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: http://pinterest.com/jasminharris452/site-analysis-examples/
(post in progress)