Site Analysis Site Visit

Prior to carrying out your site analysis site visit you will have undertaken your site analysis desktop study. It is important you go to site prepared, so make sure you check out that blog post before you continue with this one.

The desktop study will establish some of the specific information you will be looking for, or what equipment you may need to take with you. With any site visit it is key that you take everything you need, and get as much information as you can – because often the site can be located a good distance from you, and it costs both time and money if you keep on having to take trips back to site because you were underprepared for your first visit.

You can download our Site Visit Site Analysis Checklist by clicking the button below. It makes your site visit a whole lot easier!

Scroll to the end to download this article as a handy PDF guide!

There are many things you will be looking for when you carry out your site visit, and in order to record some of this information you will need to take a few items with you that will make things a bit easier.


What to take with you on your Site Visit


Site Analysis Site Visit


Depending on the project 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 likely you will require PPE (personal protection equipment) so make sure you have all the necessary items before heading to site.
  • Site map or plan – preferably a couple of copies so you can scribble observations on them or mark out specific features etc.
  • 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. Also take pictures of what is opposite the site, so you can use these as reflections in windows of your design. It is so frustrating when you go to the trouble of visiting a site and come back wishing you had taken more pictures. It is a good idea to take some pictures of relevant materials in and around the site.
  • Smart phone. If you have any apps that assist with taking panoramic pictures, take a few of these too. You can do some interesting stuff when you get to later design stages if you have a few panoramics to play with.
  • 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. If you have one, a disto, or laser measure could also come in handy, but not essential. I use this disto.
  • 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. And, let’s be honest, no one likes to do a site visit in the rain!


In the following video I run through all of the main points to look for when carrying out a site analysis site visit. Be sure to check it out.

Let’s get this site analysis site visit started

Before you head to site, if you are travelling alone, make sure someone knows where you are going, and what time you expect to be back. Keep that person updated.

On arrival to site, make sure you check in with the relevant person if necessary. The site could be occupied or un-occupied so make sure any owners, managers etc are aware that you have arrived and that you will be studying the site and taking photographs.

I would start by having a quick walk around the site to familiarise yourself with it generally. Take notes on what you observe, how you feel about the site, important information that you may have established from your desktop study that needs to be identified.

Next go round the site taking photographs of everything. You can never take too many photos.

After this start taking notes of any observations and scribbling down annotations on your plans. Anything is relevant, its better to write down too much than not enough.

Take your time to really get to know the site. If possible spend a bit of time there so that you can absorb the surrounding environment as well.


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 – you can download my list below:

Site and Surroundings


  • Site location details (road names, address, major landmarks etc)
  • Current context – existing buildings, car parking, roads.
  • Access to site – vehicle access, pedestrian access etc

Neighbourhood context

  • Look at existing and proposed building uses in the neighbourhood
  • What condition are the buildings in?
  • Are there exterior spaces and what are they used for?
  • Are there activities in the neighbourhood that may create strong vehicle or pedestrian traffic?
  • Existing vehicle movement patterns, major and minor roads, bus routes and stops.
  • Street lighting
  • Vernacular context, materials, architectural features, fenestration, landscaping, parking, building heights
  • Any nearby historical buildings, or buildings of particular significance
  • Sun and shade patterns during the year
  • 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.
  • Hazards (electric, sub stations, telephone lines etc)

Site Specific

  • Site boundary and dimensions
  • Any rights of way through the site and the dimensions
  • Any easements location and dimensions
  • Buildable area of the site
  • Any building height restrictions
  • Access to the site – car parking, bus routes, train stations, cycle routes, pedestrian walkways.
  • Access to site for construction – will there be any obstacles or restrictions that could affect the construction process?
  • Safety in and around the site

Natural Features

  • Topography of the site, valleys, ridges, slopes etc.
  • Vegetation – landscaping, greenery, shrubs and trees, open spaces.
  • Site levels. How will this affect your design process? How does the site drainage work, would there be any potential problems with drainage?
  • Soil types on site

Man made features

  • What was the previous use of the site? Would there be any contamination concerns?
  • Are there existing buildings on the site – what is their state of repair? Is there any sign of subsidence or settlement damage?
  • Are the existing buildings part of the project?
  • Any walls, retaining walls on the site, or other built items


  • Circulation – how do visitors/pedestrians/traffic to or near the site flow around or within it.
  • Accessibility – current provisions of disabled access to the site and how will this need to be considered.
  • Does the existing pedestrian movement need to be preserved?
  • What is the vehicle peak loads and when?
  • Public transport close to the site
  • Locations of best access to site for both vehicles and pedestrians
  • Travel time to walk across the site


  • Location of all services: electricity, gas, water, sewer, telephone. This includes both underground and above ground.
  • Location of power poles.
  • Drainage
  • Sub-stations


  • Views – where are the best views to and from the site.
  • What are the views of?
  • Mark out the positive and negative views.
  • Which is the most likely feature aspect?
  • Look at views towards the site from different approaches to see how the site would be seen when drawing near to the site. What are the best views of the site, and would these change in the long term?
  • 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?

Human and Cultural

  • Negative neighbourhood issues such as vandalism and crime.
  • What are the attitudes towards the site and the potential build?
  • What are the general neighbourhood attitudes about the area?
  • What is the cultural, psychological, behavioural and sociological aspects of the surrounding area.
  • What is the population, density, family size, ethnic patterns, employment, recreation activities etc.


  • Orientation of the site.
  • Weather – how does the weather affect the site? Is it well shaded, exposed?
  • How does the temperature, rainfall etc vary throughout the year?
  • What are the prevailing wind directions throughout the year?
  • What is the sun path throughout the different times of the year, and day.

Take some time to walk around the site as much as possible. Take note of the general topography of the site, and any significant changes in level. 

Also note any indications of what is underneath the surface, for example, any marsh grasses could suggest that there is a high water table, if the soil is sticky it could indicate the subsoil on the site is clay. If there is any rubble on the site, it could suggest there has been previous development, or possibly landfill on the land.

Many of these site issues (particularly services) would be picked up on a topographical survey or other professional report, but for the benefit of a student site analysis assignment I think it would be good to demonstrate that you have considered the hazards that could be on or around the site.


So that concludes the site visit. Don’t forget this isn’t an exhaustive list, so there may be many more things that you need to look out for during your site visit, as every site is different. The main thing is that you record and observe as much as you can. 

Check out our Full Site Analysis Guide with complete download pdf with checklists!

Architecture Site Analysis Guide

Download our site analysis symbols for photoshop!

Check out our Desktop Study Guide – what you need to do before your site visit.

Site Analysis Desktop Study FI

Site Analysis Complete Pack

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  1. Wow, what a useful article. There are so many things to take into consideration when doing a site visit and having them listed like this (with a checklist!) is very helpful. Thanks for a great post!

    • Thank you Ken 🙂

  2. Hi Emma, thank you for your well done and insightful posts. I am not sure about the UK, but for anyone in the US I would be sure to go through the local zoning ordinances and, if your client is okay with it, reach out to the local planner. This is probably part of the desktop study, but if there are any overlay zones (e.g. historic, medical use) they should be in mind when visiting the site as well. Also, we would consider any evidence that might warrant an environmental assessment.

    I appreciate your posts!


  3. Superb informations that I found

  4. thank you

  5. am a retired Urban and Tourism Planner but still active in mentoring young planners, your post was really helpful and would recommend it to my students . thanks for a great job

    • Thank you 🙂


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