Site Assessment & Design

Photo: Bindersbee (public domain)


Our built environment is flooded with glass boxes that could be located anywhere, while many of the most successful and celebrated examples of architecture reflect and respond to unique site features. Whether or not a design team has a say in siting a project, carefully assessing the site should be on every project’s to-do list.

Careful consideration of these factors can inform design and support not only sustainable design objectives but also the basic architecture of the building:

  • onsite climate conditions

  • unique weather patterns

  • solar access

  • water opportunities

  • unique flora and fauna

  • topography

A site assessment early in design can reduce costs, allay potential risks, support the health and well-being of occupants and native habitat, and promote other unique site features.

  • “Smart Surfaces” Could Save Cities Billions
    October 8, 2018

    News Brief

    Heat islands, stormwater, and energy bills can all be curbed by smart surfaces.

  • Work Globally, Design Locally
    February 7, 2017

    Feature Article

    In today’s global economy, American architects work on six continents—but that doesn’t mean they should all have identical glass towers.

  • Pest Prevention: Steps Designers Can Take
    December 5, 2016

    Feature Article

    Integrated pest management (IPM) design strategies can reduce structural damage and unsanitary conditions, and improve our community’s health. 

  • Are Cool Roofs Green? The Answer’s Not Black and White
    June 29, 2014

    Feature Article

    Roofing choices are complicated by heating tradeoffs, climate effects, and condensation, but proponents say reflective roofs still make sense in most climates.

  • Growing Food Locally: Integrating Agriculture Into the Built Environment
    January 29, 2009

    Feature Article

    With a little ingenuity, the flat roofs and vacant lots of urban centers can be used effectively for food production. Numerous models can bring building-integrated food production to your project, while making our food supply chain more sustainable.

  • Alternative Water Sources: Supply-Side Solutions for Green Buildings
    April 29, 2008

    Feature Article

    Both the recent drought in the normally-wet Southeast and impending water shortages in the Southwest are a reminder that water efficiency should be a top priority for our buildings. At the same time, finding alternative sources of water is also important for sustainability and passive survivability. Several sources of water can be harvested at the building level as well as through municipal-scale wastewater treatment and desalination.

  • Denver Votes Green Thumbs Up for Green Roofs
    December 11, 2017

    News Analysis

    A city suffering from ozone pollution and the heat-island effect approves a ballot measure requiring green roofs.

  • Water Tables and Basements
    November 30, 2017

    Blog Post

    How to use geological, soil, and historical maps to keep your basement dry

  • Analyze a Neighborhood with the Touch of a Button
    October 6, 2017

    News Brief

    Opportunity360 scores neighborhoods on health, affordability, transportation, and more.

  • To Save Cities, Save Trees
    October 6, 2017

    News Brief

    Urban forests do $500 million worth of heavy lifting each year for the world’s largest cities—and there’s plenty of room to plant more.