Architectural site analysis is the process of assessing a specific location’s physical, psychological, and social qualities in order to create an architectural solution that will both address and enhances the location’s internal and exterior context.

“The site of each worthwhile enterprise must first be measured”. Every site is different and will have a variety of intricate components, including, to mention a few, variable topography, watercourses, trees, plants, ecosystems, and weather patterns. All of which should and will have an impact on an architect’s decision-making and design process.

The proper examination of these components will initially aid in determining the placement, orientation, form, and materiality of the building but will also eventually have an impact on its structure, sustainability, and method of procurement.

Here, we talk about how thorough analysis, investigation, and testing may always result in excellent design solutions.

What to Watch Out For

The following list, which is referred to and referenced throughout the design and construction process, emphasizes some of the crucial topics that should be looked into and provides illustrations of how site analysis records can be presented:

1. Location, Broadly Speaking

  • Site perimeter
  • Locations and types of entrances
  • Site safety
  • existing structures

2. Adjacent Structures

  • Distances
  • Heights
  • Uses
  • Contextual Site lines
  • Lighting rights
  • Legal limitations
  • Audible levels

3. Legal Limitations

  • habitats for wildlife
  • stipulations and easements
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) Listings (Grade II, II*, and I) 
  • TPOs for rights of way (Tree preservation orders)
  • Applications and previous planning approvals

4. Use Public Transportation

  • secluded paths
  • automobile access
  • Walking access
  • existing lines of movement within

5. Gradients of Topographic Levels

  • Key characteristic
  • restrictions
  • Exposure

6. Views

  • Public views
  • Private views 

7. Sunpaths

  • Sun’s paths
  • Gains in solar shading

8. Wind patterns

  • Prevailing direction
  • Shelter
  • Exposure

9. Links to Public Transportation 

  • Buses
  • Trains
  • Taxis

10. TPOs for trees, vegetation, and protected species

  • locations for preventing roots
  • Things to remove
  • things to keep ownerships

11. Ecology

12. Site Constraints

  • Visibility
  • Light
  • Views
  • Neighbors
  • Pollution
  • Landslides
  • flooding

13. Features

  • Areas to use or expose
  • Things to work on
  • areas to conceal

14. Dangers

(Sub-stations, telephone lines, drainage, and electricity lines)

  • Abandoned Buildings
  • Unfinished construction

What Makes Site Analysis Crucial?

As was already mentioned, a project’s relationship to its site and surroundings determines its success; as such, it should always be tailored to and based on its location and local features.

Every location has unique views, perspectives (both good and terrible), and frequently a unique character and mood. Each of these areas offers a chance to develop a significant conceptual strategy and a means of determining the shape, arrangement, form, and materiality of a structure.

Any early conclusions will be strengthened once they have been established through further analysis of access, wind direction, site levels, vegetation, local context, privacy, and services (electrical lines, drainage, and telephone lines).

This is the goal of site analysis, which is why it requires more than just checking boxes to satisfy requirements; instead, everything must relate to the underlying assumptions made earlier on during the investigative process. so that it can assist in offering the solutions to such inquiries as necessary.

“Strong, straightforward, and well-established concepts are the basis of good design.”

How Might One Use Site Analysis?

The goal should always be to give a building the best feasible access to solar benefits, daylight, and shelter while taking local weather patterns into account. This can be done by strategically managing the effects of the sun, wind, and rain, situating windows and rooflines to let in natural light, warmth, and shelter all year long.

By aligning the building’s long axis with the direction of the predominant wind and offering deep overhangs for shade, its orientation can draw and circulate cool summer air throughout its design, helping to keep the building cool. Its constructed volumes can offer shelter and make enclosed outdoor areas via courtyards during the winter.

Consider employing the local vernacular of the nearby structures when letting context affect materiality. For instance, corten steel and dry stonewalls can be utilized to interpret agricultural structures in the present without exacting a replica.

If the local soil type is suitable, rammed earth walls may even be constructed from the land to represent an expansion of the site. Timber that has been weathered nicely tells a story of a place aging and evolving. Buildings can address the environment with big framed openings when the site provides commanding views and can choose key views and features to expressly draw attention to. 

Depending on how and when the spaces are used, moving across rooms can produce different views and, consequently, experiences at various times of the day. These concepts are site-specific and can only be meaningful if they are relevant, and relevance is produced through understanding your site.

If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one about what differentiates an architecture firm from an interior design firm.