Note what is upstairs though – apart from that one multipurpose room, the entire house is “accessible” – accident leave you unable to use stairs? No problem. Wheelchair? No problem.

Setbacks are shrinking too. In our estate, the standard setback is 6m, but on corner blocks like ours, it is just 4m on the front and 6m on the side. And we’ve filled a lot of that up with courtyards in order to further increase the private open space.

So it is not so much a Gungahlin issue, or even a planning issue. It is more about people accepting off-the-shelf plans and people buying house-and-land packages (see my post on the stamp duty thread for how silly THAT is) merely because they fit on the block, instead of investing (and it is an investment) a little time and effort into coming up with a design that suits both the individual block and the buyer.

For us, our key design criteria were: every single bedroom and living space with north-facing windows; no direct summer sun on any window (think eaves/awnings); a useable back yard; minimum 6-star; no brick veneereal; no tiled roof; open plan living; large multipurpose bedrooms but less of them); accessible design in case of accident or old age (you are a little more aware of these issues when some idiot driver has mowed you down); various infrastructure and fittings designed, selected and placed in ways to integrate into the house and/or minimise visual/noise nuisance for neighbours; design in reduced cleaning and maintenance and design out safety hazards.

Thinking about your home project can make the world of difference for you. Is ANZAC Day your target for not using the heater? ANZAC Day + 30 days before ours was turned on first time.

And please don’t take that as bragging – I just want other people to realise that if they seize control of their home building project, they too can enjoy such benefits. More than 400 people have been through the home the last two Sustainable House Days, so hopefully it is starting to engender some change.

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