Introduction To Architecture Site Analysis

Architecture Site Analysis

Architecture site analysis, is the process of evaluating a particular locations physical, mental and social characteristics with the ambition of developing an architectural solution that will both address and enhance its internal and external context.

“To develop a project of any merit, its site must first be measured”

Every site is unique and will consist of many complex elements such as: varying topography, watercourses, trees, plants, habitats, and weather patterns to name a few. All of which will and should influence an architect’s design process and decision-making.

The appropriate analysis of these elements will initially help determine the buildings placement, orientation, form and materiality, but then later go on to influence its structure, sustainability and procurement route.

…providing a very vital foundation and crucial starting point for any architectural project.

The below site analysis examples were created using the below site analysis drawing symbols in Adobe Photoshop.


Document your site analysis recordings!

This site analysis symbols kit includes the key and most used attributes required to successfully document and present Architectural site analysis.

What to look for in your architecture site analysis

Referred and referenced to throughout the design and construction process, the below list highlights some of the key areas that should be investigated, along with examples of how site analysis recordings can be presented:

01 – General

  • Geographic location
  • Site boundary
  • Entrance locations and types
  • Site security
  • Existing buildings
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Site 01.jpg

02 – Neighbouring buildings

  • Distances
  • Heights
  • Uses
  • Vernacular
  • Site lines
  • Rights to light
  • Legal restrictions
  • Noise levels
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Neighbouring Buildings 02.jpg

03 – Legal Restrictions

  • Conservation areas
  • Covenants and easements
  • Rights of way
  • SSSI ( Site of Special Scientific Interest)
  • Listings (Grade II, II*, I)
  • TPO’s (Tree preservation orders)
  • Previous planning permissions and applications
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Legal Restrictions 03.jpg

04 – Access

  • Public routes
  • Private routes
  • Vehicle access
  • Pedestrian access
  • Existing circulation routes within
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Access 04.jpg

05 – Topography

  • Levels
  • Gradients
  • Key features/restrictions
  • Exposure
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Typography  05.jpg

06 – Views

  • Private views out
  • Public views in
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Site features 13.jpg

07 – Sun paths

  • Sun paths
  • Solar gains
  • Shading
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Sun Path 07.jpg

08 – Wind patterns

  • Prevailing direction
  • Shelter
  • Exposure
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Prevailing Wind 08.jpg

09 – Public Transport Links

  • Bus’s
  • Train’s
  • Taxi’s
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Public Transport 09.jpg

010 – Trees and vegetation

  • TPO’s and protected species
  • Root protection areas
  • Items for removal
  • Items to maintain
  • Ownerships
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Trees and Vegetation 10.jpg

011 – Ecology

  • Protected species
  • Protected zones
  • Impacts
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Ecology 11.jpg

012 – Site restrictions

  • Visibility
  • Light
  • Views
  • Neighbours
  • Pollution
  • Flooding
  • Land slides
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Obstructions 12.jpg

013 – Features

  • Areas to expose/use
  • Areas to improve
  • Areas to hide
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Site features 13.jpg

014 – Hazards

  • (Electricity lines, Drainage, Telephone lines, Sub-stations)
  • Derelict Buildings
  • Unfinished building works
Architectural Site Analysis Diagram Site Hazards 14.jpg

Why is site analysis important?

As already touched on, a projects success is built on its relationship to its site and surroundings, and therefore by default should always be bespoke to and based on its location and local characteristics.

Every site has very specific solar orientations, views (good and bad) and often a very explicit character and atmosphere. Each one of these areas is an opportunity to generate a meaningful conceptual approach and a way to devise a buildings shape, layout, form and materiality.

Once established, further analyse of access, wind direction, site levels, vegetation, local context, privacy, services (electrical lines, drainage, telephone lines) will help cement any early conclusions made.

…This is the purpose of site analysis, and why it more than simply ticking boxes to meet a criteria, everything needs to relate back to the foundations established early on during the investigatory period. So that when required it can help provide the answers to future questions.

“Good design is generated from strong, simple and well-established concepts.”

How can site analysis be used…

When considering local weather patterns, the aim should be to always provide a building with the best possible access to solar gains, daylight and shelter. This can be achieved through calculated control of the effects of the sun, wind and rainfall, through good positioning of openings and rooflines to provide natural light, warmth and shelter throughout the year.

To cool a building, its orientation can pull and circulate cool summer air though its plan by aligning its long axis with the prevailing wind direction and by providing deep over hangs for shade. During the winter months, its built volumes can provide shelter and create protected external spaces via courtyards.

When using the context to influence materiality, look towards the local vernacular of the surrounding buildings. For example, dry stonewalls and corten steel can be used as a modern interpretation of agricultural buildings without mimicking.

Rammed earth walls can be used to represent an extension of the site and if the local soil type is right could even be built from the land.

Weathering timber creates a nice narrative of changing and growing old with a site.

When the site has prominent views, buildings can address the landscape with large framed apertures and pick key views and features to specifically draw attention to. Moving between rooms can generate different views and therefore experiences at different times of day, depending on how and when the spaces are used.

These ideas are site specific and only have meaning through being relevant, and this relevancy is generated through knowing your site.

Site analysis resources

…Together with Adobe Photoshop, if you are interested in using the above symbols for your own site analysis recordings and presentation, then head over to our shop (Here).

And as discussed above, for a further and detailed breakdown of how to use your site analysis to develop meaningful design responses, our set of resources contained within the below Concept Kit provides tried and tested methods and processes to developing bespoke approaches.


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Free 15 step architecture site analysis checklist

We get a lot of requests and questions regarding site analysis checklists and where they can be found, and so we thought it was about time we created one …two in-fact! Scroll down to the bottom to download the site analysis checklists in PDF format.

Why use a checklist for your site analysis work?

Trying to recall tasks that need to be completed not only wastes time, but mostly results in them being lost or forgotten. A good checklist helps to stop this and frees up your mind to actually work on the items, instead of trying to remember them .

Having a large amount of to do actions can and will overwhelm and demoralize even the most motivated among us. By removing them and writing them down, we are able to physically visualize what needs to be accomplished, and concentrate on a systematic approach to complete them one by one.

When facing a deadline this becomes vitally important.

As soon as a new task is created, write in down and add it to your checklist, this then becomes your physical record of the event that you have complete control over (no memory required), and it will exist until it is finished and crossed off.


When working in an architectural firm or any other professional scenario, there is nothing worse than being asked to do something to then only forget certain details or the whole task altogether! This will only result in the wrong work being done and key elements missed out. …not to mention the embarrassment.

Be professional and don’t try to accumulate instructions in your head to document later …they will be forgotten! Write everything down, as it happens.

By structuring your thinking in this way and using checklists as recording and instruction tools, it will formulate and structure your working day, making you more efficient. The tasks written down should then be ticked or crossed off as they are completed, this will not only ensure their completion, but also provide you with a level of achievement and satisfaction that you are moving forward.

Checklists should also be used to priorities work into deadlines, levels of importance and timescales, helping to plan out how and when tasks can and should be completed, and ensure key information and dates are not missed.

The architecture site analysis checklist (pdf)

Following on from the above, the processes required to successfully carry out the analysis of your projects site, we feel are far too many to remember.

So here we have provided two site analysis checklists that firstly cover all of the primary areas of the site analysis process and secondly, provide a checklist outlining what to assess during your first site visit.

Checklist download…

To download our free checklists, simply sign up with your email below and follow the download link provided:

Free checklist

Sign up to our mailing list to receive our free Site Analysis and Site Visit Checklists


Why is a site analysis checklist important?

Checklists are important because they help to ensure that all necessary tasks of a site visit are completed and that important details are not overlooked. They provide a systematic approach to completing your analysis tasks, which can help to increase efficiency and reduce the risk of missing keys areas of interest.

In addition to helping to ensure that tasks are completed correctly, checklists can also help to improve communication and coordination between design team members. peers, and even tutors. By creating a shared list of tasks, team members can work together more effectively and track progress towards the shared goal.

Overall, site analysis checklists are an important tool that can help to improve efficiency, reduce the risk of errors, and enhance communication and coordination of your site visits.

What makes a good site analysis checklist?

There are several characteristics that can make a checklist effective:

  1. Clear and concise: A good site analysis checklist should be easy to understand and should not contain unnecessary information.
  2. Specific: It should be specific to the task at hand and should not include unrelated items.
  3. Prioritized: Items on the checklist should be organized in order of importance or in the order in which they need to be completed.
  4. Adaptable: A good checklist should be flexible and able to be modified as needed to fit the specific needs of the task or situation.
  5. Timely: It should be used at the appropriate time, such as before, during, or after the site visit is completed.
  6. Visual: A visual checklist, such as one with checkboxes, can be helpful for quickly identifying completed tasks and tracking progress.
  7. User-friendly: Finally, a site analysis checklist should be easy to use and should not require a lot of time or effort to complete.
Architecture Site Analysis Checklist

How do I make my own site analysis checklist?

If you don’t want our free checklist (please see above!) – You can create your own by follow these steps:

  1. Identify the task or process that the checklist will be used for (site analysis). This will help you focus on the specific items that need to be included.
  2. Determine the appropriate level of detail for the checklist. You should include enough detail to ensure that all necessary tasks are covered, but not so much that the checklist becomes overwhelming.
  3. Organize the items on the checklist in the order in which they need to be completed, or prioritize them by importance.
  4. Use clear and concise language when describing the items on the checklist. Avoid using jargon or technical terms that may not be understood by all users.
  5. Consider using visual elements, such as checkboxes, to help users quickly identify completed tasks and track progress.
  6. Test the checklist to ensure that it is effective and user-friendly. You may need to make adjustments based on feedback or your own experience using the checklist.

By following these steps, you can create a customized checklist that is tailored to your specific site and project goals.


Document your site analysis recordings!

This site analysis symbols kit includes the key and most used attributes required to successfully document and present Architectural site analysis.

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