How to Design a Residential Building


Residential buildings can encompass everything from a three bedroom, two bath home to an apartment building with two hundred units. Although residential designs vary greatly, there are considerations that must be taken into account regardless of the size of your project. Location, materials, safety, energy and plumbing are just a few of the things that you will need to keep in mind as you design your building. A good residence will take into consideration the overall "streetscape" as well as the needs of individual occupants.

  • Consider where the residential building will be located. Look at the surrounding buildings and the overall area. You'll need to design the exterior of the building to fit in the location.

  • Check with the neighborhood association to see what restrictions exist concerning the height of the building, the distance it must be set back from the street and similar considerations. According to the City of Santa Ana Planning and Building Agency, "Consideration should be given to the scale and bulk of a building in its relationship to the scale of the street and neighboring properties."

  • Check with the city council regarding local building ordinances. Plumbing, electricity and building materials are all subject to regulation. Multi-occupancy buildings will have even more safety regulations that you will need to factor in to your design.

  • Factor in ways to save money with your design. A simple design is much less expensive to build than a complicated one with complex electrical and plumbing needs.

  • Research the price of buildings in the area. Factor in this information when deciding what materials to build the house out of and what fixtures to install. For example, hardwood floors with granite kitchen counters are attractive, but may make the building unsalable if the price is too high for the area.

  • Design the building to be green. This can increase the value of the home, and does not have to add significantly to the cost of the building. Take advantage of building site features to locate windows to maximize solar energy or shade.

  • Reduce the amount of raw material you use by designing a building that uses advanced wood framing. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends using advanced wall framing to reduce the amount of wood used in constructing a home.

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