Building Envelope

If you need to fit a large House onto a small block one of the issues you will have to deal with is ‘The Building Envelope”.

What this means is the actual area within your title boundaries that is legally and physically possible to build on.

The building envelope can be affected (reduced) by:

  • The size and positioning of Easements.
  • Required Setbacks from roads.
  • Restrictive Covenants.
  • Setbacks from adjoining blocks.
  • Ability to Build on Boundary.
  • Significant trees.
  • Existing buildings/structures that can’t /  won’t be removed.
  • Neighbourhood amenities.
  • Location of driveway crossovers.
  • Requirement for vehicles to leave the site travelling forward if the block is on a main road.
  • Nature strip assets such as Fire Hydrants.

So when you are looking at buying a block don’t think you can automatically build on all……. or even 75% of the block.

All councils will have different requirements and may even have varying requirements for different neighbourhoods.

It can be worthwhile talking to the council about permissible Building Envelopes, particularly if you want to  build on more than 50% of the block or are on a corner block.


See Blocks for more things to think about when buying a block.




Planning the Laundry

In England the washing machine and dryer are generally in the kitchen.

As a consequence the laundry in our first house we built was tiny. It was just big enough to fit the washing machine, dryer, laundry trough, and a walkway about 800mm wide to the back door.

After ten years in that house we decided that the next laundry would be bigger.

Our current house has a laundry that includes room for washing baskets, and a linen press. We also have room to store the ironing board, brushes and mops. I am still not sure however I have got everything the laundry right.

I have tried to list all the things below you might want in this undervalued room besides having a home for the laundry appliances and the trough:

  • Baskets for dirty linen and clothes baskets.
  • Room for baskets of laundry brought in from the washing line before they are folded
  • Storage of soaps, detergents, toilet rolls.
  • Room to set up an ironing board.
  • Rail for ironed clothes.
  • Airing rack.
  • Laundry press.
  • Television, to watch while doing the ironing.
  • Hooks for gardening clothes and a boot storage rack.
  • Pet food storage.
  • Dog basket.
  • Storage for mops, buckets, brushes, and a vacuum cleaner.

I am not saying you need to have room for all these things but its worth considering what space you want.

Other things to think about are

  • Installing a floor drain to protect the rest of the house in case of floods.
  • Putting the machines on a plinth to save all the bending over.
  • Making sure a drier can be vented to the outside.
  • Plumbing to allow grey water to be collected for garden watering.

Do you have any tips for laundry planning?


See Electrical Planning for Electrical fit out of your Laundry


Door Opening

One of the small things that can really make a difference to your house is how doors open……..but its one thing that is frequently forgotten.

This sketch shows a typical bedroom and ensuite layout. (I know it doesn’t show the wardrobe but I’m trying to keep it simple)

A couple of things you need to think about are:

Into The Room Or Not

You will see as usual the doors to open from the corridor, into the room or into the en-suite from the bedroom as in this diag.

Particularly in the case of bathrooms and en-suites it makes a lot of sense for the door to open into the bedroom as this makes a lot more usable room in the bathroom.

It also minimises the risk of sending my wife flying if I open the door while she is at the mirror putting her make up on.

In the case of separate toilets its actually much safer to have the door open outwards.


Left Or Right Handed

How to tell – When you look at the door from the side it opens towards, and you can see the hinges…. which side are they on? That is the hand of the door.

Looking at the door to the bedroom you will see that the door is hinged on the right as you look at it from inside the room.

This works well as the door opens against the wall. Having the door hinged from the left side doesn’t seem much different, but it means you have to walk round the door to get out.

It seems minor but in our last house we got one door wrong and it annoyed us every day for 6 years.

You need to get the door opening sorted out before you can finalise your electrical plan as it will affect which side of the door you put the light switches.

Once the wires are installed and the drywall installed changing the door direction can be a major cost.

More on doors including 24 pages of Check Lists for your new house choices in the

‘Selection / Pre-Start Guide’


Starting House Design 3

In two other posts (Bubble Diagrams 1 and  Bubble Diagram 2) I have described how you can start a design using bubble diagrams. When you are happy with the bubble diagrams then you can start working on how the floor plan will look.

At this stage use graph paper to make it easy to  draw things up quickly and change things. Don’t get too involved with exact dimensions the nearest 200 or 250mm (or foot if you use imperial measurements) should be fine.

The plan above was based on the bubble diagrams.

The features of this house are:

  • A rectangular plan to keep things simple and economical.
  • A north facing Passive Solar House with bedrooms lounge and dining room on the north side, all having 2m high windows or patio doors.
  • A full length veranda on the North side providing Shading from the Northern Sun
  • A single small West facing window in the laundry.
  • A single narrow East facing window in the bedroom.
  • A wood burning stove in the centre of the house with solid brick chimney for thermal mass.
  • Bathroom, en-suite, toilet, study all forming a Buffer Zone on the south.
  • A car port and fernery  was proposed on the south to provide a protective Microclimate.
  • Our bedroom at the opposite end of the house to the children.
  • Being able to see approaching visitors from the kitchen window.

Once you have got a layout that you can agree on, its time to think about getting it drawn up accurately.


Although we loved this house it wasn’t perfect . . . . here are some things we got wrong.

  1. The laundry was too small.
  2. The spa bath was hardly used in the ten years we lived there. . we would have been better off making the bathroom smaller and the laundry bigger.
  3. The connecting door between the family room and the lounge. . . we found the kids would walk in front of us through the lounge in getting from their room to the kitchen!



For similar posts see Drawings and Floor Plans