Townhouses design: the technical guide with architectural project features together with 3D BIM models produced with a software for architects and engineers
In this practical guide we'll be covering various aspects for townhouses design and explore the main features of this particular type of building configuration through some project examples produced with a 3D architectural BIM software.
You can immediately download the examples below together with renders and DWG CAD drawings that you could use for your own 3D project.
Here's another article from our Architecture Focus analyzing different types of townhouses design characteristics.
In our previous issue, we saw how terraced houses are defined and what elements need to be to assessed during the settlement design process. We then moved on to introducing projects by famous architects completed with working drawings in DWG CAD file formats ready for you to download and consult freely.
In this focus we will take a closer look at one of the most representative projects made by UNStudio, the Water Villas in Almere.
While exploring the project, you will have the possibility to donwload floor plans, isometric, prospects and section views in DWG file format and thanks to BIM Voyager, a very useful online tool that doesn't require any software installation, we will examine the project 3D BIM models.
The size of the facade is determined according to the urban context scheme and to the density and area access conditions.
- Narrow facade
It measures between 3 and 5.40 mt and is characterized by a quadruple internal distribution scheme (room / service / staircase / room) if the front is less than 4.5 m, or by a triple- space distribution scheme (room / service + staircase / room) if wider.
When the accommodation has a greater depth and the facade is between 3 and 5 meters in width, the need to use external walls requires two views and to concentrate the areas reserved for service activities (sanitary cells, corridors, stairs, closets and sometimes kitchens) in the internal part. The building is then designed with environments which are developed in depth and almost without internal partitions perpendicular to the facade with a garden of limited width.
If the facade is less than 4 meters in width, it is necessary to have both the staircase and the bathroom placed side-by-side in the internal area, adopting spiral stairs ("U" shaped or helical). The area intended for lunch must be combined with the kitchen (more infrequently the living room) since the size of the front does not allow it to be equipped with independent views.
The sleeping area is bound to a single solution: a double bedroom and a twin bedroom with semi-permanent partitions.
In practice, this type of house is built on three floors or with a partial third floor. In order to reduce the surface circulation, a common portico adjoining two lodgings can be used in some cases, thus allowing to directly access into the central area of the house.
If the front is between 4.50 and 4.80 mt, the triple-space distribution of the previous example can be repeated by arranging the opposite staircase and bathroom in the internal area, or by adopting a single flight of stairs along one of the surrounding walls. The second solution has the advantage of not interrupting the kitchen-dining-living room sequence, giving the possibility not to divide the three rooms or to join them in pairs according to needs.
If the entrance is located on the living room's side, the kitchen and the dining room can then form two distinct environments facing outwards.
Facades between 5,10 – 5,40 mt characterize townhouses with narrow fronts.
On the first floor the bathroom can be ensuite while the staircase can be either U-shaped in the central area or with a single ramp along a wall.
A common solution to reduce the maximum staircase footprint is the L-shaped ramp which is a variant of the straight run staircase used in case of higher landings or quite high steps raisers.
- Medium size facade
A facade between 5,40 and 7,20 mt with an internal distribution scheme with three areas.
This is the case of buildings where rooms have equal depth or depht that is slightly greater than width, generally equipped with two views and a wide flexibility in the planimetric organization.
This type of facade variants, which are quite common, are related to the position and the shape of the staircase:
- staircase with two or three ramps combined with the bathroom and one of the bedrooms
- staircase with two ramps in the internal area
- straight run or «L» shaped staircase parallel to one of the surrounding walls
- straight or central «L» shaped staircase and parallel to the facade
the first two examples feature the entrance on the ground floor with a staircase; the third example implies more freedom of choice in the ground floor arrangement, while the fourth example grants the complete front usage and perfectly adapts to the solution with two opposite entrances.
- Wide facade
It measure more than 7,20 mt with a distribution scheme that allows to give up the second view to the rooms and use it, instead, for the service rooms.
In this case, the garden is more enjoyable because it has the larger side adhering to the front of the dwelling.
Two-storey houses with a large front can have a «Z» shaped section, with ground floor opening to the garden and the first floor facing to the street. In this case a single ramp staircase perpendicular to the front is necessary, also allowing the views to be inverted.
It is interesting to compare this type of floor plan with the one having a facade 4,50-4,80 mt long or ‘narrow front‘.
Considering a surface with windows of the same extent, the narrow front implies a single solution (a big bedroom and two small ones with same dimensions), the large front gives, on the contrary, the opportunity to vary with continuity the bedrooms dimensions (three bedrooms equally sized, a small one and two big ones, a big one, one medium and one small).
Water Villas: modern townhouses design examples
The residential area designed by UNStudio is situated at the outskirt of Almere and consists in a series of building housing 2 to 6 family units and by a group of single-family residences.
The residential area develops nearby water and the gaps between the different blocks creates long lines with views to the surroundings.
2 different types of houses arrangements have been contemplated:
- a long row of independent houses arranged along the canal
- a house complex shaped like a court, similar to an island surrounded by waters, and consisting of an aggregation of a basic module.
Objects and "plugged-in" volumes reflect in the surrounding water, thus highlighting the geometrical shape of the collage of cubes.
The concept behind Water Villas project was to create a living environment that differs from the usual social housing in the region, with maximum flexibility to meet individual needs
Each villa consists of a basic package, which can be developed and customized according to personal preference and lifestyle of the client.
The residential units disposition offers to the dwellers a high degree of privacy since each single building is totally independent.
The construction is like a prefabricated box "plugged-in" the basic package. The relation between the water and house is central to the design generating a subtle playfulness between open and closed.
The basic package consists of two concrete modules 6 meters wide, 10 meters deep and 3 meters in height. The first floor is retracted so to get a balcony on the roof.
To satisfy the clients' need, the core house structure can be developed increasing its volume.
This prefabricated box, coated in wood, can be used as a balcony, winter garden or room.
Townhouses design and BIM
To conclude, two short explanatory videos inspired by the Water Villas project. The first video, specifically, will show how easy it is to design staircases thanks to the BIM methodology.