A Site Analysis is a tool for maximizing the opportunity that your project represents by telling you up front which paths of site development will lead to achieving your goals.
We know that context affects design, but analysis of the context is also a big step toward meeting your project goals. A Site Analysis is a study focused on context, your surroundings, in two different ways. On the one hand a Site Analysis looks for obstacles to achieving your goals, but on the other hand it also looks for conditions that will help implement your goals.
The interesting thing is that what you know about the project's goals affects your interpretation of the study. So goals are a prerequisite for making sense of your Site Analysis and charting a successful project course.
There are millions of potential solutions for every project. Unfortunately, most of these solutions do not realize your goals. In one way or another they do not address your needs for space, character, compliance, timing or economy. Of those few solutions that address all your goals in a balanced and integrated way, there is just a handful that provides a really maximized opportunity for you. A Site Analysis will steer you toward building forms that will have inexpensive site development costs, site layouts that take advantage of existing and natural features, development concepts that are readily approvable and quickly built, and, finally, a solution that provides the most value for the funds invested.
When you are starting your project, it may seem obvious where and how the building should be situated. However, after taking some time to research local regulations, and document the natural properties of your site and adjacent properties, you might be surprised by your findings. Your objectives in doing a site analysis are:
COMPONENTS OF A SITE ANALYSIS
Analysis of a site will bring key issues to the forefront while others fall out of play. Three steps can be taken; research, analysis, planning.
Research things about the natural site like solar orientation, prevailing winds, soil types and topography as well as man-influenced issues like location of utilities, community surroundings, water quality or aviation flight patterns.
Analyze the site and it's restrictions such as traffic patterns, building and zoning regulations. Keep your needs in mind as the benchmark.
Plan - fit your needs into the site using what you have learned from research and analysis as background. Your 'plan' is actually just a bubble diagram with which you locate the desired features in relationship to the site.
SITE ANALYSIS IMPACT ON DESIGN
Location, neighborhood, environment are other ways to describe a building's context. In a subtle way context exerts a strong impact on how a building comes into existence. "Where's the entrance?" This is one of those subtle forces. The answer usually seems obvious, and that is evidence of how the surroundings are shaping the building.
Vehicular approaches are another impact. If there is a drop-off area, then vehicles must approach that area from right to left so that the passenger door faces the entrance. Once again context is designing the building.
The slope of the land also exerts a driving force on the design. Parking requires a fairly flat area that is usually several times the size of the building. Where can this flat area be located so that it makes functional sense? The building can be placed on a slope if two or more stories are desirable or acceptable. What's better for the project - increased earthwork costs or an ideal layout? Whichever you choose, context is affecting the design.
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