Orienting the house

In the planning stages of building the house we had known the importance of southern exposure for the purposes of solar gain for heating in the winter, solar photovoltaic panels, as well as limiting any north facing windows. Fortunately for us our best views of the river were south and east. To the north there really wasn’t much to look at except for our shop and the trees.


When we first bought the property, as part of the package came a Geotechnical survey. With us being so close to the riverbank this was a critical piece of information that we would have had to have done before building. The property coming with this saved us a few thousand dollars, which is always nice. Interestingly enough the fellow who owned the property originally (in fact, he owned all of the property along the riverbank from ours to about 5 miles downstream) stopped by to introduce himself. He still owned 40 acres down the road and was interested to see who the new people were. He and his wife had actually developed our property about 15 years ago with the intention to build their home there, though for whatever reason this never happened. He had gotten the Geotechnical done during that time. He explained that his intent was to build a 2000 sq.ft house with a walk-out basement into the hillside overlooking the river. Right here:


That would have been impressive for sure. But for Darcie and I we don’t have a giant pile of money to build something of that significance especially requiring that level of engineering to perform the proper ground preparation.

Also, once we started spending time at the land, we felt that you actually got a better view of the river, the sky, and the land by being a bit further back from the edge of the river bank. (Also the thought of precariously sitting on the edge made me nervous). With the cost of excavation and construction, moving the house back a bit just made sense to us.

Crystal Bueckert, our designer, came out for a site visit as we began nearing the completion of the design and had mostly finalized the size. We spent a couple hours with string and stakes, marking out and moving the footprint of the house. We eventually came to a spot that we felt captured the most ultimate views. It was always oriented for solar exposure with the long side of the house facing south, but moving the footprint closer and further and forward and backward really made a difference. It was pretty cool being able to sit in the living room or stand at the sink and see how the view changed. It was also really exciting to picture the house on the lot and begin to imagine what our life will be like.