Lately I’ve been working with Newcastle Homes on a couple of urban infill residential projects. Newcastle is successful at pairing lots in near East Austin with clients who want vibrancy, neighborhood character, and proximity to the central city. As a rule these old lots are narrower than in other parts of the city, and while East Austin has been “hot” for several years, land prices are still more affordable than elsewhere. Thanks to careful design and planning, the houses they build are modern, energy efficient, appealing, and affordable.
The problem with East Austin lots, though, is that almost all of them are oriented with their long axis running north-south (this is also the case in many other parts of Austin). Ideally, for our climate, homes should have more exterior wall facing north (where there is infrequent direct sunlight, except early in the morning or late afternoons in midsummer), or south (where the high summer sun is easy to control with a roof overhang). Too much eastern and western exposure and the house will quickly heat up in summer, costing more to cool, or being uncomfortable, or both (see my recent Design with Climate post, as well as this analysis courtesy of Dason Whitsett)
My solution for this lot was to organize the house in a C-shaped plan, with the two parallel main wings of the house oriented with their long axes running east and west, connected by a generous gallery that incorporates the stair. As a result, the compact square footage feels much bigger, thanks to the morning light-facing courtyard. The added outdoor space is a viable living space throughout much of the year, and fits well with Austin’s outdoor-oriented lifestyle. And because most of the house faces north or south, in spite of the lot’s being the “wrong way”, and with almost no glass facing east or west, it will perform much better.