Sustainable Site Planning - (Site Anaylsis)

"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 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.

sustainable site planning.

Site preparation

Walk the site (not necessary in most cases but a plus if possible) with your builder and home designer and brain storm the best place to lay out the building. 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.

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 affects 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. With this common knowledge the ideal situation would be to have the longest sides of the home plan 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). Have the frequently use rooms facing south with roof overhangs and deciduous trees helping 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 due to these trees losing 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 your selections. As an example, palm trees may thrive well along the California and Flordia coast, but they would not be idea for areas of the country with harsh winters and dry summer conditions.

It is safe to say that sustainable site planning and landscaping can take longer to develop than that of traditional site planning techniques and may involve onsite studies plus additional work performed by a range of experts. This will usually result in higher costs upfront, but this can surely result in long-term savings for the homeowner in operating costs of the land and home. The preservation of existing vegetation can cause delays and again, upfront costs because 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.