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What To Consider When Designing a Waterfront Home

No building that you will ever embark on designing is more in tune with the environment than a waterfront property. When trying to build a space at the cusp of where land meets the water,...

No building that you will ever embark on designing is more in tune with the environment than a waterfront property. When trying to build a space at the cusp of where land meets the water, it is natural to focus on the contextual site factors (land, wind, sun, water, views) that influence the placement and architectural solutions for a given building. Yet, it is too often overlooked that any structure, first, must act as a shelter for all of these tumultuous site conditions of the environment. At this point, the building becomes a personal shelter, or what we call a home.

Designing and building a waterfront home is a particularly careful art. It is necessary to pay attention to details that are normally not evaluated as strictly as when it comes to typical waterfront home designs. So, let’s discuss a few of these unique waterfront characteristics.

Water Elevation

How much does the water elevation fluctuate throughout the day and throughout the seasons?

There are varying tides, storm surges and water tables that all need to be carefully understood in order to build a safe and meaningful space. In order to build a structurally sound and purposeful home, the designer must know the site water conditions and how stable the land is from erosion. This key factor will shape the design approach to any waterfront property.

Beautiful boathouse in muskoka during sunset Where the line between the built and natural is blurred and the home is enriched by the stillness of its surroundings. The attention to water elevation is key to achieving the functionality of a boathouse and the extension of the home to the water. Muskoka Boathouse by Shim-Sutcliffe Architects.

Prevailing Winds

Waterfront properties provide huge vistas that allow you to see far beyond the water and enjoy undisturbed landscapes on the horizon. In this vast open space, the flow of air has been gaining momentum and building along the water until it eventually reaches a landmark situated on the waterfront.

The obstacle that gets hit by these built-up winds can be your waterfront dwelling. You need to understand the direction and wind patterns that exist on your site, and you must design accordingly. There are few buildings that will stand up to the relentless air pressures that a prevailing wind can deliver, never mind a seasonal storm. For this reason, designing fortified and thoughtful positions for these events is critical.

Vast indoor outdoor of a waterfront cottage designed by Superkul The project utilizes local resources and its orientation in order to deter damage from the powerful winds as well as capture natural daylight to filter throughout the dwelling. With the use of a natural clearing, there were minimal disturbances to the surrounding landscape. Shift Cottage by Superkul

Sun Orientation

One of the greatest benefits of having a waterfront property is that the views are wide and allow ample amounts of sunlight that can carve out different moments in your home.

Your site can take advantage of sunrise and sunset by utilizing design techniques to shape the feeling inside of a home. The site conditions need to balance the opportunities of sunlight against critical views, and the ways in which daylighting can be adjusted through key shading techniques. Ignoring the site conditions and guarantees the failure of a powerful waterfront home design and what it can offer its inhabitants.

Land Preservation

Responsible builders in construction that understand their role in protecting land from anthropogenic effects on the water are crucial. When embarking on construction that takes place on a sensitive property, the landscape must be treated with care. Waterfront properties are no exception since any type of mishandled materials can become a hazard to the shoreline and water table. In addition, these events can have a significant impact and liability on neighboring properties. A spill of fuel or improper material care and demolition practices on your land can lead to the contamination of several hundred feet of shoreline.

Cottage situated on prehistoric large scale rock formations in Georgian Bay. Situated on the prehistoric large-scale rock formations in the Georgian Bay. With the use of careful research and analysis of the location, laser scanning and modeling of the rock surface were used in order to have minimal site contact. Grotto Sauna by Partisans

The process of building is always more involved on any waterfront location, but the results can be worth the wait, with the correct awareness and approach. If you have questions relating to your waterfront property, give us a call.

Are you dreaming of designing and building a cottage? Have a read through our favorite modern cottage designs in Ontario for inspiration!