A sloping site often means that there is a view. One of the best ways of taking advantage of this view is to reverse the accommodation to bring the living areas to the top with the sleeping areas to the lower floors. The garage can be a complicating factor in all of this. If the road is at the higher level then the solution is for the garage to move with the rest of the reception accommodation. If the road is at the lower level then there might be no alternative but for it to remain. However, it is likely that in those circumstances the entrance accommodation will also have to share the lower floor.
Be aware that for every potential buyer who is excited by the individuality of the design, there are many who cannot accept departure from the norm. The housebuying public are incredibly conservative. They expect a natural progression of rooms. It may not devalue your home in real terms, but it will cut down the number of potential buyers and lengthen the time taken to sell.
All too often, homes built on sloping sites fall into the trap of providing purely functional accommodation and pay little heed to the need to maintain a good visual impact. Sites that slope up from the road may well use the expedient of having the garage, entrance and utility accommodation on the lower floor. This can be boring especially if the remaining storeys then tower above with little or no break in regimented windows and walling. Try to break up the hard edges. Set garage doors back or beneath overhanging balconies to reduce their visual impact. Introduce doors as well as windows to upper floors and break up the front elevation by stepping parts back and introducing forward gable projections. Consider bolt-on balconies and consider also whether the ground has to be level at the front and whether stairs up one side to an entrance on the middle level might not look better.
Sites that slope away from the road suffer from being unable to advertise the full extent of their accommodation. If a five bedroom house looks like a small bungalow from the road, potential buyers might be put off coming in, and even if you do get them in, might opt for a property with more obvious kerb appeal. There is little you can do apart from positioning the home so that even the casual observer can see from the front that it extends downwards — and offer some indication of the hidden accommodation, such as through the use of rooflights.
Part M of the Building Regulations relating to disabled access can sometimes affect the design of a house on a sloping site. Externally, they require that access ramps for slopes up to 1 in 15 should not be longer than 10 metres, and those for gradients up to 1 in 10, no longer than 5 metres. Steeply sloping sites can, in the absence of a ramp, employ steps at least 900mm wide with a rise no greater than 150mm and a distance between landings of no more than 1,800mm. Additionally, if there are more than three risers, handrails must be provided to at least one side.
Internally the entrance floor must contain a WC accessible by wheelchair and here, the Regulations make no distinction between split level and flat site homes.Click here for our guide to Part M of the building regulations.
A sloping site may mean that a split level floorplan is the most cost-effective way to develop a site. However, this will usually involve several small sets of stairs between levels and this can add to costs. Multiple levels may also limit the appeal of a property to households with elderly, disabled, or young members. Changes in level can, however, add considerably to the interest and appeal of a property, for instance, a change in floor level can be used as an informal way of defining different areas within an open plan space, as an alternative to using partition walls.
A garden that slopes away from the visual point within a home can be lost. Think about raised decks or patios. Raised wooden decks can be attractive and they can be constructed in such a way as to allow light to filter down to the windows of lower storeys. A garden that slopes up from the home is one that can be seen to an even greater degree than a flat site. It becomes a three-dimensional garden that can be terraced so as to bring beauty to all levels of the home.