How can you have a smaller lot with more yard space?

Community, Design

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Have you ever driven through Annafeld and thought, “What’s up with the yards?”

At first glance, you might think a McCall Homes yard is much smaller than the ones you see in downtown or in some other more dense residential areas of Billings, MT. While some of our lots may be smaller by square footage, the actual usable yard space is comparable or, in some cases, better.

How can this be?

When looking at usable yard space, you have to consider a few factors:

  • footprint of the home (the size in square footage of the main floor of the home + the garage)
  • size of the driveway
  • outbuildings or storage sheds
  • the layout and location of the usable spaces

Here’s a graphic showing the difference between a traditional neighborhood yard and an Active/Passive yard like the ones in Annafeld. They are drawn with the same lot size and house footprint to demonstrate the usable and unusable yard spaces.

Traditional Lot compared to McCall Homes Lot

This intentional lot design maximizes the use of the lot without sacrificing square footage. You can see how much more unusable yard space exists on a traditional lot design of the same size where the home sits in the center of the lot. You can also see how the footprint of the home, where it sits on the lot,  and the size of the driveway matters in how much yard is usable.

Active/Passive Lot Design

Active/Passive means that the home has an active side and a passive side. The active side typically faces south for light and heat exposure in the winter months (though not the case with all homes in Annafeld due to lot orientation). The active side of the home features more windows and usually larger windows that orient to the yard-side of the home and take advantage of southern exposure (if applicable).

The passive side of the home acts as the boundary for the neighboring yard. It features few if any windows. If there are windows on the passive side, they are usually small to create a sense of privacy between homes while still letting in light.


In Annafeld, the homes sit 5 feet off the passive-side lot line maximizing the usable yard space on the active side. The neighboring home grants a 5-foot easement to the home on its passive side making the entire yard usable up to its exterior wall. One benefit of this layout is the savings homeowners gain when installing a fence. You can see in the graphic how much more fence is required on a traditional lot design. The cost, maintenance, and style of the fence may have to be shared and agreed upon between neighbors or it becomes the burden of one neighbor at the benefit of the other. Active/passive yards prevent neighbors from having to share their fences.

Bottom Line

When you’re looking at lot sizes, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to square footage of a lot. Make sure you take into account all the aspects discussed here.

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