Sustainable Site Planning

Site Analysis…

“A home designed without conducting a site analysis is superimposed. The site should be analyzed and structured to take advantage of the positive attributes and minimize the negative elements.”

sustainable site planningSustainable site planning is a critical phase of the green design process. When selecting a potential site, you should look to eliminate or minimize the disruption of the existing environment as much as possible. Redeveloping areas that have been used and/or abandoned is ideal as opposed to building on previously undeveloped sites. Using the topography of the site is paramount. This allows for detailed planning that outline the existing and proposed design concepts to include the home location, vegetation, land slope, setbacks, and other crucial factors.

The Process Behind Sustainable Site Planning

Site preparation

Walk the site with your builder and home designer and brain storm the best place to lay out the building. It’s not necessary in most cases, however seeing it in person is always good. Determine the solar orientation for the home so you can take advantage of the sun’s positioning from dawn to dusk. Mark trees and environmental areas that you will want to conserve and try to eliminate the removal of mature plants and trees whenever possible. The ultimate goal is to have your home blend in with its surroundings as if it was apart of the natural evolution of the area. This is the ultimate goal in sustainable site planning.

Cut and fill

Preserve natural slopes to aid natural drainage. The least amount of excavation the better. Removing or importing soil (also known as cut and fill) adds to environmental emissions via the transporting of the soil. Furthermore, rearranging the landscape disturbs the flow of water being directed away from the home. This can adversely affect the original contours of the surrounding areas.

Positioning the home on the lot

This may sound like a simple task, but this is probably this most critical step as this interconnects with the aforementioned plus what follows. Orient your home to take advantage of solar access and natural ventilation opportunities. This provide life-time savings to the homeowner with reduced energy bills if done efficiently. As you know, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The ideal situation would be to have the longest sides of the home face north and south (sun at highest points during the day – over the roof) while the smaller sides face east and west (sun at lowest points shining directly through windows creating unwanted heat gain in summer months).

Room placement is an important element. Have the frequently use rooms facing south with roof overhangs and deciduous trees. This helps to deflect direct sun, but allowing ample natural light throughout the day. In the winter, these deciduous trees allow for more sunshine to enter the home. These trees lose their leaves during the cold or dry season. This will then allow heat gain and natural light as the sun is at a lower angle during this time of year.


Preserve natural landscaping when at all possible and use vegetation native to the environment. You may like many species of trees and plants, but be mindful of your geographical location when you make selections. As an example, palm trees may thrive well along the California and Florida coast, but they would not be idea for areas of the country with harsh winters and dry summer conditions.

Sustainable site planning and landscaping can take longer to develop than traditional site planning techniques. In addition, it may involve onsite studies plus additional work performed by a range of experts. This result in higher costs upfront, but will provide long-term savings in operating costs of the land and home. The preservation of existing vegetation can cause delays also, Roads and other infrastructure need to be built around vegetation without causing damage. However, the benefits are great as native plants and trees can adapt quickly to the familiar environment and fair better at overcoming the stress of the site preparations.

Learn more on creating a sustainable home design to blend in with its surroundings and occupants.