How Site Analysis is helpful in Architecture

Architects conduct ‘Analyses’ to assess factors of a site that may influence design. It is the second phase of the design process after ‘Site Inventory’. All relevant extrinsic and intrinsic factors are evaluated to arrive at inferences.

A well done Analysis helps in creating functional and sustainable spaces that respond to a site and its context. The designer studies factors like (but not limited to) boundaries, topography, climate and access. This information is then compiled and synthesized to form a set of guidelines.

A home owner’s aspirations, a designer’s creativity and the site analysis together form the ‘Brief’ of the design. Over the course of this article, let us see how Site Analysis is beneficial in Architecture.

Image 1 Information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Source: ‘‘The Futurist’’ artist Tom Chalkley

Every Site is Unique

Practically, no two sites are ever exactly the same. Even if they are adjacent plots seemingly sharing the same climate and geography! Every point experiences the sun and wind differently.

This means that every site requires a different design solution. This concept is far from the cookie cutter houses dotting our landscapes today. One plot may be on the corner of two streets while another may be locked on three sides by other plots. One may have a beautiful view of the hills while another may be abutting a noisy school yard.

An experienced designer will utilize the best and worst qualities of a site to create safe, functional and aesthetic spaces.

Image 2 House sited on a slope using large windows to take in the valley views Source: The Little Much Farm, Studio LAB

Project Feasibility

One of the most important benefits of site analysis would probably be measuring a project’s feasibility. Keeping aside land use regulations, some sites can be found to be logically better suited for a particular type of activity than others.

For example, a large tract of land in proximity to a highway, a rail line connection and a power plant would better house an industrial facility than a school.  Similarly, it would be more sensible to place a park in a location with good views and near a residential community than a warehouse.

A site analysis, takes into factor all such physical, biological and cultural aspects into account before recommending a project.

Site Legal Regulations

A site analysis compiles a comprehensive list of all local and national regulations that govern building design in the area. These include rules like restrictions on height, setback, FSI, coverage etc.

The legal build ability of a project depends mainly on these factors. When they are compared and evaluated with other tangible site conditions, we arrive upon a general picture of what the design can finally be.

Legal regulation also pertains to historic precincts and areas of heritage value. Only particular land use and aesthetics are permissible in such locations. Sites near facilities like government buildings, airports, military bases and ports have severe restrictions on usage and design.

Image 3 Houses sport Stucco-like finish in parts of Albuquerque upholding the heritage value of the vernacular Adobe construction

Natural Elements and Aspect

Analysis of the nature and environment on and around the site is another important part of the design process. The number of factors to document and analyze here is so vast that it is only feasible to selectively study relevant heads.

Image 4 Constraints and opportunities may be on-site or off-site attributes that shape development suitability patterns and influence the spatial organization of program elements on the site.

Topography is usually considered the first among these as it influences factors like slope, drainage and building siting. Identification and analysis of land form and other geological features is also done here. Other natural elements like vegetation, water bodies, fauna and insects fall under the purview of this category.

For example, a steep slope may not be hospitable for a house or a pathway. But, siting a house in proximity to an existing pond adjacent to a patch of flowering shrubs may be deemed desirable.

It may not be advisable to build a structure on the path of an annual stream of water which is essential for the health of the ecosystem of the land. Choosing instead to raise it on stilts would be the more prudent option.

Image 5 Natural and man-made factors influencing a greenway planning project along the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Source: The HOK Planning Group.

Aspect refers to the various views on and off the site. This is further divided into onsite, offsite views; inward, outward views and views of varying desirability. The analysis of aspect helps in choosing the right location for a large window in the house, or the position of a character tree in the landscape.

As stated earlier, there are a large number of factors in play when it comes to nature and environment. Wisely picking out the most relevant ones and studying how they influence each other and the design are key to the site analysis process.

Availability and Quality of Utilities

Every building or project typology has varying requirements of utilities. For example, the amount of energy consumed by a High school would be completely different from the requirement of a three bedroom apartment. Similarly, the septic and sewage systems required at a stadium would be different from that of an Old Age Hospice.

A site analysis should be able to gauge the ability of a site and its locality to provide for its energy, water, gas and waste disposal needs. The scale and complexity of a proposed project should match the existing or planned capacity of these utilities.


Inferences from the site analysis are compiled to form a set of guidelines which directs the design. The site inventory and analysis phase is a time, effort and money consuming exercise. A design professional should wisely choose the factors they think will influence their site and programme the most.

An intently done site analysis will pay off in the form of a fully functional, sustainable and beautiful designed space that is specifically tailor made to a site and its client’s requirements.

Image 6 Site analysis showing prominent views, pedestrian–vehicle conflicts, cultural amenities, and a variety of other site and contextual information. Source: Edward D. Stone, Jr., and Associates.


Brown, G. Z. (1985). Sun, Wind, and Light, architectural design strategies. John Wiley & Sons.

Climate and Site Analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana:

Gail Hansen, E. A. (2010). Landscape Design: Analyzing Site Conditions. Gainesville FL: Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension.

Jr., J. A. (2001). Site Analysis: A Contextual Approach to Sustainable Land Planning and Site Design. John wiley & Sons Inc.

Karin. (2018, May 30). Benefits of a Site Analysis and Feasibility Study. Retrieved from Patriquin Architects:

Moore, S. (2015, May 22). THE IMPORTANCE OF SITE ANALYSIS WITH SENSITIVE SITES. Retrieved from MEB Design Ltd: