Architecture Feasibility Study: How can it benefit your design process?

When obstacles are identified promptly, their difficulty can be significantly reduced...

When obstacles are identified promptly, their difficulty can be significantly reduced. By methodically evaluating potential paths, risks, hurdles, and prospects, developers can confirm that a project is both marketable and viable. A crucial component of this approach is the feasibility study.

This article provides a comprehensive summary of an architecture feasibility study, focusing on its importance during the initial phases of a project.

What is an architecture feasibility study?

An architectural feasibility study aids property developers and investors in determining the feasibility of their intended development plans for a property. This incorporates an investigation into specific objectives that will influence the size, cost, and utilization of the development.

Architectural feasibility studies curtail risk in a project by confirming that all development objectives can be achieved within the bounds of building regulations and zoning codes.

It’s vital to articulate all the development goals at the outset, whether it’s optimizing the number of apartment units, parking availability, or building height, as this enables the design team to prioritize the client’s primary needs.

The study’s paramount aim is to generate documentation validating that all goals can be attained by illustrating the potential building size or area, height, and approximate shape.

Architecture Feasibility Study

Feasibility studies play a critical role in evaluating the potential impacts and considerations associated with the planning, design, and construction of buildings. These projects often affect a broad range of stakeholders and are subject to various regulatory controls.

Therefore, a feasibility study investigates potential risks, constraints, and opportunities associated with these entities. Interested parties may include:

  • Nearby property owners
  • Local business proprietors
  • Local planning authority
  • Government regulators and building control bodies
  • Archaeological, conservation, and heritage groups
  • Highways agencies
  • Environmental constraints and flood risk agencies
  • Utilities and service providers

In addition, the developer must ascertain the viability of a project considering the expected development costs and Gross Development Value (GDV). The developer’s exit strategy also forms an integral part of the feasibility study. Therefore, the study also delves into areas such as:

  • Assessing the site’s overall capacity
  • Reviewing planning policies
  • Determining a suitable use or mix of uses for the site
  • Choosing a target specification based on local demographics
  • Estimating the GDV
  • Evaluating the building’s design, accessibility, and materials
  • Estimating ongoing maintenance and operational costs

Often, feasibility studies include site analysis and sun path diagrams to provide a comprehensive understanding of the location.

The extent of a feasibility study can vary based on the site’s size and the degree of due diligence the developer wishes to exercise. The study can encompass both internal and external interests.

In the early stages of a project, a design feasibility outline can prove invaluable. While it may not delve deep into legal and financial aspects, it can help ascertain the development potential and projected end-values.

When should one undertake a feasibility study?

Given that time is inextricably linked with capital investment in many industries, swift strategic planning for project progression becomes imperative.

Feasibility studies, therefore, should ideally be initiated at the earliest stage of the development process. These studies serve to elucidate possible paths before acquiring a site and help evaluate any emerging constraints post-purchase.

Further along the project timeline, if a planning appeal gets rejected, the developer might have to reconsider their options. In such cases, a fresh feasibility study, tailored to the inspector’s rationale for the new design, can provide a defined roadmap for moving forward.

Architecture Feasibility Study

Architecture feasibility study process

Step 1: Comprehending Project Objectives The initial stage involves fully understanding the objectives of the development. Generally, developers have a clear vision of what they aim to construct on a particular site. Discussing these objectives enables our design team to target their analysis more precisely to ensure that all essential requirements are met.

Step 2: Analyzing the Property Location The next step focuses on gaining a deep understanding of the location through an extensive site analysis. This involves an examination of local zoning codes, which provide insight into what can be constructed “by-right,” i.e., without a variance.

Additionally, various factors are evaluated, including the size and dimension of the lot, property easements, neighboring structures, and existing topography and vegetation.

Step 3: Establishing the Building Mass The third step involves laying out the building’s overall volume, or ‘massing.’ After delineating site parameters based on zoning code stipulations, such as setbacks and occupied area, we proceed with an initial massing. We then generate a 3D site plan of the building mass, which helps determine the most effective layout for your project.

The 3D mass includes all floor building footprints, maximum buildable height, and available open area. At this stage, your real estate project truly begins to take shape!

Step 4: Developing Unit Counts, Comprehensive Floor Plans, and Elevations Upon establishing the building massing, the study delves deeper into details. A well-executed feasibility study should encompass all the units drawn within that massing.

While this isn’t a schematic design exercise—the separating lines between units are minimal—the goal of the feasibility study is to provide a rough sketch of the project’s scale and scope.

Step 5: Assembling the Feasibility Package A well-rounded architectural feasibility study includes top-notch visuals, massing illustrations, and key data. By combining critical numbers with appealing visuals, the potential development’s understanding is as clear as possible. A typical site feasibility report package might range from 3 to 10 pages.

We strongly suggest incorporating 3D visuals in your package to enhance clarity and appeal.

What is studied and analyzed?

Feasibility studies are broken down into several key components, which include site constraints, space planning and area plans, zoning codes, potential bonuses, and special designations.

Site constraints entail an analysis of the terrain and physical limitations that may affect potential construction. Even minor alterations in elevation can have significant impacts on the foundations of buildings and the overall construction project. Therefore, the understanding of topography is a fundamental part of feasibility studies.

Space planning and area plans form another important segment of feasibility studies. It is crucial to ensure that the available space can accommodate the objectives of the project.

This might involve examining the number of residential units that can be accommodated, the extent of commercial space, or the number of parking spaces that can be integrated into the development.

The intricacies of zoning codes can vary drastically from one jurisdiction to another, and navigating them can sometimes be challenging. However, with extensive experience in complex urban environments like Philadelphia, a strong foundation is established for deciphering zoning codes in any location.

Bonuses are often overlooked elements of feasibility studies. Municipalities often provide incentives to encourage specific types of development, which can range from bonuses for affordable housing, sustainability initiatives, to commercial development.

Clients may not be aware of these potential benefits, making their identification and incorporation into the project a vital part of the feasibility study.

Lastly, special designations refer to specific zones or districts that may have unique restrictions on new construction development that may not apply in regular zones. Awareness of such designations is crucial, as they can have considerable implications on the project design and timeline.

In conclusion, conducting a thorough feasibility study is a multi-faceted process that requires a deep understanding of various factors. It is integral in determining the viability and potential success of any construction project.

Architecture feasibility study example

To provide an example, here is a hypothetical project to illustrate how an architectural feasibility study might be conducted for a proposed community center in a town:


Brief description of the project, its goals, and the intended functions of the community center.

Site Analysis

  • Location: A plot on Main Street, next to the local park.
  • Topography: Mostly flat with a gentle slope on the southern end.
  • Access: Good access from Main Street with potential for a parking lot to the rear. Proximity to public transportation.
  • Environmental Considerations: Mature trees on the eastern boundary that should be retained.

Regulatory Constraints

  • Zoning: The plot is zoned for public use, allowing community centers.
  • Building Codes: Local building codes dictate a maximum height of three stories and require specific safety measures.

Economic Viability

  • Construction Costs: Preliminary estimates suggest a budget of $2 million.
  • Operational Costs: Estimated annual costs, including staff salaries, maintenance, and utilities, are $200,000.
  • Funding: Potential for grants from the state and local benefactors. A fundraising campaign might cover a portion of costs.

Environmental Impact

  • Energy Efficiency: The design could incorporate solar panels and passive heating techniques.
  • Water Management: Propose rainwater harvesting and permeable surfaces in parking areas.
  • Preservation: Retaining mature trees and incorporating green spaces.

Technical Feasibility

  • Materials: Local availability of construction materials like bricks, concrete, and steel.
  • Construction Techniques: Traditional methods can be used, but there’s also potential for modular construction to speed up the process.

Sociocultural Factors

  • Local Community Needs: Survey results suggest a desire for a multipurpose hall, children’s area, library, and fitness facilities.
  • Cultural Importance: The adjacent park has historical significance. Any development should be sympathetic to this.

Programmatic Needs

  • Space Requirements: Preliminary requirements include a multipurpose hall (200 people), a library (50 people), a children’s area (30 people), and a fitness room (20 people).
  • Facilities: Kitchen, restrooms, storage, and office spaces.

Timeline and Phasing

  • Phase 1: Site clearance and groundworks (3 months).
  • Phase 2: Main building construction (12 months).
  • Phase 3: Interior fit-out and landscaping (3 months).


Based on the study, the site on Main Street appears suitable for the proposed community center. However, considerations must be made for the preservation of mature trees, the historical significance of the adjacent park, and the sourcing of funds.

The next steps could involve a detailed design phase, further community consultations, and a search for potential grants or funding opportunities.

…This is a simplified example, but it provides an overview of the kind of considerations and sections you might expect to find in a feasibility study. In reality, each of these sections would be much more detailed, and there might be additional sections based on the specifics of the project and location.

FAQs about architecture feasibility studies

Do architects do feasibility studies?

Yes, architects often undertake feasibility studies as part of their professional services. A feasibility study assesses the practicality of a proposed project or system. For architects, this typically means evaluating whether a particular design or construction project can be realized in a specific context, taking into account various constraints and opportunities.

Here are some aspects architects might consider in a feasibility study:

  1. Site Analysis: This is a study of the location where the building or structure will be located. It includes understanding the site’s topography, soil conditions, accessibility, zoning restrictions, sun-path, and other environmental factors.
  2. Regulatory Constraints: Before starting a project, architects need to understand the zoning laws, building codes, and other regulations that might impact what can be built on a particular site.
  3. Economic Viability: This involves determining whether the project makes financial sense. Costs of construction, potential returns on investment, and operational costs can all be part of this evaluation.
  4. Environmental Impact: Understanding and forecasting the environmental consequences of a project can be crucial, especially in areas where environmental preservation is a priority.
  5. Technical Feasibility: This refers to whether the project can be realized with the current technology and methods of construction. For instance, some innovative designs may require specialized construction methods.
  6. Sociocultural Factors: For projects in densely populated or culturally significant areas, understanding the local community’s needs and concerns can be essential.
  7. Programmatic Needs: This relates to the functionality of the proposed building. Does the design meet the space and usage needs of the client or end-users?
  8. Timeline and Phasing: Assessing how long the project will take and if it needs to be broken down into phases for practical or financial reasons.

After the feasibility study, the architect can provide the client with a clearer understanding of the project’s potential challenges and opportunities, which can be invaluable in deciding whether to move forward with the project, modify the approach, or seek a different site or solution.

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