Private outdoor spaces Print

​​Design Checklist​

  1. Landowners and designers have a clear understanding of the context, including where the neighbouring private open spaces are located, where the sun path tracks and the interface between outdoor and other spaces
  2. The connection between the principal living area and the private garden, courtyard or balcony is directly accessible
  3. Private outdoor spaces are well designed, maximise spaciousness and are fit for purpose for the size of the house
  4. Ground level private open spaces are prioritised

The location and design of the primary outdoor space should maximise sun, take advantage of any views and provide protection from the prevailing wind, while connecting directly and conveniently to the living areas within the house.

Terraced houses should have a balcony, deck or terrace area/patio directly accessible from the living or dining room that provides for private access to the outdoors. A major source of daylight and natural ventilation for the house is to be provided via large opening glazed areas, with opportunities for outdoor passive recreation.

Outdoor spaces should allow for a range of different uses, including outdoor dining in reasonable privacy, as well as clothes drying, bin storage and other service functions.

As site sizes become smaller, the design of the open space becomes more critical.

The design and location of the building can make spaces more private. It is good design practice to take note of the neighbouring houses, where their views are from, where their outdoor areas are located and to plan accordingly.

Responding to the findings of the Opportunities and Constraints report, which is part of a Design Statement​, will show the best place for private open space.

Better Design Practice

Outdoor space should be made as usable and pleasant as possible.
Ensure the primary private outdoor space is located to receive sun during the times when it is most likely be used. Open spaces should be designed to optimise the topography creating terraced spaces where possible. Open space should take advantage of any views and provide protection from the prevailing winds. Take note of the neighbouring houses, where their views are from, and where their outdoor areas are located and respond accordingly to make gardens, courtyards or balconies more private. 

If primary open spaces are to the south of the dwelling to take advantage of good views or other benefits, provide a secondary open space facing as close as possible to north. This is to ensure access to the sun for outdoor amenity and drying clothes, and for warming house walls and internal rooms. Correspond the depth of the private open space to the number of storeys of the terraced house. Three-storey terraced houses should provide deeper private garden or courtyard areas than two-storey terraced houses to offer greater separation distances and privacy from upper levels. Greater building separation also maximises sunlight admission when the sun’s altitude is lower during winter months.

Private open spaces should allow for a range of different uses, including allowing the occupants of the house and guests to sit outside and enjoy a meal, ideally directly accessible from the living/dining or kitchen. 
Additional balconies, decks or terraces may be accessible from any other room. A balcony, deck or terrace space should be large enough so that the equivalent of two people per bedroom can circulate, sit, eat or barbeque safely and comfortably. 

For houses of four bedrooms or more, these spaces should be able to accommodate six people. This can be indicated on the plans by showing a table and chairs suitable for the occupants of the house plus guests. Balconies or patios should provide an area which can be screened to allow for clothes drying. 

An area for children to play which can be secured should be provided to prevent access to driveways or the road. Space for rubbish bins and storage that is not visible from the street, or is screened and landscaped should be provided.

Attention to design detail ensures high quality, useable spaces are created.
A level threshold between the house and the principal private open space should be provided. 

The interfaces with outdoor space should include drainage and shelter to ensure protection from the weather.

Ground level outdoor spaces typically offer greater spaciousness and privacy than upper level balconies. They can also offer more landscape garden qualities for mature tree planting, food production and outdoor dining, as well as a secure space for young children or pets to run around. However on sloping sites where ground floor open spaces are unusable or overshadowed, upper level balconies can be designed to offer privacy and amenity. 

Balconies at upper levels should consider the following design solutions: 
  • orientate balconies away from adjacent or neighbouring private open spaces wherever possible. The edges of terraced rows provide good opportunities for corner balconies provided they are orientated in towards the site, rather than towards neighbouring boundaries or adjacent terraced houses
  • design visually impermeable balustrades (or elements of) for privacy when sitting at a table
  • utilise recessed areas and side walls to create a secluded area
  • sliding translucent screens can offer adaptable privacy at different times of the day.

Rules of Thumb

All private open spaces should receive at least five hours of sunlight on the equinox (22 March or 22 September) on at least half of the garden, courtyard or balcony.

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