Blog / The Intergalactic House: Working with ‘Bulk Mass’ Code

The good people at Indie Capital are making fast and steady progress on our Intergalactic House design in East Sacramento. Henry + Associates designed the home, and Indie Capital is the owner/builder. As we previously mentioned, this was a challenging design due to the narrow lot (40 x 160)  and the size of the house (3,000 sq. feet).

Also, as specified in the city’s 2013 Zoning Code, “bulk mass” controls basically dictate that the building mass must fit inside a “tent” shaped vertical to 12 feet at the property lines on each side. At 12 feet, the “tent” slopes in at 45 degrees up to a 35 foot height. Code allows a 3 foot setback for side yard on narrow lots (less than 52 feet) and 5 feet elsewhere. The first floor walls can extend up until they reach the “tent” and then they must step back.

Second stories must be set back about 8 to 9 feet from the property line to fit under the bulk mass or “tent.” If a house is stacked, one floor on top of the other with the same mass, then both floors will set back 8 to 9 feet from the side property line. On a narrow 40 foot wide lot, the stacked two-story house becomes 22-24 feet in width. So the house becomes long and narrow.

In our experience, the bulk mass restrictions don’t adequately address narrow lots less than 52 feet wide. There should be an allowance for a higher starting point of say 15 feet where the “tent” bends in at 45 degrees to allow for more mass up front.

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