This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol1", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Whenever space permits the Hall should be screened from the entrance door by a vestibule, the entrance and vestibule doors opening inwards and all others outwards from it. Space has to be provided in it for a hat and umbrella-stand, out of the direct passage, and in almost all small houses for perambulator or bicycle also, unless there be a separate bicycle-room.
The Staircase, while it should be particularly well lit, warmed, and ventilated, being the principal "lung" of a house, is frequently the part most neglected in all these respects. A hall, fire, stove, or radiator will warm the staircase, and usually plenty of inlet ventilation is provided through the front door; but a low window which can be opened at will is preferable, especially if combined with another to serve as an outlet on the top landing or on the roof - though top lights are difficult to clean, and so are apt in course of time to become lights in name only.
Though "winders" have occasionally to be used in small houses where extreme economy of space is requisite, they should be avoided if possible, and the stairs be in straight flights of not less than three nor more than thirteen, with square landings. Comfortable going is generally attained if the rise multiplied by the length of tread (both in inches) equals 66 or nearly so; but the rise should not be less than 5 1/2 nor more than 7 1/2 inches.
Bedrooms require that places should be provided for the bed, dressing-table, wash-stand, and wardrobe or chest of drawers, and these are obtained successfully or otherwise almost entirely by the positions selected for windows, doors, and fireplaces. Generally speaking, it is advisable that door and window should occur towards the same end of the room, the bed and the fireplace being screened by the door as it opens; but a second window, of small size, providing light to the head of the bed, is often of great use. On the other hand, one bedroom should be arranged in every house for a draught to pass right through it, this being essential in many cases of infectious illness - though often obtainable, in a room not specially planned for the purpose, by putting the bed temporarily Detween door and window. Two windows, with the dressing-table between them, are best for lighting that piece of furniture, and wall space against which to place the wash-stand should be provided, well lit, yet away from prying eyes.
Bathrooms should have their window-sills somewhat high above the floor, and the glass should be "obscured"; but if window and bath be relatively carefully placed, nothing which takes place within can be seen externally. It is well for door and window to be opposite one another, to give a through draught when required; but a fireplace, if provided, should be sheltered, as it would be mostly needed for invalids and young children after undergoing a warm bath at bedtime.
Of the smaller offices of a house, it is only necessary to remark that all larders, cupboards, w.c.'s, cistern rooms, and coal cellars should have ample window area, and the means of providing a through current of air between door and window - this being most particularly necessary in any cellar in which the gas meter may be placed. A dark cupboard in a bedroom, too, though often much liked by the housewife, is liable to become a mere well of stagnant air, often damp from the presence of unaired clothing.
In the matter of construction the coal store is, or should be, peculiar in having a sloping floor, preferably dished, falling towards the front, where there should be a low screen wall with a small sliding door in it, toward which the coal naturally gravitates and from which it can be removed without causing dust or inconvenience. Such an arrangement, the floor being of concrete, cement rendered, is shown in Fig. 52, but something of a similar nature can be easily constructed of timber on an ordinary level floor.
Fig. 52. Plan.
Local Bye-Laws and Building Regulations affect planning, both horizontal and vertical, and construction also, to a very large extent. They vary so much, however, that it is impossible to do more than refer to them, and to advise strict compliance with them in all cases, however unreasonable they often seem, and are, even though in doing so some primary considerations have to give way. They can be enforced, and the architect who tries to evade them, even though by so doing he may produce a better house, is likely to bring much trouble upon his client and discredit to himself. Consequently, when planning a building in a new district, the very first thing to do is to obtain a copy of all local building regulations, and to adhere to them.
It may, however, be possible to give some slight idea of the principal provisions, and of the difficulties which are consequently to be met with in several country districts. There is, for instance, usually a regulation to the effect that walls shall be built upon footings, and these upon concrete of a certain specified thickness. Although it is better construction and cheaper also to increase the thickness of the concrete and omit the footings, this is not permitted, and the footings must go in. Here and there a local surveyor is met with who will understand the logic of providing something better than the Bye-Laws admit, but the majority insist upon absolute compliance.
The thicknesses of the walls, both externally and internally, are generally specified, and the party walls in the case of a row of two or more cottages have almost invariably to be carried through the roof, and to project above it to a height of some 15 inches. In some districts it is permissible to merely bring this party wall up to the under side of the roof covering, while in some few other districts a pair of houses, but not more, may be erected without carrying up a party wall beyond the ceiling level.
It will generally be found that the whole site has to be covered with 6 inches of concrete, and in some few districts the quality of the concrete is stipulated. This provision will be found to be applied even in places where there is a solid rock or chalk foundation, although it is there entirely unnecessary.
The external walls are, even in rural districts, frequently obliged to be built in brick, stone, or other incombustible material, and this forbids the use of half-timber work, sanctioned though it has been by many centuries of use, and rarely involving serious risk, at any rate in detached dwellings.
These are perhaps the most vexatious provisions, and those which most seriously increase the cost of building small cottages in country places. Besides these there are others which regulate the sizes of windows in relation to rooms, and stipulate for their being placed sufficiently high for purposes of ventilation. Proper damp courses and the proper ventilation of space under floors are very rightly insisted upon, and so, too, is it always compulsory that woodwork should be kept at a sufficient distance from all flues to secure safety from fire, while flues may not be carried at too sharp an angle or too nearly horizontal without the provision of sweeping doors.
It may be said that the general idea of the Model Bye-Laws was to secure stable building and security against fire with the least possible expense; but they were devised for certain districts near London, and when applied to other parts of the country without proper consideration of the local requirements they have not always proved satisfactory.