Residential Design Series Open Plan Living

June 26, 2018


Open Plan Living.

The Design Process.

What is your budget?

Plenty of enquires revolve around can I afford a roof conversion or do I redesign the existing ground floor?

Roof conversions usually come with a ground floor alteration and addition required to complete the picture. So they tend to be doubly expensive.

Naturally some houses lend themselves to a roof conversion and should be utilized. Nevertheless not every house has the correct roof pitch or height and don’t easily fit the mould and it’s these that we are interested in now.

Often a house is intolerable to live in simply because of the existing poor design. A common scenario is two or three bedrooms serviced by a bathroom the size of a confessional. The kitchen is falling off the darkest or hottest wall in the house. The living room has four walls one aluminum window and a narrow exit.

At this point I suggest you go out into the garden and look back at your own roof structure. You’ll have your major roof towards the front and then either a skillion design or a mismatch of minor roofs falling to the back door. The majority of houses I see have very low ceilings, poor visibility and poor airflow at the rear. Some of them have very narrow verandahs.

To open up and present your home at the rear you will need to redesign those minor roofs.

This is why what some people consider the most simple of designs often isn’t either simple or inexpensive.

As I have mentioned previously, one way to save money is to minimize the number of walls you demolish, particularly in those areas of the house where you have beautiful, ornate ceilings. So if you are looking for an extra bedroom or study, then consider the possibilities of those service rooms you definitely want to move. A small living room, dining room or even a badly positioned kitchen may be quite appropriate for that extra bedroom.

Moving the confessional style bathroom to the existing kitchen space is often a good move in that plumbing alterations are kept to a minimum.

Really what you are trying to do is remove the service rooms away from the rear of the house, demolish the assortment of roofs and rebuild with a conventionally low-pitched roof and an open floor plan that flows to the garden.

Last month we talked about the structural requirements to support the large spans of roof.  Universal beams carry the loads that are then transferred to the foundations by the structural supports.  These can be masonry, steel columns or stud walls.

As usual the associated costs will come down to weight and bulk. Tile roofs are much heavier than colourbond roofs and will require more structural strength to support them. The majority of my clients when presented with the arithmetic generally accept the lightweight colourbond as the sensible alternative. Note, if they are properly insulated metal roofs are no noisier than tile roofs.

One point worth noting is that if you need to use sky-windows to bring light into the house then you will need a roof pitch of at least 15degrees to prevent leaking. The reason I mention this is because most colourbond roofs are installed at a lower roof pitch. Lysaght corrugated colourbond requires a pitch of 5degrees.

Some inner city councils are now requesting that you install a small water tank. The request usually comes as part of the conditions of approval that come with the Development Application.

The design advantage with all tanks is that as long as the top of the tank is below the level of the eaves then you can gravity feed the water into the tank via your storm water pipes that are redirected to the tank. You then have an overflow pipe from the tank back to the street. This allows you to think about the position of your tank relative to the house and garden.

Sydney houses lend themselves to open plan ground floor renovations.

Open Plan ground floor alterations and additions rarely create much angst in the DA process. The designs can look sharp and smooth without being too expensive. You often achieve exactly what you need and want even if you didn’t know it when you started.

Obviously planning is an important issue when trying to maximize the limited available space, keep costs to a minimum and not repeat the design mistakes that have already been made.

In my mind the design process is the most important part of your development project. If you get it right you will end up with a comfortable renovation at a price you can afford.

Good building and design!

Note: The views expressed in this article are of a broadly based nature and are in no way to be taken as the basis of an individual design. Should a reader wish to pursue the ideas expressed then at all times we recommend they consult with the appropriate professionals. 


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