As land prices soar, tall homes on small plots are the smart way to go.
When Babu (name changed) headed to the market to realise his long-term dream of building a home, he was in for a rude shock. Land prices had shot up again, pushing his dream home out of reach.
Not one to give up, he soon figured a way out. He bought 2.5 cents of land instead of the originally planned five cents and looked to compensate the lack of horizontal space with vertical space. Yes, he has built a two-floor structure on his plot, which has helped him save on land cost and at the same time given him more or less the same comfort that a single-floor home built on a five-cent plot would provide.
Babu is not alone. Several others have started realising the value of vertical spaces, an idea that has been undermined till now. Vertical space, when put to appropriate use, can help you save a chunk, especially at a time when land is fast turning into a precious and unaffordable commodity. No wonder this space is now being looked upon as a boon by those with limited financial resources.
Architect Anupama Mohanram of Green Evolution Architectural Consultancy, Chennai, says, “If I were to choose between buying five cents of land and building one floor on it against buying 2.5 cents and building a two-floor structure on it, I would choose the latter. Considering land cost these days, a 2.5-cent plot is far more affordable. You can build a 1,000 sq.ft home with 500 sq. ft on each floor. The cost of construction will not be very different between the two.”
Many people nurture the impression that they require several rooms to lead a comfortable life. Architect Sumitra Vasudevan of Aprobuild says, “Before constructing a home, decide on the space you will be using. Often, people tend to use only a portion of what they construct. For instance, I’ve come across homes that have attached baths for every bedroom. But all the members of the family end up using only one bathroom and the others remain unused. Such excesses can be avoided.”
Besides this, multiple floors allow joint families to stay together and yet offer privacy.
So, how many rooms can be on each floor on a 2.5-cent plot? Ms. Mohanram says, “On the ground floor, you could have a living-cum-dining hall, a kitchen and a bedroom/bath. On the first floor, there could be two bedrooms with attached baths.”
Most people don’t realise that only a certain portion of space is used in a room for day-to-day tasks. Almost the entire top portion of the room (just below the ceiling) remains unused. This space can be put to great use by opting for storage lofts, bunk beds and beds with study areas below.
Look at creative ideas like an indoor spiral staircase, which saves space and looks airy. Or use the recess below a regular staircase as a small office or library. If you have a tiny garden, putting in large French windows on the wall that looks out on it adds to the illusion of space. Most important, don’t forget the roof — it can be your garden or party zone.
Any concept is bound to have two sides. Those against vertical space utilisation say that vertical buildings require more electricity than horizontal ones. Pose this question to Ms. Mohanram and she retorts, “This may be true for vertical buildings with several floors that require elevators and other equipment. However, a ground floor plus a floor or two will consume less electricity primarily due to less cooling costs. The lower floors don’t get the heat coming through the roof. Also, higher floors will receive more daylight, thus saving the use of artificial lighting in the day.”
The next major concern is that most families believe parking space can’t be provided. Actually, it can, and Ms. Mohanram suggests, “The house can be raised either partially or completely on a stilt, which allows space for parking. The cost of building a stilt floor is minimal and will add only a small percentage to overall costs.”
Another worry is allowable FSI (floor space index). Ms. Mohanram says, “You can maximise the FSI and go high, as long as the permitted heights in the locality are not exceeded.”
Check your local zoning rules before building. Remember, a dream home can come in any size.