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Site Selection describes the process of identifying the optimal location for the project. The selection process needs to be rigorous, needs professional advice, and needs to balance the numerous opportunities and risks associated with each site &/or building looked at. There are many factors that affect the choice of a building site. While a particular lot make look like the perfect spot to put your dream home, thoroughly examining all the variables before purchase can help narrow down the choice between lots in a subdivision or even making a totally ill-informed choice. The factors can be roughly described as regulatory factors and environmental factors.

Site selection is one of the most important decisions required within the development process. Where there is an opportunity to do so, a number (4-5 ideally) of different site options should be looked at. The Development Brief for the project will help create the search criteria for sites, and the priorities given to the various determining factors (location, orientation, site value, proximity to public transport, distance from district centre, distance from competing or complementary facilities, etc, etc). In essence, the appraisal process will determine how closely the site lends itself to the Development Brief and Vision, what the main associated risks of the site are, and what the implications of both are for the projects value and budget.

Choose a site with good solar access. Solar energy is a vital component of sustainable shelter. Consider wind currents and air drainage. These factors influence heating requirements, the potential for electricity generation, and gardening prospects. Choose a sloping site for earth sheltering, which offers benefits ranging from energy efficiency to good air and water drainage to retention of flat land for other uses. Seek favorable microclimates. Climate can vary dramatically over a site, with different microclimates advantageous or disadvantageous for different homesteading purposes. Select a dry, well-drained site. Good drainage is important to prevent moisture problems in a building. Well-drained sites require little if any grading, which minimizes land disturbance, habitat loss, and the energy required to build a home.

Consider the soils on site. Select a site with stable subsoils. Like well-drained soils, stable subsoils minimize the risk of foundation and wall cracking. If youre considering an earthen building, such as cob, adobe, or rammed earth, youll want to be sure that your site contains soils suitable for these purposes.

Avoid marshy areas. Wetlands are precious vanishing resource that need to be preserved. Even building near wetlands can damage them. Select a site suitable for growing food. Providing at least some of ones own food is an important choice that has health, financial, and environmental benefits. Select a site that offers building resources, including earth, sand, stones, trees, straw, or water. Any materials harvested from the site decrease the energy required to build, and embodied in, your home. Choose a site with a good water supply, because water is of course a vital need that you will have to supply one way or another. Minimize ecological disruption. Any kind of construction damages the land, at least temporarily, creates havoc for the plants and animals already there, and can cause erosion problems. Such damage is often obvious and dramatic, but the damage caused by the ongoing existence and use of the building after it is finished cumulatively may be even worse. Dont destroy beauty in your search for it. When siting a home, consider not placing it in the most beautiful spot on the property. As Christopher Alexander, coauthor of A Pattern Language, advises, Leave those areas that are the most precious, beautiful, comfortable, and healthy as they are, and build new structures in those parts of the site which are least pleasant now. Create beauty; dont be an agent of its destruction.

The first of these is the Zoning of the property. This will not only affect the allowable use of the property but also allowable site coverage, the distance buildings must be set back from the property lines, building height and total allowable floor area. There may be many additional restrictions with respect to fences, building projections, etc. In addition to the restrictions within individual zoning classifications, the local regulatory authorities may have a number of general restrictions related to parking, provision for fire fighting capability, etc. Steep slopes may be subject to geotechnical review requirements. Floodplain areas may limit siting and construction options. Regional authorities may require additional site reviews before granting approval for building. This may include environmental reviews for properties with watercourses or for well water quality. Lots without community sewage will require permits for septic fields. While it is unlikely that a lot may be allowed to be sold without the capability for its own septic field, the location of the field may severely affect the siting of a house.

The soil condition on the building site will affect the buildings foundation, the drainage capability and susceptibility to forest action, and the types of vegetation suitable. The topography of the land will affect not only the foundation type but how the building can fit into the site, the drainage patterns and, in some cases, the microclimate of the property. The microclimate can also be influenced by proximity to large bodies of water. The vegetation will affect the degree of privacy from neighboring properties and the road, as well as sound absorption and micro-climatic factors. The extent and height of trees may affect the amount of natural light reaching a specific house site.

The sun usually provides the largest climatic impact on the building site. Its effect will vary depending of the climatic zone in which the property is located. Cooler regions will suggest different siting than warmer sites. Different regions also suggest different building shapes which in turn may be impacted by property line setbacks. Wind , not only the frequency and direction, but also the velocity and temperature, may affect building sites in dramatic ways. Seasonal and daily variations can be enormous. Wind can be both a liability in overexposed cool sites or an asset if it can be used for cooling in warmer regions. While precipitation will vary greatly from one climatic zone to amother, it can also vary considerably with local geographical and topographical features. It will in turn affect drainage patterns. Access and protection required for equipment, vehicle, firewood, etc. In northern climates, provision for snow shed may impact a buildings design and siting. The air temperature and its affect on the coling and heating of the building will be influenced by all of the above: the sun, the wind, and the precipitation.

Views often tend to be a predominant factor in choosing a building site. Existing views may be affected by regulations restricting tree removal, the future growth of neighboring trees, future neighboring development as well as climatic factors. The amount of environmental sound present on a building site can vary greatly within a local region. It may be influenced by natural features such as the proximity to mountains or by mechanical noise from transportation corridors. In many pristine areas, the ever-increasing amount of plane traffic can disturb what appears to a tranquil setting. Some environmental sound can be mitigated by local site features such as berms or dense foliage.

Potential delays in processing, additional design requirements, and significant development costs may occur if the following environmental issues are encountered: Sites in 100-year flood plains or sites involving wetlands in the area proposed for construction. Sites within one mile of jet capable airports (two miles or further if located within the main landing or take-off paths for aircraft. Sites with significant historic value. Sites with any significant amount of soil contamination or with a history of previous use such as a gas station, paint manufacturer or sales, dry cleaning, auto repair or salvage, heavy manufacturing, etc, which present a high risk of residual soil contamination. Buildings constructed before 1978 are subject to lead-based paint regulations. Sites within 600 feet of railroads or within 400 feet of major underground gas transmission lines or underground storage. Sites in heavy traffic or high crime areas. Sites within 500 feet of the Great Lakes or a wild and scenic river.

Sites must be of a reasonable size and configuration

to permit acceptable and professional site planning with adequate open space, circulation, and parking, exclusive of parking in primary drives. Long and narrow, so-called "bowling alley" sites requiring a single point of access and an extensive cul-de-sac are not acceptable. Sufficient space must be available to accommodate fire safety equipment, solid waste removal trucks and school busses, where applicable. The proposed project should not be out of scale relative to current and proposed adjacent land uses.

Examine physical characteristics. Note the overall dimensions of the site and its topographical features. Is any portion unsuitable for building? Study the soil composition. All of these factors will affect the excavation, bearing capacity, and the type of foundation. Take note of environmental factors. Consider the climate in terms of typical temperature, temperature extremes, cloudiness, humidity, and breezes. Can the structure be oriented on a south-facing slope to optimize ventilation and solar benefits? Is the property in a flood plain or high wind zone? In high wind zone areas, shear walls (metal braces securing the walls to the foundation or slab) may be required if the house is located near the coast line.

Technologies for alternative forms of energy continue to advance. As more homes integrate solar, wind, and geothermal systems, the cost of these products will continue to decline over time, similar to computers and cell phones. There is no doubt that, in the future, we will be purchasing less fuel and energy from the utility companies and producing it ourselves. When you are evaluating land, consider the possibilities for solar, wind, and geothermal energy. You can wait before making your selection and installing a solar or wind energy system, because you'll already be on your utility's electric grid. In fact, it is a good idea to have a year's worth of electric bills so that you can determine your average cost and energy usage, as well as potential savings.

Work with the existing contours. Take advantage of any natural slope or obstruction rather than trying to fight it. A rocky hillside can be overcome with a creative design, and may even be better than flat land for maximizing or minimizing views. After making sure the site is large enough for your needs and can accommodate future expansion should you want it, review all of the characteristics of your lot -- including local regulations. Incorporate existing vegetation. Trees and plantings can have a big impact on how you situate your house and on how it will look once it's built. The challenge of building a house in the woods, for example, can be met without completely clearing the trees, the very element that endows the landscape with character and beauty. Pastureland, however, is like a blank slate that gives you much freedom in choosing a design for your home. Choose styles and materials suited to the region. Various architectural styles function differently. In exposed, windy areas like the Great Plains, for instance, houses tend to be low to the ground, set on basements, and protected by cultivated tree breaks.


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