Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Ceiling Heights

“I put my hands up in the air sometimes, Saying AYO
Gotta let go”  - Taio Cruz

But sometimes ….they hit the flushed plasterboard ceiling at 2.4 metres above the floor, (or even the ceiling fan!).  That’s because when I looked at the floor plan of my house it seemed expansive, it has so many rooms and I got a  lot of bang for my buck, but I never thought too much about the ceiling height.

Plainly speaking, we feel better when living in houses with tall ceilings.

There a laws in Australia that say ceilings cannot be built below 2.4m (8 feet) and unfortunately the price driven home buyers market has dropped to this level as standard.  Now we talk about 2.7 or 3m ceilings as a bonus - wow! high ceilings, when in fact these heights are only high relative to the legal minimum,  beyond which the house becomes socially oppressive and hence the law.

This downward height creep is being exacerbated by our increase in housing density and our local planning laws.  As blocks get smaller, the need for internal spaces to be more generous in the vertical dimension increases.  Planning laws, more focused on the external factors such as overshadowing, are heading the other way and reducing overall height limits, which starts to force us right down to the oppressive minimum ceiling heights.

The legendary American architect Frank Lloyd Wright often incorporated low ceilings in his ‘Prairie’ style houses. It was not uncommon in these houses to have very low ceiling heights (around 2.1m high) expressed roof beams and floor-to-ceiling glass, yet room sizes were often wide to compensate. This was a clever device used to accentuate the horizontal and connect the inside to the outside. There is nothing wrong with this if you use a very talented architect and have good land size and expansive outdoor areas. Most often in suburbia, we don’t.

This is a call to local councillors, planning consultants and home buyers to consider the long term health and happiness benefits to the whole community of living in spaces that make us feel better by virtue of high ceilings.   Perhaps part of the attraction with older style house and the way they ‘feel’ to be in, is attributed to 10, 11, 12 foot ceilings.  Is it right to make these heights illegal? Let's go up a bit.

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