Introduction To Architecture Site Analysis

Architecture Site Analysis

Architectural 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 a drawing tablet and Adobe Photoshop.

As discussed throughout the below Concept Kit, site analysis forms the backbone and foundation of a successful design response for any given site.

Here we discuss how deep analysis, research and testing can generate consistent and successful design responses each and every time.


Learn how to start a new design project with confidence.

Learn the process of how to create successful and meaningful design concepts, and the tools and techniques that help to develop them.

What to look for

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.


…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.


Develop concept design ideas with ease.

This kit teaches you how to establish, craft, and communicate consistent and successful design responses each and every time.


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