An architectural feasibility study, site evaluation, and building analysis are ideal ways to perform due diligence before any design or construction project begins. Researching multiple options is a key strategy before settling on any large purchase – whether it’s buying a luxury electric car, a ticket for the SpaceX Starship, or, the biggest of all – acquiring property.
Should a buyer want to expand upon an existing structure and add to their home or build a mixed-use commercial complex from the ground up, choosing the right site that corresponds with a specific building type or program determines the project’s success
In the current highly competitive estate market, homebuyers feel pressured to hastily purchase property before determining which property works best for them. For example, does it make more financial and design sense to buy a two-flat and convert it to a single-family home or renovate and add to the footprint of a workers cottage? Or, is it possible to transform an industrial building into a brewery? Having an experienced architect by your side early on in the real estate buying process is highly advantageous. We can evaluate properties and provide immediate feedback on which one will, or more importantly, will not work based on a client’s goals.
ARCHITECTURAL FEASIBILITY STUDY PROCESS
So, how do you choose a site that matches your building type and program? While many potential land use options exist in major metropolitan areas like Chicago, there are always constraints to consider. Therefore, we follow a specific step-by-step work plan to provide a complete overview of each project’s possibilities. This process examines zoning codes, opportunities, and constraints for potential sites that fit within those codes, and then we develop a site-specific program.
Properties vary by location and use (residential, commercial, institutional), and not every feasibility study is identical, but this is the typical process:
1. ZONING CODE RESEARCH
This is where we ask the preliminary questions: Is the client’s desired use and/or improvement allowed on the proposed site? Can an existing building be expanded? What are the allowable uses by-right, with variances or special permits? What are the parameters associated with the site?
First, we evaluate available real estate to develop or expand a building, honing in on a few locations that satisfy the project’s programmatic goals. Second, code research is important to determine if the proposed use and/or improvements and expansion are allowed.
2. SITE FEASIBILITY, OPPORTUNITIES, & CONSTRAINTS
Next, we conduct a cursory review for site opportunities and constraints on the purchase site and surrounding properties. To design a successful building that relates to the environment, we assess and discover all of the free elements the site offers and how to harness them; this includes the sun and shade paths, prevailing breezes, views, and additional surrounding environmental attributes. Additional items we consider include buildable area, setbacks, height limits, and alley access, to name a few. Site orientation and the surrounding area significantly impact the final built project.
This preliminary overview actually saves on costs in the long run by determining how the program fits within the site.
3. PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT
How the project is designed and ultimately phased relies on early program development. We assist each client with organizing spaces for both the site and the building. This involves looking at the building size, parking, utilities, landscaping, and overall environment at the site level. For building programming, we focus on room size and quantity, amenities, common spaces, and light and air circulation. These inevitably differ in scale, functionality, and location within a structure. Using the zoning code research performed early in the process, we design according to the specifications of both the client and code requirements.
4. IN-HOUSE REAL ESTATE BROKER
As a value-added service, our clients have access to an in-house licensed real estate broker who can provide guidance on property searches and purchasing. Working in tandem, our super-hero architect/broker duo can evaluate potential building sites and provide prompt analysis and feedback on the property/site feasibility. Assessing the viability of a property is a critical step before committing to an offer.
INSURANCE FOR THE FUTURE & NEXT STEPS
Inevitably there are unforeseen circumstances in any design project; securing a feasibility study beforehand can minimize surprises along the way. This applies to the design phase, then spills over to generating construction documents and how permitting is processed.
So you’ve committed to securing the future of your development with an architectural feasibility study and site analysis – now what? Once a case is made to move ahead, our master planning services dovetail with the design process down the line. Additionally, you can learn about what to expect when you work with us and what happens during the various design phases that each client moves through.