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Narrow houses

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A colleague recently told me of a discussion with a student who scoffed at the idea that houses can be built on lots that are narrower than normal – 33 feet (10 meters) in Vancouver.  But these houses do exist, and some are quite cute and look very welcoming.  Here’s a sample, from the east side.

This one above is south facing, two story, with no side windows.

This one, north facing, also has no side windows.  In a way, this could be a good model for a townhouse, and it seems a shame that the opportunity for energy conservation has been wasted.  One could easily imagine three or four of those strung together – with no heat loss from the sides.  The problem, I suppose, is that one has to make do with one’s lot.  But if a developper bought two or three adjacent lots, would zoning allow for townhome-like development?

Note the open plan, too – light from the south side shines through.

Below are two others – different approach (one is on a lane, has side windows), but they are all very Vancouver-like, meaning that they fit nicely with heritage values – nothing jarring there, just small.  Still, they look like they all have at least 50 square meters (500 sq ft) on each floor – how much room does one need, really?



I just found out why there are no townhouses in Vancouver (nor anywhere in BC for that matter): They are against the law!  The BC Land Title Act does not allow for freehold townhouses, that is, homes that one owns just like an ordinary house – except that walls are shared.  As a result, the few buildings around that look like townhouses are actually strata titled – and that has its own set of complications; most people, in my experience, put up with strata, rather than actively seeking it.

What a shame.  Bob Ransford makes a good case that reforming the Act would ease up some of the housing pressure and increase (somewhat) home ownership affordability.  I’ll add that townhomes are also much more energy efficient to heat (or cool), because of the reduction of surface area; in the buildings above, the largest surface area consists of the two side walls, followed by the roof.  In such a narrow house, insulating up to modern standards (6″ of insulation) takes away a lot of habitable space.  A minor sound barrier in an adjacent wall betwen townhomes would be much thinner than that combined width of insulation in the two walls – not to mention, much cheaper to put up.

All that because of ill-designed law.  Tsk!


Written by enviropaul

August 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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