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Split Level Homes: Things You Need to Know

Split level home

If you’re looking to buy a sloping site, you’ve likely come across a range of home designs. But did you know that split level homes can be the most effective and sustainable way to build on an unlevel site? Learn more about the benefits, challenges and costs of building a split level home. 

What Is a Split Level Home?

Split level houses are commonly built on sloping or uneven blocks of land. This style of home is designed to work with the natural layout of the land and often will have multiple levels of living spaces to accommodate for this.

Split level homes first became popular in the 1950s and have seen a bit of a resurgence in the last few years due to the type of land readily available for purchase in Australia.

Designing a Split Level Home

Before buying a split level block, it is essential that buyers understand what goes into designing and building on a slope. Many people buy sloping sites without understanding the complexity of building on a slope compared to a standard flat piece of land, which can lead to more challenges during construction. 

While many buyers have some previous ideas of how they would like the house to look or function, it is vital that any alterations to a design always works with the site. This ensures that to build is cost-effective and makes the most of the existing landscape. 

Most builders will likely have to improvise a lot of the design based on the slope’s layout to ensure that the house will sit correctly. Once a builder or designer can view the site and the slope in person, they can better understand the complexities of the build and can provide home plans that suit that specific site. 

Choosing a design that best fits with the exiting site enables builders to minimise the impact of the build on the land and maximise the overall amenity of the site. Ultimately, designing a home around a site’s slope often means that the buyers end up with a much nicer place that is more sustainable, more functional to live in, and more cost-effective to build.

What Are the Benefits of a Split Level Design?

Interior of a split level design

There are many benefits of building a split level home on a sloping block, including sustainability, aesthetics, space utilisation and better views. 

Here at G.J. Gardner Homes, we recommend building a split level home on a sloping block to minimise the site’s earthwork. Split level homes are a much more sustainable way to build a home on a sloping site, as you can reduce the amount of earth that needs to be moved compared to building a flat level home on an uneven site. 

Split level homes can also be much more aesthetically pleasing than flat level homes as they fit naturally into the surrounding environment. 

What Are the Challenges of Building a Split Level Home?

The biggest challenge of building a split level home is the site and the slope itself. The more that the site is changed or altered, the more challenging the build will be. Working with the natural landscape can help minimise any challenges of building a split level home.  

Is Building a Split Level Home More Expensive?

When people decide whether to build a split-level home or a flat-level home, the most frequently asked questions are “what costs more?”. Like the design of a split level home, it varies on a case by case basis. The cost of a split level build depends on various factors, including the home’s actual design and the slope of the land.

Per square meter, building a split level home can be more expensive to build because of structural issues and the splitting of the land. On the other hand, it can also be cheaper than building a flat house on a sloping site. Often, starting with a design that doesn’t work for the site can cost buyers an extra $100,000.

While some people try and build a flat level home on any site because the initial costing is cheaper, excavating the land on a slope to flatten out the land, putting in retaining walls, and other additional features like drains can dramatically increase the cost of the build. 

Ultimately, building a house that minimises changing the land structure and works with the slope will be cheaper than excavating and building despite the slope.

CTA: Want to know more? Check out our range of split level home designs or get in touch today!




Rear Lane Designs: Why are they useful for narrow houses?

Rear lane home

Rear garage house plans are home designs usually built on narrow lots that have the garage and driveway accessible at the back of the property. Rear-loaded lots have no front driveways and garage doors are out of sight, making them a visually appealing choice. These homes are designed specifically with narrow rear access lots in mind to ensure you get the most out of limited space and are best suited to blocks between 10m – 15m in width.

Common Features of Rear Lane Home Designs

Rear lane home floor plan

The primary defining feature of a rear living house plan is that there is no driveway or garage present at the frontend of the home, but instead the garage is accessed on the back of the lot by an alleyway. This floorplan allows for a cottage effect for the front of the home and can look quite appealing from the street as there is no driveway or garage impacting the overall aesthetic of the home.

Rear lane access home designs will often have a little gate that leads to a front door or porch, creating a simple and clean street view. However, the backyard will contain a rear lane access garage which can compromise the practicality of this design for some families. Unlike split level homes, rear lane homes often are all in a similar stock standard design due to their lots’ sizing limitations and the developer guidelines that specify how these houses must be planned. 

Popularity of Rear Lane Designs

In Australia as a whole, rear lane homes are not a common design choice. There is only a very small market, meaning not many developers build homes designed this way. Rear lane design homes are not particularly a mass market design but are more so a design intended for necessity based on block requirements. 

However, rear garage house plans are a reasonably popular choice in Western Australia, primarily Perth since the price of land has continued to increase causing land developers to create smaller, narrower blocks of land to address affordability. This is why many narrow lots in Perth have rear laneways for garage access, meaning homes built on these lots need to be designed accordingly with a garage at the rear. 

Living in a Rear Lane Design Home

Not many people actively choose rear lane home designs as it is not a conventional way of living, however some blocks and suburb layouts require this kind of house plan. Though these designs can risk impacting the family’s lifestyle, G.J. Gardner design their rear lane design homes with lifestyle and liveability top of mind. 

We are committed to ensuring you get everything you need out of your home design without having to compromise based on your land shape. 

G.J. Gardner has a number of rear land access home designs to choose from, so you can choose the design that is best for you.




If you have any questions about our rear living house plans, contact your local G.J. Gardner office and one of our friendly team members will be happy to help. 

Home Design Trends: How has COVID impacted how we live?

COVID has influenced many facets of the way Australians live, work, and play. The housing market and home design trends is not an exception to the changes we have seen in consumer behaviour over the last year. With lockdowns and general social distancing, not to mention the increase in work flexibility, COVID has had a meaningful impact on how we use the spaces in our home. 

COVID isn’t the first infectious disease to have an impact on home design trends either, with illnesses like tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, and the 1918 Spanish flu having many impacts on trends such as the popularity of upholstered surfaces and the construction of more spacious suburban homes that included their own garden. 

One example of a noticeable change in home aesthetic was removing all the plush surfaces associated with the Victorian era such as textiles in bathrooms, heavy drapery, wall-to-wall rugs, and wooden cabinetry. These features were replaced by materials like tile, porcelain, and linoleum as society experienced a growing awareness of germs, and in the late 19th century, people believed that dust carried disease. This is what caused an influx of material use that was much easier to clean and sanitise, along with white surfaces so any dirt could be easily spotted. 

How has COVID impacted house design?

Now that Australians have become accustomed to working from home, remote learning, exercising in the home, and having to socialise in open air spaces, they are requiring homes that fit this new lifestyle. There has been an incredible increase in demand for resort style houses, since if they are going to be locked down, a lot of people want to feel like they’re in their own private resort.

People have more time than ever to spend in their homes, meaning new little things people didn’t used to want to spend the extra money on are becoming increasingly important to the modern Australian market. 

Time restraints were the biggest thing that prevented people from building their own home in the past. The cumulative time it takes to go to display homes, talk to the design contact, choose colour schemes, and everything in between was too much for the average Australian to handle. But now more people are finding themselves with the time to think about what their dream home looks and feels like and are willing to engage in the time and financial investment to achieve this. 

The most notable aspects of home design affected by COVID include:

  1. Home offices

Following the need for people to be able to comfortably work from home in lockdown, many employers have become much more flexible with their work from home arrangements. This means more and more Australians are choosing to work from home for at least a portion of their working week, and while working on the dining room table may have been suitable for a few days, they are now seeking permanent home office solutions included in their home design.

Long gone are the days of spare bedrooms, many families are instead converting these extra spaces into home offices.

  1. Home gyms

Even as gyms began to reopen last year, many people decided to continue their workout routine from the comfort of their own home. Despite an economic downturn, people have been spending large amounts on expensive at-home fitness equipment as they continue to workout at home. 

As more people realise that they can have access to the same type of experience through virtual instructors and classes, they are continuing to prefer exercising without the gym commute. This has translated directly to a demand for home designs that consider space for a home gym or workout area.

  1. Multi-use spaces

Following the same reasoning for the influx in demand for home designs that incorporate home offices and home gyms, many families wish to have their home include a multi-use space that can work as an office, gym, remote learning space, or recreational area. This comes in line with families wishing to bring more and more pursuits into the home.

  1. Storage

Along with an increasing need to bring recreation into the home, comes the complementing increased need for storage solutions. People are buying more gym equipment, more recreational toys, more clothes from online shopping, and some are buying more long-lasting food and hygiene supplies – meaning modern home designs need an increased consideration for storage. 

  1. Focus on natural light

Another trend that has arisen from COVID is a bigger focus on getting better solar orientation. Families are more focused on how to build the home for winter sun, the summer sun, and their general orientation. This trend is proving great for customers, as having the right orientation can save money on power and makes the house more pleasant to live in. 

  1. Increased focus on outdoor spaces

The biggest home style trend that has come off the back of COVID is the request for resort style homes. These homes have an increased focus on outdoor spaces and tend to include central courtyards with a more cohesive indoor to outdoor design approach. 

The increase in desire for liveable outdoor spaces came after lockdowns and people being stuck in home. Being able to enjoy the outdoors from their own property was considerably beneficial for their lifestyle, and this is something many people want to ensure they can replicate in their house plans moving forward.

  1. Creating more functional and adaptable layouts

The increase in time spent in the home also meant an increase in need for spaces and layouts that are adaptable and incredibly functional. People are focusing more and more on practicality and being able to spend most of their time in the home. Basically, families now want their homes to function perfectly for their lifestyle and are less willing to compromise on practicality for aesthetics.

  1. People are looking for more open space

Open space homes are also becoming more and more popular as people want a space to relax with friends and families. Social activities are also being brought into the home, and home designs are now expected to accommodate these events with large open spaces.

  1. Less bedrooms and more open plans
Open space designs are continuing to grow in popularity.

People are having less of a focus on quantity of bedrooms and are instead designing with the priority of having a nice house to live in where they can comfortably spend their leisure time.

A lot of people are now pushing for less rooms and instead larger living spaces like kitchens, living rooms, and outdoor lounge areas. Overall, the number of bedrooms is decreasing for the average home, as spare bedrooms no longer seem necessary in lieu of home offices, home gyms, and recreational spaces.

To discuss a home plan that perfectly suits your lifestyle, contact your local G.J. Gardner office today.

Dual Occupancy Home Designs

Dual Occupancy Home

This type of dual dwelling is classified into two categories; attached and detached. Attached dual occupancies are two dwellings on one lot of land that are attached to each other, while detached are two separate dwellings on one lot of land. Neither of these include a secondary dwelling. A dual occupancy cannot be subdivided; however, utilities can be separated between the two dwellings.

Dual occupancy home designs rose in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s and were designed to resemble a single-family house and blend into the streets they were being built in. This was a conscious strategy by city planners aimed at maintaining property values by giving the street a consistent appearance. Since then, however, dual living has evolved into a cost-effective and practical housing solution.

Dual occupancy homes tend to attract a number of different types of buyers, including people who want to live in one of the dwellings and passively earn income off leasing the second dwelling. They also attract families with older children or elderly parents, so they are able to stay close by while maintaining the independence of their own dwelling. 

Dual occupancy designs are ideal for when a block cannot be subdivided, but you still want two dwellings on the single property, as it still provides many of the benefits of subdividing and allows for two self-sustaining dwellings.

What are the benefits of a dual occupancy design?

A dual living solution can be the best option for your home design as it is incredibly versatile with plenty of applications. Dual occupancy home designs come with many great advantages for first home buyers, builders, investors, and families looking for extra space. They can provide an excellent opportunity to offset your mortgage and earn a passive income if you live within one of the dwellings while renting out the other. 

There are a number of financial benefits of dual occupancy homes designs, including building equity, since when dual occupancy properties are built under strata title it allows the two dwellings to be valued as two separate homes. This means they will be able to be sold separately and create instant equity from the growth in the original properties value. 

They also provide the opportunity for supplementary income, as the second dwelling can be rented out full time or used as an Airbnb. Of course, even more income could be generated if both dwellings were rented out and you had elsewhere to live yourself. By using this rental income, it also provides the opportunity to pay off your mortgage sooner, along with several tax reductions often available with dual living house plans.

They are also a great option for extended family members, providing a great housing solution for elderly or disabled relatives as well as adult children. Duplexes allow for increased independence while still living on the same property.

Dual Occupancy Council Regulations

The main drawback of dual occupancy home designs is that every council in Australia has different regulations and restrictions that need to be adhered to. Council requirements for dual occupancy vary greatly in different areas and states in Australia, meaning there is no standard block size, shape or plan that will guarantee approval across all locations. There is unfortunately no one size fits all choice for choosing the right land size for your dual living development. 

Dual occupancy development must be permitted in its specific Council land zoning area and obtain development consent from the Local Council by complying with certain planning controls. 

The first consideration is if dual occupancy homes are permitted at all within your zone. If they are, they still then need to comply with other planning controls in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP). The main requirements include a minimum site area and a minimum site width specified by your local council. Some other controls include maximum floor space ratio, maximum building height, building setbacks, car parking, open space, and minimum landscaped area. 

Each state in Australia has greatly varying regulations for dual occupancy developments summarised below. 


  • The Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, & Scenic Rim councils allow dual occupancy house plan constructions throughout their local government area (LGA).
  • Dual occupancy development is also allowed in Ipswich City (within the Western suburbs), Logan City (within the southern suburbs), and Moreton Bay (within the Northern suburbs). 
  • Within Brisbane City and the Gold Coast, dual occupancy homes can only be constructed under certain conditions.
  • Many Queensland councils only allow for the second dwelling in a dual occupancy home design to be one-bedroom and no larger than 48m2.
  • Other councils in Queensland only permit dual occupancy homes if they share one main entrance, with the provision of two further private entries once inside.

New South Wales 

  • Properties located in R2, R3, R4 or B1 zoned areas are approved to have dual occupancies built on their land.
  • Under a new code that applies to properties zoned R1, R2, R3 and RU5, blocks must be either 400m2 or the minimum lot size required by council, whichever is larger.
  • Blocks also need to be a minimum of 12 metres wide and buildings must have a minimum side setback of 0.9 metres.
  • The code also requires each dwelling to be at least 5 metres wide, face a public road, and cannot be located behind a separate dwelling (except on corner lots).
  • Off-street parking must also be provided for at least one car per dwelling.


  • There are three main new residential zones in Victoria that all generally allow dual occupancy development.
  • General Residential Zone (GRZ) allows moderate growth in housing development with buildings up to 10 metres in height.
  • Residential Growth Zone (RGZ) is the most development friendly zone and located close to principal transport infrastructure or larger retail areas and contain developments consisting of apartments and units generally four storeys or 13.5 metres high.
  • Neighbourhood Residential Zone (NRZ) is more restrictive with dual occupancy developments and the allowances for lot sizes are made at the discretion of the council.
  • For every zone consideration must be made for site constraints, size, width, crossover location, and orientation.

Western Australia

  • Ancillary dwellings in Western Australia need to have a lot size of at least 450m2 and parking provision needs to be allowed for.
  • There can be many local planning policies additional to WA state policies that can affect minimum areas and street frontage facades that need to be checked at a more granular level.

Australian Capital Territory

  • In the ACT zoning rules for RZ2 blocks of 800m2 or larger allow you to build two houses on the same block that can then be sold off as separate deeds.
  • Some blocks have a reduced minimum size of 700m2 that were surrendered under the Buyback Program.

South Australia

  • The following guidelines are usually required for acquiring development approval in SA:
    • An additional dwelling should be compatible with the setbacks of buildings on adjoining land and other buildings in the locality.
    • A dwelling should be sited and designed to incorporate adequate private open space.
    • Every dwelling should be provided with one covered and one uncovered park.
    • A two-storey dwelling should consider protecting the privacy of adjoining properties. Designs should ensure that no proposed balconies have direct view into the rear and side yards of adjoining neighbours and contain screening to a minimum height of 1700mm above the level of the floor. Any windows, which will constitute an overlooking problem, will be required to comprise fixed obscure glazing to a minimum height of 1700mm above the level of the floor.

Northern Territory

  • The minimum lot size on which dual occupancy development could occur is proposed as 800m2, with each resulting dwelling requiring a minimum lot size of 400m2.
  • Any dual occupancy development would need to meet the general requirements of the NT Planning Scheme and Local Government Subdivision Guidelines, including provisions around setbacks, storm water drainage, landscaping, parking requirements and essential services.

Are dual occupancy homes becoming more popular in Australia?

Despite the difficulties many people face with what can be very specific and challenging local council restrictions, dual occupancy home designs are a popular choice in some areas. In Sydney particularly, dual occupancy is becoming increasingly popular while other areas also have large demand but outweighing difficulty to get plans approved by council. The popularity in Sydney is because the value of land is so high, causing people to strive to get as much value from their property as possible.

COVID19 also has influenced dual occupancy and its relative popularity. There has been a noticeable change in families going for a more lifestyle focused, premium product with less focus on maximising return on investment when building a house. People are looking more and more to build houses that reflect the way they want themselves and their family to live, rather than the houses future value. This has directly caused the popularity of dual occupancy homes to go down overall in Australia, due to COVID19 and lockdowns placing greater societal importance on time spent in the home. 

This is despite the trend of older children moving back home and elderly parents moving in with their kids. Instead of looking to move into traditional dual occupancy living scenarios, they are embracing a new way of intergenerational living, where people are living in one large house where there are two master bedrooms, one on each floor with their own ensuites – allowing everyone their own space while still sharing the overall home. 

This also comes with the added benefit of single homes like this not needing to go through the same council approval processes as dual occupancies, which normally take 12 months to go through council. Traditional homes will become more popular after COVID19, with people desiring big lifestyle houses and more homeowner grants being passed through government. 

G.J. Gardner has a number of dual occupancy home designs available; however, these may also need to be adjusted to meet the regulations of your zone.

Check out our range of Dual Home Designs!

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