Sydney isn’t the most straightforward place to undertake a construction project. Even without inflated property prices and frustrating local council regulations, the topography itself can be a serious challenge.

Many home sites throughout Sydney are steeply sloping. Building on a site like this is always more complicated than dropping a home on a more or less flat piece of land due to stormwater and structural issues as well as council height restrictions.

If your site is very steep it may be basically impossible to build a project home upon it. Project homes are designed for standard flat sites and do not take into account natural variations in topography.

Some councils may allow you to use cut and fill to flatten an area on the site.

This means excavating the higher ground and using the material that has been removed to raise the lower ground thereby creating a platform for construction.

This creates a few problems and is probably not the best form of development for a sloping site.

You will need to use retaining walls at the higher end to prevent collapse of the natural ground and control the movement of water down the hill.

It also means that there will be a height difference at the lower end so you can’t easily step outside.

It may well also mean that the council-imposed height limit on the site will be exceeded at the lower end. Height limits may, in fact, force you to look at a more creative solution for building on a sloping site.

Councils often prefer developments to adhere to the natural slope of the ground by stepping down the hill.

This might mean using split or multi-level homes to take advantage of, rather than ignore, the topography of the site. Such an approach almost always results in a more appropriate development for a sloping site, and one that blends in better with the natural environment.

It makes sense to locate basements, storage and service areas in the lower levels of such homes. As they must generally be partly underground, tanking (or waterproofing) of the structure is vital to prevent problems with damp.

The temperature underground is more stable than above, so this could be a great place to store your wine. The next level up could be living areas with direct access to the street and main guest entry to the home.

Bedrooms could then be on the top level. Conversely you may wish to locate the living areas at the top to maximise views. The layout will of course depend on the location of street access and other site features.

Whatever the layout, a multi-level home can be an exciting solution to the challenges of building on a sloping site -“ and one that satisfies everyone.

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