Sustainable Siting

Sustainable Siting of a Building

Perhaps the greatest impact to the environment when constructing a building occurs upon selection of the site. Thus, the site selection process or site-planning phase may well be the most important step to reduce or minimize the overall environmental damage of the project. With this in mind, proper care should be taken to screen potential sites before purchasing and optimize the selection process for all criteria including environmental. This can be achieved by including the entire interdisciplinary design team during the site selection process.


Before a site is chosen, a number of sites should be assessed to see whether they are compatible with the entire design teams goals and priorities (see First Things First). The assessment should include collecting and assessing a variety of data. Questions need to be addressed such as will the building have access to sunlight (one of the greatest resources of a site)? Is the site virgin natural landscape which should be left intact in preference for developing a brownfield or urban site? Does the location have sufficient access to efficient public transportation? Can the land be effectively developed while controlling excess sediment and erosion? Will the development increase stormwater runoff? Can the existing soil be maintained intact or transplanted? Is the existing native vegetation (if any) a barrier to the project or can it be maintained? Can any further landscape development reduce the effect of heat islands? Does the site allow for minimum impervious surfaces to be employed while giving preference to pervious surfaces? Do outdoor public amenities exist?

Many other questions need to be asked before selecting a site and thus taking the time to form a complete design team complete with goals and priorities is paramount when attempting to reduce environmental impacts related to siting of a building.

Once the interdisciplinary design team has been assembled, the potential sites must be scrutinized to find the optimal combination of site features that will allow for the least impact to the site and surroundings. The first step is to collect all the relevant data from each proposed site. Then a comparison can be made between sites and the optimal location will present itself. There are a variety of criteria that should be considered when deciding on a site to develop. Avoid selecting inappropriate sites and always attempt to minimize any environmental impacts that may occur from the development.