Granny Flats Australia – The Importance of Privacy and Separation

Granny Flats Australia – Designs for Privacy and Separation

It’s vitally important to design your new granny flat designs with a view to creating visual and acoustic privacy between the two occupants. The main dwelling has existed, in most cases, for decades in isolation and as the sole dwelling on a residential allotment. The introduction of a new, detached Secondary Dwelling can seem like a great idea, but careful planning must be undertaken to ensure that the new structure doesn’t detract from the principle dwellings yard-space. This means enhancing visual and acoustic privacy, adequate landscaping and the overall aesthetic appeal.

Privacy & Separation for Granny Flats

Case Study:

We recently had a client ask us to organise his granny flat approval and design in Thornleigh, NSW. As usual, we asked for the site’s address (on the phone) so we could see how it looked form the sky. It immediately became obvious that the back-yard was a tight squeeze. The property was quite wide, at 18m but the distance from the main dwelling to the back fence was only 11 metres. There was also a lovely Jacaranda Tree in the rear left-hand corner of the allotment which the client wanted to remove. The challenge here was to provide a granny flat which was 3 metres from the rear boundary, which is the minimum rear-setback requirement under the ‘Affordable Rental Housing SEPP’. We also needed to comply with the fire-separation requirements of the Building Code of Australia, which requires the two buildings be separated by at least 1.8 metres. This is measured wall-to-wall. Alternatively, the latter prescription can be breached if a ‘fire-rated-wall’ is built when the two dwellings are closer than 1.8m from each other.

Privacy is King!

The client hadn’t really considered how the two tenants would interact on the property and he hadn’t (at this point) considered how the tenants were going to affect each others privacy. This was the first thing on our minds, since we are not in it “just for the money”. We also had to deal with the fire-separation issue, consider the significant tree AND create privacy/separation between the two dwellings – not an easy situation.

My initial advice was to consider cancelling the project IF we couldn’t create something that was attractive to tenants and adequately separated. It’s just no good designing and building a granny flat if the tenants aren’t going to be adequately separated. Creating privacy is truly king in granny flat planning!

The Maths

We sat down and took a long hard look at the available building area- we had an 18m x 11m rear yard to work with and the driveway was on the right-hand side of the property. Luckily, the left-hand-side of the main dwelling had a 1.4 metre side setback, which we immediately recognised as a good way to provide pedestrian access for the granny flat’s tenants. There was a carport on the right side of the main dwelling, so this, we decided, could be fenced off and set aside for the main dwelling’s vehicular access.

The Tree Problem

The other issue was the Jacaranda tree. The client wanted to remove the Jacaranda, but once we surveyed the land we could see that perhaps we could keep the tree and design the granny flat ‘around’ the tree. Of course, we had to protect the new structure from tree roots via adequately distancing it from the tree trunk. The minimum reqyuired is 3 metres from the tree trunk. We also saw the potential for providing an attractive shaded rear-yard for the new granny flat in this part of the yard.

Designing for Privacy & Separation – A Combined Solution

We came up with a few preliminary drawings which we presented to the clients for their review. Again, the main focus was creating privacy and separation for the two dwellings. The design strategy we came up with afforded an L-Shaped Granny Flat which was designed to ‘wrap’ around the tree’s zone of influence and at the same time provided a shady back-yard for the granny flat. The north-point was toward the rear boundary, so we designed the living and dining areas to face the tree and back fence. We provided an 1800mm wide glass-sliding- door which opens directly out to the rear corner of the block. We also added a door from the laundry opening directly to the rear yard.

Additional Costs?

The only disadvantage to the design was the slight cost increase. The L-shaped granny flat did cost a little more to build- around $2,500, to cover the additional roof tiling and roof framing. The other recommendation was that the granny flat be brick-veneer in order to increase acoustic privacy between the 2 dwellings. The rear of the main dwelling had 2 bedrooms, so we felt it was paramount to maximise sound suppression, so we also recommended the installation of sound-proof insulation to that side of the new granny flat. We also had no large windows on the adjoining side. The only openings we provided, and this is a legislative requirement of the SEPP, was a window (a 600mm x 900mm bathroom window) and a P.A Door (or personal access door) into the small 1.5 sq m Patio we integrated into the design. The eaves were also designed at 600mm in order to increase shielding from the weather and to enhance the look and feel of the granny flat, giving it as much of a ‘house look’ as possible.

Privacy – Other Considerations

We focused on other aspects of the design to maximised privacy and to encourage the granny flat’s tenants to “play in the back yard as much as possible”. We added a timber fence between the dwellings and added some shrubbery which further increased privacy- pencil pines are an excellent choice here, since they don’t have a broad root-zone and they have excellent visual blocking qualities, plus they’re relatively inexpensive and fast growing.

The final aspect of the design was providing adequate access for moving tenant’s furniture in (and out) when occupying the granny flat. We helped the landlord design a gate at the rear of the carport which could be padlocked and a key provided to the tenants for this purpose. We also designed a small parking-bay in the front yard. This way, the granny flat tenants can do their shopping, for example, and carry it along the left hand side of the property and into the granny flat. BBQ and recreation areas were designed into the project so that the tenants would spend their outdoor time with as much privacy as possible. In the end, we were able to design and build the new granny flat, confident that every aspect of visual and acoustic privacy was addressed and alleviated wherever possible.

About Us

Since 2009, Granny Flats Sydney have designed, approved and built over 170 new secondary dwellings in Sydney and Country NSW. Our experience has availed us valuable insights into ways to save costs for our clients and saving them in ways which cannot be quantified on paper. It simply pays to employ people who are experts in their field.

We hope this article helps investors and granny flat builders when designing your new granny flat.

Warm Regards,

Serge PanayiGranny Flats Sydney.



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