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Site planning is a process that involves developing and implementing a specific organizational plan for an interior or exterior space. Landscape architects develop site plans for the grounds surrounding a home or place of business. Commercial architects perform a similar function when designing the interior placement of key elements of the building construction, such as the placement of artificial and natural lighting, entry and exit options, and any other amenities that are intended to provide function as well as form.
However, site planning is not just about coming up with a workable layout for the space. It also involves making sure the area is designed so that the space will comply with local laws that relate to zoning, construction, and any other regulations that govern what can and cannot be included. From this perspective, the architect must be very familiar with all laws that apply to the project and make sure everything meets with the local codes. Failure to do so can result in the loss of a great deal of time and money, as well as the possibility of fines or other actions on the part of local authorities.
The process of site planning also involves taking into consideration any physical attributes of the area that is to be developed in some manner. This can involve such important details as the type of soil and vegetation that is native to the area, whether or not the property is located in a floodplain, and what elements would have to be acquired to modify the terrain successfully. In the case of green landscape design, the challenge is not so much how to modify the land to fit the design, but how to create a design that is in harmony with the land itself.
Professionals who make use of landscape architecture know that site planning is not a process that is accomplished in a couple of hours. More commonly, site planners will spend weeks or event months to create the ideal exterior plan for the site. The same is true for architects as they design the layout of interior spaces. At all times, practical aspects such as safety must be accounted for, while also seeking to create the most visually appealing and practical design possible.
While site planning is more often thought to apply to new construction, the same basic principles can also be applied to the renovation of existing interior and exterior spaces. For example, a commercial site planner may help a retail chain to come up with a plan to modify existing retail space so that it mirrors the design that is common to all the chain’s retail stores. The site planner may also help to redesign the configuration of outdoor eating around a restaurant, landscaping the parking area with foliage to soften the harsh lines of asphalt, or to modify the exterior and grounds to better reflect the atmosphere that the establishment wishes to cultivate.
Site planning comes in various scales—from massive complexes to single family residential structures. All sorts of considerations are taken into account, from the amount of water the soil holds to the types of vegetation that is native to the land. The exterior design of a structure is just as important as the interior, but it seems the interior designers get the most recognition. Site planning helps address everything from drainage issues to landscaping design.
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