Chapter 4 - The Lot Plan
Our home plan revolved around features that Linda and I had found in our experience to be handy. We looked for a piece of land with a south or west-facing slope. Although building on a flat piece of ground is easier, sloping ground provides several advantages. We wanted a basement for the utilitarian value of the space and a daylight basement built into the side of a hill makes this space accessible at ground level. A south or west-facing slope allows sunlight to penetrate this space most of the day. An east-facing slope would also have served this purpose but the best views on our land are to the west and afternoon sunshine is usually warmer than morning sunshine. As I expected, the daylight basement is easy to keep warm in the winter and a cool haven on hot summer days.
Since our land is in a rural setting, we anticipated a lack of municipal services such as a public water supply. Our land is also at an elevation of 7,500 feet in a fairly arid part of the country so drilling a well for a water supply would probably not be successful. The typical solution to the water supply problem in this area is having water delivered to a cistern from the town water system. This is where the sloped land comes in handy. If the cistern water supply is at the top of the hill and the house is below it, water can be fed to the house by gravity, thus avoiding the need for a loud and expensive pump. Ideally, a stream would run down this hill, but a piece of land with that feature gets pretty expensive.
The entrance driveway should be fairly flat and run in a north to south direction. This allows the driveway to be in sunshine most of the time facilitating its drying after rain and snow storms. Our plot filled all of these requirements by being at a road intersection. The main road runs north and south along the ridge at the top of the hill where the access road to the cistern is located. The east and west side road goes down the hill where the entrance to our driveway can traverse the plot to the house site and remain fairly level.
During one of our camping trips we hired the local contractor who had built the roads on the ranch development. I was a little leery of having work done on the land without being there to supervise but without a cistern and a driveway, we weren’t going to get very far very fast. It took this fellow a whole year to get the job done, probably because no one was there to nag him. However, by June of 1993 we had exactly the driveway we had in mind and the cistern was ready to use.
We also considered that as time goes by, our desire to climb stairs from the basement to the first floor would diminish. To avoid this problem, we designed the building site with the driveway looping around the house site. With this arrangement, we can enter the house at both levels and avoid using stairs. The trick is to make the loop large enough not to create a steep hill in the driveway.