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Selecting a Site for a House

Position of Site

Having touched on the various soils, the position of the site with regard to health may be briefly dealt with.

It has been well stated that ground at the foot of slopes or in deep valleys which receive drainage from higher levels should be avoided, as it predisposes people even in temperate climates to epidemic diseases. High positions exposed to winds blowing over low marshy ground, although some distance away, are in certain climates unsafe, because of the liability to induce fevers.

Points to Consider in Selecting a Site

The suitability of a building site can be tested by bearing in mind the following points which are here tabulated for reference :

  1. The local climate should be healthy.
  2. The soil should be dry and porous.
  3. The ground should fall in all directions to facilitate drainage. If possible a position on a steep slope should be avoided, as high ground near a building causes the air to stagnate. This was proved very conclusively at Balaclava, where the mortality in the soldiers' huts which were placed on a steep slope was much higher than in those which were otherwise situated.
  4. There should be a free circulation of air in the district, and muddy creeks and ditches, undrained or marshy ground should not be close to the house, or in such a position that the prevailing winds would blow the damp exhalations over the buildings.
  5. If the site be an exposed one it may be sheltered from the north and east by trees, which should be at a sufficient distance, however, to avoid causing stagnation of air or dampness. As a general rule trees should not be nearer to a house than at least their own height.
  6. The healthiness may be further tested by the rate of mortality in the district, and in the case of a health resort consideration should be given to its disease-curing properties.
  7. The proximity of such unpleasant places as sewage farms, soap works, brick kilns, tanneries, cement works and lime kilns (which emit carbonic acid, etc.), slaughter-houses, refuse depots and stagnant ponds should be avoided. A cemetery also has a very depressing effect on many people, and according to Dr. Whitelegge, there is evidence of increased sickness and mortality among persons residing close to a crowded graveyard, the air of which contains an excess of carbonic acid. Sites near public-houses and schools are noisy, and often have a bad effect on the nerves of delicate people.
  8. The drainage system in the district, including the position of the outflow and the method of sewage treatment, should be ascertained. Also whether the conduit is constructed on modern principles, with proper ventilation and with no backflow during high tides.
    If the site is in the country, where there is no drainage system, a cesspool or septic tank must be used, and there must be a convenient position with a good fall for such treatment and sufficiently distant from the source of the water used in the house.
  9. The water supply is of the greatest importance, and it is necessary to know whether this can be obtained from a Water Company's Main or from an adjacent river or well, or if an artesian well will have to be sunk. We know a case where a man paid thousands of pounds for a site before taking professional advice, and then had to purchase adjacent land to secure the necessary water-bearing strata.
  10. The question of lighting is important, and inquiries should be made as to the accessibility of electric and gas mains, or the possibility of utilizing waste water to provide power for an installation of electric light.
  11. If the owner is of a sporting nature, information should be obtained as to the nearest meets of harriers, fox and stag hounds, and the proximity of fishing, golfing, polo, etc. Records of shooting-bags on the estate might also be obtained.
  12. The train service, postal arrangements, shopping possibilities and cost of installing telephone should also be considered.
  13. Sites near a main road should as a rule be avoided owing to the nuisance of motor traffic.
  14. It is well to inquire whether any part of the neighbourhood is likely to be handed over to the speculative builder, for this might result in the erection of a class of house which would change the character of the neighbourhood.
  15. The proposed tenure of the land, freehold, copyhold or leasehold, must also be borne in mind, and it is sometimes convenient to get an agreement for a lease with an option of purchasing the freehold, within a given number of years, at a stated price.
  16. The amount of the rates and taxes should also receive attention, as in some districts these are almost prohibitive.

It will be seen that the choice of a site is an important question, and when one has been found probably the best thing to do is to obtain an option for a given time upon it, and then to seek expert advice.

Next: Overview of House Building Plans.

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