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Architecture 🏛 Single family house design standards

TOFB

Cyburbian
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3,208
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45
We adopted some pretty strict (for Iowa) single family design standards in 2019. The number of permits issued is about the same pre-pandemic. Now all the new houses look basically like this

Same.JPG


Why so? Is this a bad thing?
 
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Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
1,129
Points
39
No SF design standards for us. I bring it up periodically when people encounter a house (or more realistically a whole subdivision full of houses) whose design they hate but no political will to regulate it.

With a lot of our new SF being "carriage homes" situated on common land (and don't even get me started about godawful "footprint lots" and platting) there might be more will to regulate SF design going forward.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,673
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53
We have two sets of design standards.

For custom homes we just ask that it's not a box with windows. You have to put some trim on it, a tree in the front yard, and we focus on things like the garage can't be more than 1/2 the house.

For tract homes the builder needs to provide at least 3 floorplans and each floorplan needs at least 3 elevation options plus the other stuff about the garage and we make them do different front setbacks, etc.

So everything ends up looking like a stucco box. Although the custom homes are starting to go to a more modern look.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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We have basic form, layout and site orientation requirements, but due to our relatively narrow lot widths and SF house redevelopment pressure (aka teardowns), because of high socio-economics, we get alot of this form (forward, but side loaded garages on interior lots):

front-sideload garage_1.png


front-sideload garage_2.png


But lately we're getting the above form with the below exterior detailing (Retro Farmhouse Chic), which is...interesting and I don't know if I like it, personally:

retro farmhouse chic.jpg
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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I'm a supporter of design standards for single family houses, but for aspects of quality (Too Big, Boring, or Ugly, How to Get Your House Right, etc) more so than style alone.

Around here, most new non-custom single family houses tend to be very plain, compared to other urbanized areas in upstate New York. They tend to have a utilitarian style that's more typical of what you might find in a rural area. Houses like this are typical for middle end new builds.

ugly_house_02.jpg


ugly_house_01.jpg


ugly_house_03.jpg


ugly_house_04.jpg


ugly_house_05.jpg


ugly_house_06.jpg


Why? There's an endemic housing shortage, almost no production or speculative home building, little competition among home builders, and (with few exceptions) no design standards. The lack of architectural standards in most area municipalities opened the door for "on-frame modular houses"; basically, mobile homes that meet IBC standards. Basically, most of the single family speculative building that does happen is from mom & pop builders and and dollar-and-a-dream entrepreneurs, using plans from from plan books or putting up basic modulars on scattered vacant or frontage lots.

There's also a very ... uhh, "casual" mindset around here when it comes to the concept of curb appeal, compared to peer communities. Why that is, I don't know; my guess is that both the "keep it natural" and "live and let live" ethos of hippie/crunchy culture plays a big role. The shortage of middle market housing is the subject of a lot of buzz around here, but there's been almost no talk about aesthetics.

I got reluctant support for standards for all residental buildings, including single family houses, in our TND form-based code. Part of that support came from the idea that local NIMBYs might not be opposed to all development; just the "meh" development that's been the norm around here for so long. We only have one shot to get the first big TND project here right. If a TND project ended up being the setting for more utilitarian plastic boxes, only at a much higher density, it would add fuel to the NIMBY crowd's fire. The possible outcome: a big setback for building a more diverse and resilient human habitat, and providing much needed missing middle housing. I also tried to show that good design can be affordable; it doesn't necessarily mean prohibitively high construction costs. (For what it's worth, new income qualified housing that's built by a local housing agency, and sold at cost, tends to use more durable, much higher quality exterior materials than what's found on far more expensive market-rate housing. The elevations of income-qualified housing around here tend to have good shadow lines, unlike much of the market rate stuff, There's some resentment that "lower middle class folks can get much better housing than anything a middle class family can afford".)

TND architectural standards don't regulate style, but rather measurable aspects of architectural quality. For single family houses, this includes:
  • Required frontage features. At grade entry: must have a portico/porte-cochere, entry recess, vestibule, vertically defined bay, or tower/turret/chamfered edge defining the front entrance. The code has minimum requirements for these details: floor area / size, feature width / depth, column width, etc.
  • Consistent design on elevations that are visible from the public realm.
  • Roof pitch: if not flat, minimum 6:12 for front gable end, 5:12 for side gable end.
  • Permitted cladding material list.
  • Change in cladding materials only at inside corners, returns 2' from an outside corner, a horizontal plane, or where a projecting feature (pilaster, etc) divides the different cladding areas.
  • For walls with siding, minimum 3.5" door/window surrounds, corner boards, and frieze. No j-channel.
  • Minimum door/window transparency per floor, depending on the elevation direction.
  • Minimum 10' spacing between window/door openings, and other openings or outside corners, on the front elevation.
  • Attached garage only if there's no alley access. Front load: 1 10' wide door maximum, must be 18' behind the wall plane closest to the street. Side load: 1 18' or 2 10' doors, at least 25' from the corner side lot line.
  • No visible rooftop mechanical equipment. No HVAC wall mount units on a street-facing elevation.
material_change.png


Baby steps. There were more ideas for requirements that didn't make it past early draft stages, like minimum vinyl siding thickness, roof material requirements, minimum roof overhang, realistic size/placement of any decorative shutters, and requiring windows on street-facing garage doors.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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15,673
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53
Pretty standard newish one story in the Phoenix metro.


More money doesn't get you more land, just a bigger house and the grass tells me you're an idiot or a midwest transplant.


Redevelopment doesn't always look much better.
 

UrbanUnPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
49
Points
3
With a lot of our new SF being "carriage homes" situated on common land (and don't even get me started about godawful "footprint lots" and platting) there might be more will to regulate SF design going forward.
Are they building these explicitly as rental or senior communities? (the term "monoplexes" comes to mind)
The elevations of income-qualified housing around here tend to have good shadow lines, unlike much of the market rate stuff,
This is one thing that's stuck in my been craw for a while now. You see quite a few market-rate buildings (SF and MF) with very outset, very flat-plane window units in them that don't leave much space for trim to operate, as their WRB/AB layer is practically right behind a board-type cladding, with cavity insulation or a thin insulating sheathing (Zip-R or equivalent) only. This makes me wonder if one could get shadowlines back simply by beefing up energy code continuous insulation requirements -- nailing flanged windows to the outside of continuous insulation is a non-starter without either fiddling with straps or building funky thermal-bridge OSB or plywood bumpout boxes, so you might as well flash the openings and mount the windows before the extra CI is added, giving you your desired shadowlines for nearly free, as well as a fairly easy flashing detail, as described in BSI-085.

Roof pitch: if not flat, minimum 6:12 for front gable end, 5:12 for side gable end.
I take it hip roofs are prohibited by way of not being explicitly allowed in this code, or is that something that hasn't come up? (It's not clear if you'd need 5:12 or 6:12 minimum pitch on them, or a mixed pitch hip.)
Attached garage only if there's no alley access. Front load: 1 10' wide door maximum, must be 18' behind the wall plane closest to the street. Side load: 1 18' or 2 10' doors, at least 25' from the corner side lot line.
While I agree with the anti-snout intent of the rule, it doesn't permit a rear-loaded attached garage configuration on an alley-loaded lot, and detached garages don't lend themselves to fire sprinkler protection unless they have their own heat, atop being an issue for many in inclement weather. (You'd have a dry-pipe valve in the house feeding a private fire main to the garage, and that's something I don't think the NFPA ever contemplated.)
 
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Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
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1,129
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Are they building these explicitly as rental or senior communities? (the term "monoplexes" comes to mind)
No, they are available for purchase and for anyone, but we have places where you pretty much get one of two designs (or its respective mirror image) in a row for 30+ houses at a time.

I think the footprint lot/common land approach is essentially a super-duper HOA (total control over the exterior environment) but I think it's really going to hamper evolution of the neighborhoods over time. Around here, HOAs seem to die out after 30-50 years and then things start to look/feel like a more normal "neighborhood" but with the "all common land" approach I don't think this will happen.
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
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and the grass tells me you're an idiot or a midwest transplant.
If someone were moving to Satan's Anvil (aka Arizona) I would think they'd be all over xeriscaping. Who the hell wants to: 1. $$$$ irrigate. 2. have to mow?
That should be the cue to ditch one's lawn mower for good! Good riddance I say.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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15,673
Points
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You would think that, but idiots from other places keep coming in and planting "small" patches of grass and trees that just don't belong. If you get a pile of rocks and some drought tolerant plants or cacti you have a lot less yard work to do other than blowing all the neighbors pine needs out of the yard and scooping them out of the pool.
 

UrbanUnPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
49
Points
3
I think the footprint lot/common land approach is essentially a super-duper HOA (total control over the exterior environment) but I think it's really going to hamper evolution of the neighborhoods over time. Around here, HOAs seem to die out after 30-50 years and then things start to look/feel like a more normal "neighborhood" but with the "all common land" approach I don't think this will happen.
Come to think of it, I've seen this in some high-end townhome-type developments in my fair city, and your analysis is a good one as best I can tell. I reckon the "all-inclusive" on the exterior maintenance is seen as an amenity by some, though.
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
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Come to think of it, I've seen this in some high-end townhome-type developments in my fair city, and your analysis is a good one as best I can tell. I reckon the "all-inclusive" on the exterior maintenance is seen as an amenity by some, though.
When I see it here for SFH, they don't include the roof/siding like in a condo- just the grounds, private streets, private stormwater (don't get me started, sometimes it's hard to plan at all, the sound of the can being kicked down the road is so loud!).
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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When I see it here for SFH, they don't include the roof/siding like in a condo- just the grounds, private streets, private stormwater (don't get me started, sometimes it's hard to plan at all, the sound of the can being kicked down the road is so loud!).
The last community I worked for had similar types of projects and it was structured that each unit is on a fee-simple lot (for mortgaging purposes) and all the common area and improvements are part of an HOA and their responsibility.

It's doing the same thing as a true condominium ownership form, but makes individual units meet the Federal/national mortgage industry requirements.

But these are usually not very large and the internal 'roads' are really just drives, so the community didn't have to worry about having to assume them in the future.

And circling back to the thread topic, design standards were not usually a major concern, but the typical development orientation to the public realm was mostly unit sides/rears and/or heavily landscaped berms/lawns.

But in a previous employer there was a grayfield redevelopment (mostly dead shopping center) near the center of the muni that was mostly redeveloped into a residential enclave but with good public realm orientation, fee simple small lot SF with alley access and townhouses and the 'streets and alleys' are private under an HOA. It's actually building out nicely and is subject to design standards under it's PUD and a local Design Commission.
 

Faust_Motel

Cyburbian
Messages
1,129
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39
But in a previous employer there was a grayfield redevelopment (mostly dead shopping center) near the center of the muni that was mostly redeveloped into a residential enclave but with good public realm orientation, fee simple small lot SF with alley access and townhouses and the 'streets and alleys' are private under an HOA. It's actually building out nicely and is subject to design standards under it's PUD and a local Design Commission.
Wow, I like that project. A regular block pattern like that and lack of wetland/slope constraints sure helped with the "shopping center evolution" here!
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
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...lack of wetland/slope constraints sure helped with the "shopping center evolution" here!
Yeah...this community's topography is pretty flat and the existing road/block forms are pretty rectilinear, so introducing finer grained grids within the existing grids is pretty easy.

Plus, from a stormwater management requirements perspective, there wasn't an excessive amount of 'new' management to be required as the dead SC was pretty much 100% impervious already. This redevelopment plan actually improved/increased the amount of pervious surface.

I like to use this project as a design/intent case study for discussions about sprawl repair and grayfield redevelopment.

But as a market case study, it's maybe less instructive as the original developer started on the zoning entitlement in 2007 and then got hammered (by over-leverage, probably) by The Great Recession, so this development has been in process for at least 11 years. Also, although I like the small lot SF form, the new house price points for these units makes them a hard sell in this immediate area of the community, because for ~$550,000 you can get a nice updated existing house on a larger lot, with much more interior space and an attached garage within 1-2 blocks....and without the added cost of an HOA.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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I take it hip roofs are prohibited by way of not being explicitly allowed in this code, or is that something that hasn't come up? (It's not clear if you'd need 5:12 or 6:12 minimum pitch on them, or a mixed pitch hip.)
Hip roofs are allowed, but I've seen very few new rambler-style houses with the style; it seems like it's more of a 1950s/1950s thing around here. Short side-fronting and pre-WWII houses around here usually have a 8:12 roof pitch or more. On-frame modulars usually have a roof pitch of 3:12 or less. We're trying to close the on-frame modular loophole, at least in TNDs.

While I agree with the anti-snout intent of the rule, it doesn't permit a rear-loaded attached garage configuration on an alley-loaded lot, and detached garages don't lend themselves to fire sprinkler protection unless they have their own heat, atop being an issue for many in inclement weather. (You'd have a dry-pipe valve in the house feeding a private fire main to the garage, and that's something I don't think the NFPA ever contemplated.)
I worded that wrong. The code allows rear-load attached garages. Here's what the code says:



272-404.3 K Attached street entry garage

A detached house, small detached house, duplex, paired house, or multiunit / collective house may have an attached street entry garage, only if the lot does not border an alley or similar access drive. (Also see parking requirements in the next section. (§ 272-503.2). A street entry garage must meet these requirements.

• An attached garage on the front may have 1 ≤ 10’ wide garage door. The wall plane with a garage door must be ≥ 18’ behind the outside wall or porch plane closest to the street.
• An attached garage on the corner side may only have 1 ≤ 18’ wide garage door, or 2 ≤ 10’ wide garage doors. The wall plane with a garage door must be ≥ 25’ behind the corner side lot line.

4 lots and buildings - architecture - front load garage 01.png


...

272-503.2 A Parking access and location: detached and semidetached housing building types

Applies to: detached house, small detached house, duplex, paired house, multiunit / collective house.

(1) On a lot that borders an alley or similar access drive, offstreet parking access may only be from the alley or access drive. Access must not be from a street entry driveway.

5 site improvements - parking - alley load residential parking 01.png


(2) On a lot that does not border an alley or similar access drive, off-street parking access may be from a street entry driveway. A street entry driveway must meet these requirements.

• Curb cuts must be ≥ 30’ from an intersection, and ≥ 24’ from another curb cut.
• At the front, driveway width must be ≤ 14’, and driveway approach width must be 9’ - 12’.
• At the corner side, driveway width must be ≤ 20, and driveway approach width must be 9’ - 16’.
• Driveway length must be ≥ 25’, starting at the lot line.

5 site improvements - parking - residential driveway location 02.png



Off-street parking in a front or corner side yard, between a building and a street, may only be on a driveway directly in front of a garage.

5 site improvements - parking - residential front loading parking location 01.png
 

Planit

Cyburbian
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14,616
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57
State code as just amended to prohibit cities from adopting single-family or twin-home standards unless included in a development agreement at the time of rezone.

Same for us here. State (developer friendly) legislature says NO!
 

UrbanUnPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
49
Points
3
worded that wrong. The code allows rear-load attached garages. Here's what the code says:
Ah, good, things make much more sense now!

Get Your House Right,
I picked up a copy of this book based on your pointer and some of the commentary I saw about it. It's 95% good and 5% functionally dated/obsolete -- being from 2007, it predates the movement towards unvented/conditioned attics that's been slowly rolling through the building-science world (esp. in the South, where there's nowhere else for the mechanicals to live) and the big Electrify Everything push in the more technocratic (vs. "crunchy", to borrow your term for it) side of the green movement (as well as Passivhaus and friends starting to catch on). Or in other words:

  • their attic venting advice is bunk because traditional gable/intermittent soffit venting has been shown to be insufficient to achieve its stated purpose and unvented/conditioned attics are enshrined in the Code now
  • their discussion about chimneys doesn't address the question of "what if the prevailing or selected style calls for a chimney that your house has absolutely no use for because it has no combustion appliances installed to begin with?" (This is an issue because just about all the vernacular and formal-traditional/revival styles were developed before all-electric houses became popular, so chimneys were commonly used as compositional elements in heating-centric climates. Now, with better insulation and air-sealing, heat pumps that don't suck, and an increased emphasis on the acute climate harms of methane leakage from NG infrastructure, the pendulum is swinging back towards houses that use electricity for all the things, leaving the chimney behind as a vestigal appendage.)
  • and they don't address, even in passing, how traditional opening trim interacts with openings in thick (>8") walls, which is a miss not only because of the growing popularity of Passivhaus and other superinsulated housing designs, but because such thick walls have ample precedent in traditional architecture (fat walls were a thing during the Industrial Revolution not only due to the use of brick bearing walls in mid-rise urban construction of the day, but due to the need to use 12-16" brick walls as curtainwalls in internally framed mid- and high-rises of the era, all the way up until the International Style started taking over the skyscraper world, for good fire safety reasons).

I also quibble with them on not addressing water management at capital-to-architrave joints (without a flashing or other detail there to reject water, sideways rain will hit the architrave/frieze, run down, and perch at the capital tops on columns that are aligned in the proper architectural fashion, leading to trim damage or even water infiltration into column top ends) and secondary roof penetration treatments (for plumbing and soil gas vent stacks, as they're more prominent if your house doesn't have a chimney to draw attention away from them, although I guess you can simply tuck them behind the main body of the roof in most cases?), but those are minor issues relative to my three primary critiques.
 
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UrbanUnPlanner

Cyburbian
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49
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3
Hip roofs are allowed, but I've seen very few new rambler-style houses with the style; it seems like it's more of a 1950s/1950s thing around here. Short side-fronting and pre-WWII houses around here usually have a 8:12 roof pitch or more. On-frame modulars usually have a roof pitch of 3:12 or less. We're trying to close the on-frame modular loophole, at least in TNDs.
Have you looked at some of the things that have been done in both the modular and manufactured world with "tilt up" roof assemblies? I'm not sure if they're still made, but that might be an interesting way to "square the circle" and start getting us more towards manufactured units that are better architectural neighbors to their site-built cousins.
 

af2087

Member
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8
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0
I so wish Texas cities would limit the number of rooflines, random dormers, and unnecessarily high pitched gables. The "architecture" of most new housing products is just so terrible.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
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21,330
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61
Our home builders association were able to get legislation passed several years ago that really limited what we can do at site plan review. So we had to change several processes to establish a points where we can work with the developers and we have guidelines, but they are still limited unless a developer goes through a rezoning process.

We have had to get creative to really push for better overall development design but we have also had a problem because for a long time, we were the cheap place in the region to build and the existing builders are having difficulty understanding that what was acceptable at one point won't meet our new regulations.
 
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