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Doing Your Homework 101

Every project that I have worked on comes with its own set of challenges from an architectural and design perspective. Most clients who I have had the pleasure of working with tend to already have a general idea about the direction for their standalone facility and own the piece of property they plan to build upon. However, some clients haven’t finalized the purchase of their property or are looking for a piece of property that fits their needs. Whether the planned project is a municipality building, educational standalone facility, or perhaps even a worship center, the piece of property that said structure will be constructed on heavily impacts the overall design.

Here is a short list of things to think about before purchasing or planning to build:

Property Location:

The tract of land may be located in a neighborhood or municipality that may have design restrictions. For instance, I have designed buildings where the exterior had to include a certain percentage of masonry. Even if the intent is to clad the exterior with Hardie Siding, or a similar Cementous board, the governing entity that will review the design may not recognize that product as masonry. Do your homework to find out what restrictions may be in place and what their expectations are. Another example of the site location impacting the design is its proximity to an airport. Buildings within the vicinity of an airport have a height restriction. These are just a few examples to offer some insight.

Property Shape and Size:

Criteria to keep in mind is the shape and size of the property. Almost every site that I have dealt with had some type of easement to address in the site design – whether it was a building setback, utility easement, greenbelt setback, drainage easement, access easement, etc. Easements and/or setbacks will impact the building footprint if it is a narrow lot. Next, you will have to determine the amount of parking and driveways that is either desired or dictated by code. Furthermore, some municipalities, like the one I reside in, may have rain water detention requirements. You may find that you will need to include a rain water detention pond on your property. The size of this detention pond has a direct correlation to the amount of impervious material that you’re building onto the site.

Utility Provisions:

If you have access to electricity, make sure your building’s electrical loads don’t exceed the amount of power being run to your property (A topic that we will address in a future article). If your site is in a remote location and you don’t have access to city water, you may be required to drill a well. The same goes for the sanitary sewer. If you are unable to connect to an established sewer system, an aerobic system may be required… which takes up additional land for the water disbursement. Something often forgotten is internet access. Some ISP (Internet Service Providers) will require construction to your location, which can be costly and totally at the client’s expense. Lastly, if you desire to have gas appliances within your facility but don’t have natural gas available, a propane tank would need to be installed.

Site Amenities: There may be some large trees or water features that you may want to salvage and want the building and parking area to work around. In addition, there may be a vista or sightline you may want to capitalize on. This could influence the orientation of your building and what rooms you want to strategically position to observe this view.

History of Properties:

Research the history of your property and find out what existed there previously. My firm has experienced a situation where gas tanks remained underground from an old gas station that had been demolished from a project’s site years prior. We had another project where the property was once used as a dump site, but the vegetation had since camouflaged any evidence. With unknown situations like these, you could stumble into legal ramifications and/or ecological issues later in your own history of owning said property.

So what is the take away of this list? Your building deserves careful planning, your purchase should be no different. In the next blog, we will discuss things to be mindful of when starting to plan and include in your facility.

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