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Questions to Ask About Your Building Lot

Listen to the land as you build your new house


The Miller House by Richard Neutra is designed for a desert landscape

The Miller House by Richard Neutra is designed for a desert landscape

Photo © Flickr Member Ilpo's Sojourn

Once you have located a promising building site for your new home, spend some time on the building site. Walk the full length of the building site at different times of the day. If you are a follower of feng shui, you may want to think about the land in terms of its ch'i, or energy. If you prefer a more down-to-earth evaluation, think about ways the building site will influence the shape and style of your home. Ask yourself:

  • What are the general characteristics of the land? Is it green and woodsy? Rocky and gray? Or, is it a vast open stretch with a golden hue? Will the prevailing colors of the landscape change with the seasons? Will the home you imagine blend with the landscape? Does the landscape suggest particular colors or materials you might include in the design of your home?


  • Can other structures be clearly seen from the building lot? What is the prevailing architectural style? Will your proposed home fit the overall context of the neighborhood?

  • Will the size of your proposed house be proportionate to the size of the lot? (You don't want to squeeze a mansion onto a postage stamp!)


  • Is there a street or road? Should the house face toward or away from the road?


  • Where should the driveway be located? Will there be enough room for cars and delivery trucks to turn around?


  • Where are the most pleasing views? Where does the sun rise and set? Which views would you like to see from the living areas? From the kitchen? From the bedrooms? Where should windows and doors be placed?


  • If you are in a northern climate, how important is it to face the south? Will a southern exposure help you save on heating costs?


  • Is the site flat? Are there hills or streams? Are there any other geological conditions that might affect the design or placement of your home?


  • How much landscaping will be required? Will preparing the land for building and planting trees and shrubbery add to your final costs?
The waterfall views at Fallingwater may look idyllic, but for most of us, building on a rocky hillside isn't practical. You want the site of your new home to be beautiful, but it must also be safe... and affordable. Before you make a final decision, you'll need to consider a mind-boggling list of technical details.
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