Testing site capacity from an urban design perspective gives clients, property developers and landowners a sound understanding of the realistic development potential of a site. These studies can inform feasibility, pre-acquisition due diligence and valuation of existing assets.
Similar studies are often undertaken by architects but, when sites are larger, carry environmental complexities or present a range of development options, there is benefit in approaching the exercise from an urban design perspective that takes into account the site’s physical opportunities and constraints as well as the broader planning context. This can provide a clear set of parameters from which an architect can proceed to more detailed design work.
An urban design-led approach to capacity testing would typically employ a range of analysis and testing to inform a realistic development scenario, including:
- Mapping site constraints ‒ this involves plotting any physical or planning influences on the site. This may include advice from other consultants and will identify matters such as sensitive interfaces, vegetation, drainage, topography, access requirements, heritage, and open space requirements, all of which help to determine the site potential.
- Using physical context analysis, planning context and urban design expertise to inform development potential ‒ This will draw on physical context analysis as well as knowledge of the planning framework and urban design expertise to inform a well-founded analysis of site capacity.
- Using a range of technical techniques to test possible outcomes – Urban designers may develop one or several layout plans that respond to the site analysis. They can also prepare 3D modelling to test built form outcomes, run shadow tests (both within the site, in areas of public realm or on neighbouring properties) and undertake views analysis. This enables the team to analyse site impacts from neighbouring properties or key points in the public realm.
- Determining a realistic overall potential yield ‒ This will give an idea of what a reasonable yield expectation would be for a site and enable clients to make decisions on how they might want to proceed with the planning process. This advice can establish a base case and then interpret what might be achievable by pushing certain areas of opportunity. The potential yield can be provided in square metre or gross floor area terms, but also, factoring in architectural expertise, break down the number of units that could be achieved depending on the land use mix.
Ratio’s Urban Design team has undertaken a range of site capacity and feasibility studies for private and government clients.
The level of detail and how these studies are presented varies depending on the needs of the client and the nature of the site, but typically includes explanatory diagrams and 3D massing to convey the key analysis and recommendations.
The Ratio Team
Our Urban Design team has a breadth of experience across urban design, architecture and planning and is well placed to provide advice on site capacity and development potential.
As part of a multi-disciplinary firm, we are also able to harness specialist in-house expertise in planning, traffic engineering and landscape architecture to assist studies of this sort.
If you have a site or landholding that we can assist with, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org