Building on an Irregularly Shaped Lot

Last month I wrote about the process of building a single family home in Vancouver. This month I will be focussing on building a home on an irregularly shaped property. Before considering an irregularly shaped lot, ask yourself if you would prefer a home that is different than your standard cookie cutter house. If you answered yes, then an irregularly shaped property may be the right choice.

The challenge to a property with skewed or curved property lines is finding the set-back lines for the house itself. The RS-1 bylaw has some pretty prescriptive ways of accomplishing this. The challenge is to interpret the bylaw “correctly”. An architect will be able to assist you with this and will quickly be able to arrive at the footprint for the home.

Following is an example of a property that I have listed at 3306 Trutch Street in Vancouver that shows where the home could be located on this irregularly shaped lot. I really like the 146 feet of south west front exposure for this example and the fact that the side yards for the home set your home back from the surrounding homes. The set back from other homes also provides for an opportunity to design and build bay windows on all four sides of the home versus just the front and back.

The next step would be to calculate the amount of area that can be located above grade. According to the RS-1 bylaw, you are allowed 20% of the lot area plus an additional 1,400 square feet. For this 7,700 square foot lot you would be allowed to build approximately 2,855 square feet above grade (see plan below). The maximum size for the home is 60% of the total size of the property. For this example you could add another 1,700 square feet to the basement in order to maximize the buildable area on the site.

The garage placement is the next item to address. The city of Vancouver (and the RS-1 bylaw) encourages builders to place their garage in the back of the property off of the lane. Having lived in Arizona, I can appreciate the aesthetic to having the garage in the back of the home and not looking at a sea of garage doors as you walk or drive down a street (very common with the track homes that you see in built in the outlying areas of Vancouver such as Port Coquitlam). In order for the garage to not count in the liveable above grade square footage, you must place your garage within 26 feet of the rear property line.

After the home and garage is situated on the lot, it is time to come up with a landscaping plan. This is where I believe an irregularly shaped will shine over your standard rectangular lot. As you can see from the example above, this lot provides the opportunity for two back yards (technically side yards). With this property, you could have one yard for the kids and one for adult entertaining. Usually a back yard does not get enough natural light. With an irregular lot you have more of an opportunity to light your yard space (such as the yard with south west exposure in this example). Porches, hedges and other combinations of soft scape and hard scape could be used to create a very attractive and inviting yard.


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