Site Anaylsis – What should you be looking for?

Upon starting a new project, a site visit is one of the first steps in the design process you tackle. Conducting an analysis can be a daunting task and because these initial stages are incredibly important I have listed a few areas of focus for you to consider.

What should you be looking for?

Location – Undertake prior research of the area before visiting. Make a mental note of what areas you could focus on upon arrival. Where is the site located? How is the site approached? What is the existing land use?

History – How has the area developed over the course of time? How can your design be respectful of the existing context? What architectural movements are in the area? Are there any important parts of the sites history you want to preserve?

Geological – Geological factors will influence certain aspects of your design. It is important to have an understanding of what your building will be built on. How stable is the ground? What types of foundations would be appropriate?

Anthropological – The study of humans, past and present, with in the area is important. How is the area occupied? What are the neighbourhood relationships like? Human interactions?

Hydrologic – Analysis: Water movement, water distribution, and quality of water in the area.  Research the water resources in the area and environmental watershed sustainability. Is there any potential for rainwater collection or any need to plan for flooding?

Patterns – Can you notice any patterns such as: Street patterns, natural vs man-made, street variations etc.

Circulation – How do people move in and out of the space and through the area? Concentrate on vehicle Vs pedestrian movements, cycle routes, access to and from the site.

Orientation – The orientation of the site will prompt some design decisions. It will tell you the best way to position a building in order to optimise the natural resources such as the sun and wind. It can also indicate where certain rooms will be best positioned in the design for example: putting the kitchen in the east for morning sun.

Temperature and Sunpath – Look at the local climate and monthly average temperatures. This will indicate potential for natural lighting techniques and solar energy production.

Wind Direction – If you are to design a climatologically responsive building, careful consideration will be needed to best use the direction of the wind to create natural ventilation. This will initiate the placement & size of openings such as windows and doors.

Soil Type and Condition – From a structural point of view this is an important aspect of the site study. What will your building be built on?

Topography – By looking at the slopes and levels of the land you can produce a detailed contour map if necessary. Other areas to focus on include: Edge conditions, surfaces and materials in the area.

Vegetation & Natural Features –  Look at the trees, fauna and flora present in the area. You should indicate these on the site plan so you can refer to them during the design process. Can they be incorporated into the design? As well as the location of the vegetation it is also important to include a certain level of detail about them. For example: type, size, diameter, heights etc. This will help you easily refer back to them and make conscience decisions as to how to work with them.

Precipitation & Hydrology – During the site visit, you need to identify water sources in and around the site, for example: lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers etc. The scale and location of the water sources should indicate if they could be integrated into the design scheme. Also look at: rainfall in mm, precipitation, water drainage patterns, relative humidity, moisture content, the water table and the potential for rainwater collection.

Infrastructure Facilities – Make a note about services present in the location. Look for: electricity supply, water supply, waste disposal and drainage connections etc.

Surrounding Land uses and Buildings – By looking around at what exists you can determine certain elements of your design. If there is a problem with the site you can see how other buildings have tackled it. You will also need to look at how these buildings will directly affect yours. Study the noise impact, building heights, scale, hierarchy, form, public Vs private space, open space, negative and positive space and overall massing etc.

Prominent Vision Lines / Visual Links – How a building reveals itself can be extremely important. The views to and from the site can be carefully considered while designing. Are there any perspective relationships and interesting views you want to take advantage of?

Locally Available Resources – This is important if you are trying to design as sustainably as possible. What materials are available in and around the site, which can be used in the design? This will help to reduce the transportation energy & overall costs of the project.

I hope this post helps get you started with this task. Please find below a link to my Site Analysis Example Board on Pinterest for inspiration.

Useful Links: My Pinterest:

(post in progress)

My top 10 ways to stay involved in the profession of architecture.

As we all know finding a placement or a job in the industry doesn’t always come easily or quickly so what I have found to aid this transition are listed below:-

1. Subscribe to a weekly architecture magazine – This is an excellent way to keep up to date with upcoming projects and get a sense of what firms are currently working on. They also often advertise jobs.

2. Media – For a lazy evening treat yourself to some TV there are many programs, documentaries and online lectures that you can catch up on demand. TED is an amazing online space that offers a range lectures covering all aspects of design and technology.

3. Volunteer Opportunities – Keep an eye out for volunteering opportunities in the construction industry located close to home or somewhere you can easily afford to commute.

4. Short courses – There are many short courses that are available that are relevant to architecture. However, be aware that some of these may be expensive and can be learnt from home. Also drawing classes and other evening classes can keep you using improving your skills.

5. Give yourself a project – Setting your own small projects is a great way to target areas that you wish to improve. Sketching, diagramming, 3D modelling and concepting can be practised through these projects giving you goals and targets to work on. This is a really fun way to keep your mind active.

6. Find local lectures or RIBA events to attend – Keep an eye out for RIBA events and evening lectures. I recently attended one in Woodstock at a local museum where architects from MJP came to speak about 2 projects they had worked on in the area. This is a great way to ask questions and meet professionals as well as show you are a keen graduate.

7. Architecture competitions – Even if you don’t have the money to enter an idea I enjoy doing the competitions for my own benefits. It’s interesting to compare the work of those who have entered with your own design conclusions.

8. Visits, Day trips and Tours – Visiting museums and old buildings is a great way to learn about the buildings that already exist. Also try going for a walk around the city to see what gems you can find. Don’t forget a sketchbook and camera. Often the people around these areas share a common interest.

9. Sketch booking – Keep a sketchbook and constantly sketch buildings you see on your travels. This is a great way to practise sketch diagrams for site analysis and drawing skills. Small sketchbooks are great to take to interviews as they tell the interviewer a lot about you and show your thought processes rather then a finished project.

10. Blogging and social networking  

Blogs – Write a Blog where you can record things that interest you and start an online community you can interact with over topics. If you don’t fancy writing one there are many blogs you can follow and you can use the comment section. (I will post an entry on my favourite blogs).

LinkedIn – is a great way for potential employers to find you and you can interact and connect with other professionals in the industry. It is important to have a good profile as many companies use this site to find potential employees.

Twitter – My favourite social network is Twitter. This is a space where you don’t need to spend all day on however, are instantly updated with news from companies and projects.