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Trends In The Design Of Waterfront Properties

From understanding how to prevent oxidation to ensuring the spatial design encourages proper air flow, get to know some of the must-have features for waterfront living.

Oct 06, 2022 | By Joe Lim
Clifton Beach

Learning how to plan your outdoor space for you to enjoy waterfront living is key;
rooftop terrace of Clifton Beach, Cape Town, South Africa designed by ARRCC. Image: ARRCC.

Find out the key must-have designs that capitalise on purposeful residential features to reap the benefits of waterfront living. The demand for waterfront living has not abated globally. While the location is everything, some homeowners prefer to live close to the waterfront even if it’s secluded and hard to access. There’s a premium to pay for these properties as they can cost twice or more compared to similarly sized inland options.

Such buyers make up a small portion of the overall housing market which keeps prices high, and they don’t mind paying for the extras in exclusive lifestyle opportunities. The pursuit of a coastal real estate dream proves that it’s a desirable lifestyle choice, however, not all waterfront living is created equal. There are many considerations one must make when making such a property purchase. The threat of climate change has caused coastal storms to be more frequent, plus rising sea levels can destroy waterfront residences. Therefore, doing some homework and research is critical to understand how to maintain a property facing a body of water. Through smart planning, you can eliminate some of these potential concerns.

Immediate Access

Dilido House

Dilido house, Miami, USA designed by Saota. Image: Saota

One of the ultimate perks of living near a waterfront is the immediacy of a property’s connection to water and nature. Often a property is so close to water, there is almost an instinctive push to connect a residence as closely to its waterfront location as possible. Physical and visual connections can make the immediacy of water much more palpable, while a property’s site topography can create unique opportunities to forge further proximity to the waterfront.

Dilido House

The style of the Dilido house is a fusion of indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy waterfront living. Image: Saota.

A good waterfront residence should have design aesthetics that maximise the potential of its location. Mark Bullivant, director of SAOTA — an architectural firm with an extensive portfolio of waterfront properties around the world — highlights the importance of developing the right design responses to ensure the waterfront property maximises the potential of its location.

“It is important to create generous outdoor living spaces that overlook the waterfront and to ensure a natural spatial flow between internal and outdoor living areas to enhance the desirable lifestyle of waterfront living,” says Mark Bullivant, director of SAOTA, a renowned architectural firm with extensive expertise in waterfront properties across the globe.

He also opined that “The creation of wide, uninterrupted views out of living spaces is critical to creating a sense of luxury that makes the best use of the views on offer. The use of the site’s full width is to be maximised with as few structural elements placed within the field of views as possible.” The firm’s Dilido residence in Miami is a fine example of this design strategy.

Another project done up by the firm also takes a nod to maximising the waterfront views. The Mosman residence in Sydney, Australia has a design approach that reaps the precise aspect of maximising the views via spaces arranged in a linear arrangement along the width of the site, thereby, allowing each space to have its own individual views looking out. This type of design effectively avoids key waterfront views impeded by surrounding buildings or natural features.

Not Getting In Nature’s Way

Mosman House

The Mosman house enjoys Sydney Harbour views. Image: Saota

These days, climatic conditions have become our daily news. From rising sea water levels to more frequent typhoons and cyclones, these challenges have forced architects and designers to think harder. From tackling site analysis in the initial stages of design to studying the marine environment, can all aid in prolonging the property’s lifespan. Ultimately, the needful design strategies can also slow the ageing process of the property.

When it comes to waterfront residential design, climatic considerations such as high salt content in the air, tackling high winds, and severe storms, all need to be studied and researched. Buildings and structures need to be adequately protected from water. Materials such as concrete can be included to keep interior spaces cool during hot weather conditions while serving as a robust shield from a battering typhoon.

Mosman House

Waterfront living design is all about uninterrupted sea views. Image: Saota

As the world gets hotter due to climate change, rising sea water levels cannot be ignored. Thus, designing a building with a reliable structural interface that can cope with rising waters should be carefully considered. Even materials that can withstand high levels of oxidation to tackle the continuous daily barrage of salt spray, should be a requirement when selecting material with robust endurance and resilient properties. With new-age materials on the market, there are even metallic surfaces that can withstand years of continuous oxidation, allowing homeowners to do minimal upkeep. One can consider durable, low-maintenance metal elements like galvanised steel and flame-sprayed zinc to weather demanding marine conditions.


Mosman house in Sydney, Australia designed by Saota. Image: Saota

While it is admirable to design a waterfront home that fuses with the natural surroundings, architects and designers must look at the long-term — sustainability. Experts all over the world involved in the planning and development of coastal areas need to consider ecological shortcomings. The impact of developing a coastal site from ground zero and looking at how the waste may destroy the environment also has to be considered. Today’s well-informed homeowners are more tech-savvy. They may specific materials derived from eco-friendly sources and opt for materials that are recyclable.

Proper Air Flow

Le Cabanon

Private pool of the home enjoys stunning sea views. Image: Joe Fletcher Photography.

Passive design strategies include natural ventilation to ensure waterfront homes take full advantage of the site and location. With proper natural ventilation, or even positioning of the property on-site can dramatically cool interior space without relying on air conditioning. Therefore, a building’s form can channel airflow through key living spaces and allow natural ventilation to make it feel cool and homely.

Gustavo Ramirez of Rick Joy Studio references Le Cabanon residence as a fine example of smart design mindfully created for waterfront projects: “The form atop the living space is an asymmetric single hip roof with an operable triangular window at the leeward tip that draws the air through to maximise cross-ventilation. Additionally, water is harvested and stored in a large cistern underneath the main terrace and solar panels are integrated below the parapet on the flat roof.”

Le Cabanon

The home enjoys perfect cross ventilation. Image: Joe Fletcher Photography.

Avoiding The Glare

With a large waterbody, the reflection of the sun’s rays can create glare. With professional-grade glass, one can limit glare when the sun reflects off the water at specific angles. Blind and shutters can add a second barrier to control the interior ambience. Homeowners can incorporate shorefront windows to reduce heat as well as soften the noise of crashing waves.

Le Cabanon

Open-plan dining space leads out to the outdoor deck and pool. Image: Joe Fletcher Photography.

Proper planning is required at the start when acquiring a waterfront residence. Smart design ensures interior conditions allow you to enjoy the site and location to take in the coastal views. A well-designed waterfront residence is all about mindful interventions and careful consideration of its surroundings, allowing homeowners to be closer to the water in non-invasive ways while fully maximising the location. Architecture that celebrates the coastal context while providing homeowners with a comfortable respite is always desired and admired.

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