Building height and massing Print

Design Outcome

Desi​gn Checklist

  1. The form and composition of walls, roof, windows and doors are considered together​ 
  2. The height and massing of the terraced house and block contributes to a development of high quality that relates well to its context

The height, massing and roof forms of a terraced house and terraced block of houses are the most significant factors in determining how the housing will be perceived from the street and by the neighbours.

Long terraced housing blocks can result in monotonous street edges, and such linear forms can easily lose their sense of individuality, unless this is expressly considered in the design.

Better Design Practice

Building Height

The height of a building in relation to its overall configuration or massing is one of the more significant factors in determining the impact a building will have on its surrounding environment. From a design perspective, it is important to ensure that height and massing are considered together to arrive at a high quality, well proportioned building form. 

The position of taller elements should be managed to minimise overshadowing and overlooking effects on neighbours; and also to create private sunny outdoor spaces for the occupants. This is a particular issue for developments on constrained rear lots which may have neighbours on all sides. 

When deciding on building height consider: 
  • Permitted maximum height;
  • Local area (street) character and position within the town/city context – i.e. is the location part of an established neighbourhood?; 
  • Consistency of skyline and requirement for punctuation and accent at corners, junctions, or to terminate views;
  • Local street views and strategic views; 
  • Avoidance of overshadowing and optimising sunlight access into adjacent public space and neighbouring properties; 
  • Local micro-climatic factors, particularly wind; and 
  • Relationship of height to frontage width and building depth.

Building Massing

Building massing refers to the overall form and composition of the building. The way a building is arranged on its site is particularly important for larger buildings. The following should be considered in relation to building massing:
  • Site size, geometry, topography and configuration in relation to adjacent street or open space – think about the orientation of the principal mass of the building. 
  • How the terraced block subdivides into individual houses and smaller forms that results in a hierarchy of elements (smaller building elements as a subset of larger). 
  • Organisation of the building’s mass to express different elements, for example, articulating a base, middle and top where the overall building form is predominantly vertical. Horizontal elements can be emphasised through different horizontal bands of colour or materials. This can contribute visual interest up the height of the façade and to the roofscape, and give an expression of human scale from the ground. 
  • Providing the greatest internal floor-to-ceiling height at the ground level and offering an appearance of greater solidarity and connection to the ground. 
Breaking down the mass of a terraced block by: 
  • Recessing and projecting elements to avoid flat monotonous façades; 
  • Set backs to upper levels to achieve an appropriate height-to-width ratio across the street and encourage sunlight into the street or open space 
  • Expression of entry; 
  • Expression of individual houses to achieve identity. 
  • Relation of front façade and skyline to the street edge to achieve a consistent streetscape. 
  • Use of roof form to create visual interest.

Larger Buildings

Avoid significant and visually jarring contrast in scale between the proposed terraced building and adjacent buildings / sites. Consider set backs, steps in façades or additive forms where necessary. 

Subdivide the overall mass of a terraced block into a rhythm of grouped elements to avoid, or break up, overly large forms. 

Break up the building length of terraced housing blocks by emphasising vertical elements or proportions, stepping (setting forward or back) parts of the building or varying the materials in a vertical manner. 

The design of larger terraced blocks should maximize access to daylight and sunlight –for internal spaces, outdoor spaces and for the adjacent street(s). 

Balconies have the potential to enhance its overall design. They must be designed to ensure the user will have a good level of privacy and to provide functional space. Cheap balustrade treatments should be avoided. 

Typically larger terraced blocks become memorable features in their environments. These visually conspicuous developments should be designed to a high architectural standard.

Think about the roof

Large areas of Auckland are hilly and roofs are often highly visible. The roofscape of terraced housing blocks can have a big impact on how an area looks and can convey a positive or negative impression. Roof design can therefore change the overall appearance of the terraced house and block. The roof should be integrated into the overall design of the terraced house development and emphasise internal spaces including entry and reinforce the building’s front and back. Design the roofs of terraced blocks to create interesting rhythms and to reduce any visually dominant massing that can result from rows of terraced housing.

Rules of Thumb

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