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How To Choose Land Based on The Natural Topography

July 21st, 2022

By Francisca Alonso

2 min read


Topography is the natural condition of the land and working with land untouched by man is something we value.  Lots that have hills or slopes, or as we say “have some movement” are wonderful because there are opportunities that one can take advantage of.   All of our designs are site specific meaning we work with the landscape and its natural conditions.  We give great thought to light and orientation, sustainability, connection to the original topography and eliminating boundaries between indoor and outdoor transitions.

Natural conditions of course can be changed with a bulldozer and a tree removal service but there are many reasons why that is not always a good idea.  First of all, it is very expensive but second of all, and more importantly, you are interfering with mother nature who will frequently punch back once the home has been built.

Problems associated with changing the natural topography can involve water issues or poor drainage because you have stripped the lot of its natural conditions.  One of the main advantages of building a home on a hill is drainage. By having your home built on higher ground, you can avoid potential flooding issues that can occur with homes built at lower elevations. Additionally, drainage can also help to protect your foundation from water damage. The approach we use with “hilly” lots is to take advantage of what is currently there.

Some design advantages of lots with hills/slopes are that you can build a deck off of the main floor living room.  You can also have a walkout lower level with a patio, without that basement feel, where you gain natural light if you position retaining walls strategically.  It is really important that your outdoor spaces are at the same elevation as your indoor spaces. Nobody wants to carry dishes and food up and down several steps to get to your deck!  A seamless transition to enter and exit the house is always ideal.

With a flat lot an advantage is that you are able to have a much larger footprint on the main floor and fewer steps.  But of course, that also means your lower level will have less natural light.  So, when choosing land we believe that a lot that has more natural movement is a great design opportunity.

By preserving the natural topography, we can enjoy the land in its natural form and take advantage of its natural features. This allows us to create unique and beautiful homes that are specifically tailored to the land on which they are built.

At AV Architects + Builders we believe in building homes that blend with their surroundings and emphasize the synergetic and harmonious relationship between architecture and nature.  If you are interested in learning more, please contact us, we would love the opportunity to learn more about your vision for your dream home.


9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
(703) 865-5065