Building On A Slope

Building On Slopes

New homes on a hill

Living on the hill appeals to many people, and it’s easy to see why. Who doesn’t dream of waking up each morning to a spectacular coastal or city view?  When building or renovating a house on the hill you’ll need to think about several important factors to ensure your project is a success.

Christchurch has a plentiful supply of hill properties – whether you’re looking at new subdivisions on the hills around Sumner, Redcliffs or Kennedys Bush, or buying a section or house in an established neighbourhood such as Cashmere, Huntsbury or Mount Pleasant, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the perfect location for your new home.

We’re specialists when it comes to designing new homes and alterations on Christchurch’s Port Hills. Read on for a few tips to steer you in the right direction and to find out how you’ll benefit from working with us on your next project.

What should you think about when buying a section or existing house on the hill?

Views are obviously important, and in some locations such as Scarborough Hill people are willing to go to great expense to perch houses on difficult sites just to enjoy the spectacular view of Sumner, Christchurch City and the Southern Alps.

If you’re working to a tighter budget however, it’s important to consider some equally important factors that will affect your project:

First think about the environmental conditions on the site – when will you lose the sun, and in which directions will you be most exposed to the wind? In Christchurch the choicest hill properties are usually those facing slightly to the west – you can enjoy afternoon sun whilst being sheltered from the easterly breeze.

Secondly consider how easy it will be to build on your chosen section – how steep is it, and is there good vehicle access? Buying the cheapest site may be false economy if you end up sinking a significant portion of your budget into the driveway, foundations, and retaining walls. Often it’s worth spending a little more for a site with a gentle slope and good access, as it can make every aspect of the build much easier and save you money in the long run.

Secrets of good hill home design

  1. The location of outdoor living is key – think about when you’ll be spending most of your time outdoors, and what parts of the site will be best at different times of the day.
  2. Don’t just take a house designed for a flat site and form a flat platform to sit it on. Successful hill house designs will work with the contours of the landscape, with the home carefully positioned to provide good access between indoor and outdoor areas. Careful selection of materials and a well-chosen roof style will ensure your home look like it belongs on the site.
  3. Solar control – it can be tempting to make it all about the view by putting floor to ceiling windows everywhere. However too much glass can lead to overheating in summer and higher heating costs in winter, often for no real benefit. Carefully-placed windows will allow you to appreciate the views from each space without causing overheating.
  4. Controlling water is critical – groundwater, surface water, when you’re on the hill there’s nowhere to hide, and once your structure is buried in the ground you’ll never get a chance to get behind the house to fix waterproofing problems. Careful detailing and specification of appropriate waterproofing and tanking membranes, combined with drains to remove groundwater and surface water, are essential to protect your investment.
  5. Use an expert – investing in good design represents just a small portion of the project cost, but affects every aspect of your project. Without it you could end up spending an equivalent amount to build a house of the same size, but end up with a house that just doesn’t work. By working with an architect experienced in the design of hill homes in Christchurch you’ll get it right first time.

Building On Slopes

How can we help you create your dream hill home?

We’ll listen

First and foremost we’ll listen to you describe how you want your home to work for you – is it a family home, a place to entertain or a comfortable home for your retirement? We’ll involve you in every step of the design process as we come up with a unique design that suits your lifestyle.

We have experience

We are specialists when it comes to hill houses, and know what it takes to get it right. We will produce a clear and detailed set of documentation that shows your builder exactly how your new home is to be assembled, minimising unanticipated issues on site.

We’ll build relationships

We have strong working relationships with many of the best local consultants including structural engineers, land surveyors and landscape architects. We know what skills will be required to complete your project, and can put together an appropriate team to respond to its unique challenges.

The construction phase of a project can be the most stressful. We find the best way to manage this is to pair clients with builders who they will relate well to so they can maintain a positive working relationship right to the end of the job.

Wondering where to start?

Call us now to arrange a free consultation to discuss your project – we’ll meet with you in our office or on your chosen site, and you’ll leave with a clear understanding of the process we will follow to bring your dream home to life. To help prepare for our meeting you can download our Guide to Writing a Brief which will help us understand exactly what you want from your project.