The Building Plot

urban lot that is small? No issue. We investigate the design options for projects on constrained sites when available space is limited.

In a country where urban plots are in relatively short supply, brownfield sites and garden plots are among the only possibilities accessible for self builders wishing to establish new homes in towns and cities.

This unavoidably results in many projects being constructed on small, constrained sites, which can provide problems for both the design and the planning stages of construction.

Yet, homeowners do not necessarily have to settle for straightforward designs on sites with limited space. Architects are stepping up to the plate and designing fascinating residences that successfully address the problems .

Here, we provide some design suggestions for constructing a new house or remodelling an existing one on a small lot, as well as some fantastic examples of urban construction.

Tips for close design

Pay Attention to the Internal Layout

“The first thing to know with small plots is that chances are it’s not as small as you think it is,” says Meredith Bowles, director of Mole Architects.

“Keep in mind that individuals with existing homes, not only little ones, always want to feel like they have more room, so they open the doors and windows to the outside. Use the same strategy with small plots, whether it’s through a roof terrace or a courtyard.

Small lots do not necessarily preclude you from having the expansive open-concept kitchen and dining area of your dreams. Even if the space you’re dealing with is modest, there are many methods to increase the sensation of space in your house by paying close attention to the floorplan and via careful planning.

An open plan living arrangement is an excellent design idea for making smaller spaces appear larger. You can increase the size of the room by reducing circulation sections. If you have hallways, glaze them so that light can be reflected from adjacent rooms. Another option is to connect rooms using a courtyard scenario rather than a corridor.

Make sure, too, that the areas you build are flexible enough to satisfy many uses. For example, a study may also be a music room, a guest bedroom, or a utility/store,” advises Darren Bray.

Maximize Daylight in a City Self Build

“Getting natural light in is perhaps the most crucial element when constructing a home on a tiny plot — especially light from above, to make the house feel larger and more open,” adds Meredith. “A rooflight will admit five times as much light as a window because windows are sometimes restricted by their surroundings, such as nearby buildings or trees. Rooflights, on the other hand, provide a clear sky


“Open stair treads also serve to give the impression of spaciousness and let light pass through. These little design choices can really make a difference. Thought should be given to where glazing will be placed, since this might be problematic for privacy and overlooking.


Including a Basement Level

Digging down is frequently one of the best alternatives for confined sites in metropolitan settings where extending to the side, front, or back is not an option, or for self-builds when the height of the new building is constrained.

It’s crucial to decide if a basement will be used for primary or secondary housing when planning one. Basements are not well suited for use as a kitchen, dining area, or living space unless you are planning to add a device like a sunken courtyard or lightwell. Basements are ideal for cinema rooms, utility/plant/storage areas, or even bedrooms (rooms which do not typically require as much daylight as your primary living spaces).


In this situation, it may be advisable to collaborate with your architect to design a “upside-down” floor plan that places the areas that require the most natural light on the floor(s) above.

Although adding a basement to an existing home can typically increase its footprint, the luxury of extra room comes at a price, with the cost of digging a new basement and underpinning averaging between £2,000 and £3,000/m2.

If you decide to add lightwells or external access points, the costs will go up even more, but it is preferable to speak with your architect, quantity surveyor, and/or contractor to get a better understanding of what the expected costs are based on your preferred design, location, and access.

Be mindful, too, that issues such as a high water table, the need to reroute drains and challenging ground conditions – clay, sand, marsh, etc – will also effect on expenses.

Use the Roofspace

Another option for expanding the space in your current home, similar to digging down, is to make space in the roof. A loft conversion may not always require planning approval.

When planning limits the height of the ridge in a new home, putting in rooms in the roof may just provide you the space you need. A flat roof, on the other hand, might offer useful space without having an effect on nearby houses.

Do you need more information ? 

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