How to design a single-family home, the professional guide
The professional guide on how to design a single-family home: The theoretical aspects analysed with renderings and dwg CAD drawings created with a BIM design software for architecture
This practical guide explains the general guidelines regarding how to design a single-family home both from a theoretical and practical point of view with the support of a professional software used by engineers, architects, landscape designers, etc and just as many other interesting insights, we couldn’t avoid to add some example projects of single-family houses with their reference context and orientation configurations, renderings and DWG CAD construction drawings ready for download.
In order to be able to use this content, not only as a learning reference but also as a starting point for developing your own single-family home projects, simply download the Edificius BIM architectural design software. The solution used to create the whole project, the renderings and the drawings.
Download the 3D BIM model example file here (.edf extension)
Download the IFC model example file here (.edf extension)
Download Edificius BIM | the 3D architectural BIM design software
Single-family home plans: definition and types
A single-family home is generally defined as a residential building maintained and used as a single dwelling unit that is usually free-standing and surrounded by green spaces.
Generally built on two levels, it can also include a basement used as a utility and services space (for garages, cellars and storage purposes). Here are some single-family home layout types.
Single-family home plans: design guidelines
The design of a single-family house allows architects and engineers to be very creative. Constraints can very often lead to ingenious solutions.
The design of a stand-alone building requires a rich know-how and a preliminary analysis including the study of:
- the landscape context (orientation, orography, climatic and microclimatic zones, panoramic views, vegetation, etc.)
- existing buildings (construction techniques, traditional materials, etc.)
- local materials (local stones, wood, etc.)
This type of house allows you to open windows on all its external sides, choosing the optimal orientation and sunshine conditions, the views and residential characteristics.
The land plot slope and the conformation can represent a constraint to the design. The designer’s ability to enhance certain characteristics of the context will define the quality of the final result.
The reference latitude is the first criteria to take in account in order to establish the right orientation of the house and its relative functions.
The sun path diagram, together with environmental assessments such as distance from other buildings, trees, etc., can help to define orientation and arrangement on the ground
Solar diagrams allow you to identify the position and height of the sun at different times of the day and during different seasons. A very useful tool for determining the correct orientation of the building and room configurations.
In general, it’s always good practice to arrange the living and relax areas so as to receive direct sunlight (thus facing south, east, west), while service areas should be north-facing.
For detached single-family houses, the living-room areas could open towards the best parts of the garden or to other panoramic views, while the service areas could be facing the streets or towards less interesting views.
Depending on the orientation and the climatic conditions, external components such as porches, pergolas and verandas could be placed outdoors and where they result particularly useful.
Here’s an example arrangement.
Solar radiation simulation
Architectural design software generally provide tools for simulating the exact position of the sun together with sunshine and shadow levels affecting the building.
Excellent tools enabling AEC professionals to view the solar and shading levels directly on the building model at different times of the day and during different periods of the year to determine how much light is entering a certain area of the building and simulate the true effects of shading too.
Possible sun shading systems could be mounted in over-exposed areas while glazed surfaces could be installed in areas which receive less sunlight.
The image below shows the same environment in two different seasons.
The image on the left shows the amount of sunshine entering during the day, thanks to an overhang with shielding function, while the image on the right, refers to the amount of sunshine during winter, where the limited projection of the overhang allows solar radiation (much lower than in summer) to penetrate inside the rooms, obtaining the desired effect.
Edificius, ACCA software’s solution for the architectural BIM design, allows you to study both the effect of shading and sunshine on a building. In fact, you can easily run a solar simulation during a start and end period and the “Play” button. Real Time Rendering is also part of the design and analysis tools to simulate the sun and shadow effects. The designer can, therefore, analyse the behaviour of materials exposed to either sun or shade, increase or decrease shielding, modify the building’s orientations according to its design requirements.
Download and try out the 30-day free trial version of Edificius
Single-family home project: a case study
The type of building that we are going to examine is a stand-alone single-family home that is surrounded by green areas.
The building stands on a surface that has no significant differences in terms of altitude and it is built at a certain distance from other dwelling units. These starting conditions favor a remarkable compositional freedom in the design phase.
The building placed at the center of the lot develops on two levels and has a total height of 6.90 m, with an inter-floor height of 2, 90 m and first floor at 3,20 m.
The first floor has a smaller footprint compared to the ground floor, leaving an open area used as a terrace / solarium.
On the ground floor (140 m²) there is the living area, next to some service areas and a large garage. From the garden you can directly access the living area which, thanks to large windows, keeps a direct continuity with the surrounding landscape.
On the first floor (96 m²), accessible through an internal staircase with a single ramp, there’s the sleeping area consisting of three bedrooms. The main bedroom has a walk-in closet and private bathroom.
Large windows open along the side facing the street, while the short sides and the horizontal sections of the building are painted in dark gray, creating a sharp chromatic contrast.
Inside spaces are large and bright. The living area is made up of a single large room with a linear layout open to the garden. The kitchen is incorporated within this unique open space. The materials chosen contribute to the creation of a minimal space: parquet, two-color finishes in white and black.
The garden follows the linearity of the house, it is bordered by a low plastered wall that is shielded by vegetation. The paths are geometric and paved in travertine and stoneware.
During the design phase, particular care was also given to the lighting of the external area and the façades of the house, so as to obtain a distinctive scenic view, enhancing the design concept and preferring some perspective views with impacting visual effect.
Download the project drawings in dwg format (floor plans, elevation view and sections) and 3D BIM model
This section contains some useful resources with floor plans, elevation views, sections and the 3D model of a single-family home.
Download the 3D BIM model (file .edf) of the single-family home project
Download the IFC model of the single-family home project
Download the DWGs of the project drawings