Nothing has as big of an impact on your home as how it’s placed on the property. From the heat the sun brings, to protection offered by trees, site planning (the analysis of the arrangement of the natural and built elements on a property) has an incredible impact on how comfortable your home will be for you, your family, and your friends.
Good site planning is both a technical skill and an art. If you want to build an environmentally friendly home, a site analysis is an important tool to help you do that. The more time you spend on a site or property, the better you can understand how light moves around, how the wind moves, and all the other natural patterns of the site.
A site analysis consists of taking a drawing of your property (called a site plan) and mapping out the issues.
In order to create an analysis of your site, you need to start by mapping the good things (amenities) and the things to avoid (irritants). This exercise helps you figure out how to orient the house and where to locate rooms.
A typical site analysis includes:
- Attractive views to maximize
- Unattractive views to minimize or views to block for privacy
- Wind to allow in for cooling
- Placement of activities oriented around the sun (breakfast room to the east; dining to the west)
- Possible patio and deck locations
- Existing trees to protect
This figure shows a typical sketch of a site analysis, detailing the source of noise, location of views, and areas to keep private. Consider the following items in looking at any property:
- Use windows to frame the perfect view. Imagine sitting in a bay window that perfectly frames the view of the nearby lake, but blocks the view of your neighbor’s lawnmower or garage. The position of the views affects the placement of windows and doors and location of rooms. Instead of putting closets on the wall with the potential view, reserve that prime spot for a master bedroom, terrace, or dining room where the view will be appreciated.
- Turn the house to face the sun and views. Most people assume a house must sit oriented to the street. But you can set the building on an angle if you want to turn the walls toward the sun or toward the best views. Don’t just plunk the house down in the first place you think of.
- Provide access for construction vehicles. The site should allow only enough access for trucks and equipment to build your home. Too much driving over the landscape will destroy plants, soil, and tree roots. Limiting construction vehicles to one area will save you money on future landscaping costs.
- Supply access for cars and driveways. Most urban and suburban properties provide an easy way for a car to get to the house: You just park in the garage or driveway. For more rural sites, this isn’t so simple. Too steep a driveway, and it becomes impossible to drive during bad weather. Too shallow a slope, and you have to put in longer driveways, resulting in the site being covered with large areas of paving. How you and your guests enter the house is important. Make it one of the first things you consider when laying out a house on a site. Make sure you can do it before you buy a remote property.