Saturday , 22 October 2016

How to carry out the best site analysis in the class!

Here you will find pretty much everything you need to think of when you are carrying out a site analysis for your university design project.

What to take with you

Depending on the assignment you will want to consider taking the following items with you when you go to look at a potential site, or proposed site for your design project. It is unlikely you will be sent to a site that will require PPE (personal protection equipment) without prior knowledge but it could be worth checking with your tutor that it is not required.

  • Camera – essential. Make sure you take pictures of everything. Also, make sure you get some shots of the site from a distance so you can use these in your final images, cgi’s and so on. It is so frustrating when you go to the trouble of visiting a site and come back wishing you had taken more pictures. Don’t be embarrassed about taking pictures if it is in a built up area. No one cares what you are doing!
  • Note book. Really important to be able to jot down any observations.
  • Tape measure. Some sites may be close to hazards or situations where you will need to measure the proximity.
  • Good weather! If you have a choice of when to visit the site try to pick a day when there is a bit of blue sky around. It will look better for your site photos, particularly if you are planning on using them in future presentations.
Blue Sky

What to look out for

I would suggest you go with a list of items to look out for, and check off your list so that you don’t miss anything. My list would go something like this:

Site and Surroundings

  • Site location details (road names, address, major landmarks etc)
  • Current context – existing buildings, car parking, roads.
  • Access to the site – car parking, bus routes, train stations, cycle routes, pedestrian walkways.
  • Accessibility – current provisions of disabled access to the site and how will this need to be considered.
  • Circulation – how do visitors/pedestrians/traffic to or near the site flow around or within it.
  • Vegetation – landscaping, greenery, shrubs and trees, open spaces.
  • Views – where are the best views to and from the site. Which is the most likely feature aspect?
  • Building context – what style, period, state of repair are the surrounding buildings? It is a historical/heritage/conservation area? Will your design need to reflect the existing style?
  • Is the site close to listed buildings?
  • Surfaces and materials around the site.
  • Site levels. How will this affect your design process? How does the site drainage work, would there be any potential problems with drainage?
  • Weather – how does the weather affect the site? Is it well shaded, exposed?
  • Noise, odour and pollution – is the site in a particularly noisy area? Or near industrial buildings that produce levels of pollution. Is it near a facility that creates smoke?


  • Electricity lines
  • Drainage
  • Telephone lines
  • Sub-stations

Electricity cables

© Allievn | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Some of these hazards, and many others would be difficult to know without surveys being carried out but show your tutors that you have considered the hazards that could be on or around the site.

Things to look into when you get back to your computer


  • History of the site – anything you can use to inform your design. If the site sits in a conservation area or close to listed buildings you may need to go into more detail regarding cultural significance, historic significance, etc.
  • Climate conditions of the site/area. Sun path and angles.
  • Aerial photographs and maps (google and bing have really useful and quite different aerial images).

There are probably loads more things to look at, and each site is very different, but hopefully this will give you a starting point for getting the best out of your site analysis.

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We have a board on Pinterest dedicated to site analysis examples so make sure you check it out. We are always adding to it.

Pinterest Site Analysis Examples

This is the first in a three part series helping you to produce the best site analysis you can.

Check out Part 2 Here

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  1. Emma, this was so helpful! I subscribed to your blog a while ago but was always swamped with studio projects to really follow up with it. Then this post popped up in my email the same time we got our next project– which, as it turns out, is a proposed building on a specific site in our town! This is so exciting. I am just a second year student and up till now our projects have been very hypothetical. I am doing a site visit tomorrow. Thank you for this great blog and I will be looking forward to your future posts.

  2. Thank You for your important post. really helpful. god bless you. take care

  3. This was really helpful, thanks so much

  4. I will recommend you to all my class mates so we can blow the mind of our studio lecturers dis Sem

  5. hi what do i need to do in regards to a summary of site analysis. client brief concept development/precedent reasearch /moodboards

  6. why services like electricity lines, drainage, telephone lines and substations. you termed as hazards?

    • They will need to be considered during construction and highlighted in health and safety plans. For example overhead electricity lines are considered a hazard to working construction vehicles/ cranes/ lifting platforms and so on. You may also find some substations cannot be moved so would have to be incorporated into your design. It is worth picking up any of these items to show where they are on the site. Better to know as much as possible about the site than find these things later.

  7. Wow! I really learned how to make an efficient site analysis. This is how you do it! Helpful to my thesis thanks!

  8. amazing information, very usefull for me as architecture student, thank you so much!

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