Where should a house sit on the site?
Q When constructing a new home in the Northern United States, is it preferable to align it on an east-west axis for a better southern exposure?
Ralph Greipp, via E-mail
A Yes. If you position the long side facing south and add a lot of windows on that side, you'll get a lot of warming sunlight in winter. This "passive solar gain" will reduce your heating bills. Unfortunately, home planning is rarely that simple. Large south-facing windows with warm sunlight streaming in on a cold January day may be desirable, but not if you're looking at the city dump next door. Designing is a process of give and take.
Here are other major factors:
* Lot line setbacks, structure height restrictions and other zoning laws
* Access to the street for cars and foot traffic
* Protection from wind and rain
* Trees and other major landscape features
Consider hiring a professional to help develop the concept drawings. Architects and designers should consider all these issues and incorporate them into the design. Armed with these concept sketches, meet with your local building officials to determine what they require for actual working plans. You can save money during the design process by completing the working drawings yourself. If you'd like to bite off an even bigger chunk of the planning, dig into the books in your local library on home and remodeling design.