Split level houses are a natural fit | DOMAIN

With the number of new housing estates popping up on Bendigo’s often undulating topography, property developers, builders, and prospective homeowners are increasingly finding themselves posing the question: to cut the land so it’s flat, or work with its natural contours?

G.J. Gardner Homes Bendigo recently launched a series of split level homes, effectively demonstrating how houses can be built on an undulating block without the need for costly and unsightly retaining walls, huge cuts, or large areas of filled land that place the house in a hole in the ground and cause potential issues with drainage and storm water runoff.

One of these designs has been built in Villawood Properties Imagine Estate in Strathfieldsaye.

The three-tiered property features timber stairs joining one level to the other and a host of other fixtures and fittings to showcase what can be achieved.

A STEP FORWARD: Built by G.J. Gardner Homes Bendigo, this house in Villawood Properties Imagine Estate, Strathfieldsaye, demonstrates how a sloping block can be expertly tackled by building a split level house.

A STEP FORWARD: Built by G.J. Gardner Homes Bendigo, this house in Villawood Properties Imagine Estate, Strathfieldsaye, demonstrates how a sloping block can be expertly tackled by building a split level house.

The new range includes plans to suit blocks with slopes in all directions, together with designs that incorporate the garage or living spaces underneath part of the home, thus allowing for greater design flexibility in sites with severe falls.

Managing director of G.J. Gardner Homes Bendigo, Danny Breen said that while some Bendigo sites occupy reasonably flat land, roughly 70 per cent of the region is undulated. “We put out a whole series of split level, almost double storey houses catering to that market,” he said. “It’s a growing market, where people don’t want to cut the land to the nth degree. They’re such beautiful estates, you’d be mad to cut the bejesus out of it.”

According to Danny, years ago it was common to follow the natural contour of the land by building on stumps, or creating an infill slab or suspended concrete base.

This is no longer usual practise as it’s a more complicated way to build, the cost involved in achieving the mandatory 6 Star energy rating has risen and the insulation value of a concrete slab is higher.

Danny said G.J. Gardner Homes take into consideration the natural contour of the land and eliminate the need for retaining walls, except perhaps for some small versions in the landscaping (most people desire some part of the land to be level, for areas such as lawn).

“If people are prepared to work with a block, rather than dig themselves in a great big hole, there are options,” he said, noting that sloping blocks do need to be customised.

“A lot of people look at a block and think it’s pretty flat, but there might be 1½ metres of fall from front to back, so we always like to do a preliminary inspection,” he said. 

“You need to know how to tackle it before spending another $100,000 on it.” 

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