Floor Plans For A House

This is all about how to look at floor plans for a house and relate them to the outdoor environment and surroundings.

We take a look at...

  1. Situation on the site
  2. Orientation towards the sun
  3. Wind direction

Situation on Site

Think about the site and its features (sloping ground, trees, water, wind direction and other features on the site) and surroundings (views, surrounding buildings, neighboring noise sources such as roads). If you’re building a new home this will help you think about where to locate your home on the land.

  • Think about the views from inside the house to the outside.
  • Think about the views from outside the house to the inside and check that the privacy level is adequate.
  • Assess the circulation around the outside of the home.
  • Consider the ratio and type (grass, trees, paving) of land to the front of the home to land at the back of the home and how these spaces are used.
  • If there is no garage think about where you will park your cars.

Zoning Laws

Don’t forget about zoning laws that will tell you...

  • The height of the property you can build.
  • The percentage of the land on the lot that the footprint of your home can occupy.
  • Set backs from the street and boundary lines.
  • Sometimes even the style of home you can build.
Site map provided by a survey company

Orientation Towards The Sun

Make sure the floor plans for a house are placed to take full advantage of the sun (in a temperate climate) or placed to be protected from the sun (in a very hot climate). The home will gain a lot of passive heat if it has windows on the ‘sunny’ side. Decide if your main living rooms and outdoor living space should be in the sun or in the shade and see how the floor plan measures up with this.

Work out what roughly what shadows will be cast by surrounding buildings and trees.

Remember the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you’re located away from the equator the path of the sun changes throughout the year with the sun high in summer and low in winter. The difference of this variation gets bigger as you travel from the equator to the poles. If you’re in the northern hemisphere the sun is in the south, the opposite if you’re in the southern hemisphere.

Sun PathSun Path in the Northern Hemisphere

In the northern hemisphere northern light gives a diffused flat light that doesn’t change much if it’s a sunny or a cloudy day. Southern light is brighter and windows on the south side will receive direct sunlight if it’s sunny. Turn that on its head for the southern hemisphere.

Ideal house plan shapes for capturing light

Here are a few house plan shapes which capture light on two sides of the main rooms.

Square house

In a square house plan, the corner rooms will get light from two sides.

Diagram showing a square house plan with windows on two sides of the corner rooms.A square house plan which allows light from two sides in the corner rooms.

Long single room depth house plan

If the house plan is one room deep, light can come in from the opposite sides of most rooms.

Diagram showing a long house plan with windows on opposite sides of the rooms.A long house plan allows light on opposite sides of the rooms.

A house plan with bumps and notches

Staggering the edge of the house plan creates more exterior wall and hence more opportunities for windows.

Diagram showing how a house plan with a staggered edge allows light in on two sides of each room.A house plan with a staggered edge allows light in on two sides of each room.

A house plan with wings

A house plan with wings or what might be called an H design is a combination of the square house plan and the long house plan and allows.  This creates lots of exterior wall space for windows.  

Inward looking atrium house plan

If your site, building codes or climate doesn't allow windows to the exterior, or if the climate is such that your home needs to be protected from the sun the answer is to build and inward facing house with an atrium and perhaps skylights.

Diagram showing how an inward looking atrium house with skylights allows light into the home.An atrium house plan allows light into the home when exterior windows are limited.

Wind Direction

Wind – let’s think more in terms of gentle breeze. If the climate is hot, a gentle breeze can be a real bonus to say the least. On the flip side - if there’s a strong, persistent wind then the house should be orientated to provide shelter from the wind. It’s just another thing to bear in mind when thinking about how the house is orientated on the land.

Sometimes you can figure out the prevailing wind direction just by looking at the surrounding trees.

It’s also worth checking the wind rose for your nearest location. A wind rose plot shows the direction, frequency and speed of winds from any particular direction. In the wind rose plot below the wind comes mainly from the south. Look at the wind rose for each month for your location to get a picture of the winds during the year.

Wind Rose PlotWind Rose Plot

More on floor plan analysis...

Here's some more pages on floor plan analysis.

The floor plan symbols page may also be helpful.