Geographical Factors to consider when designing a building

Studying the environment is imperative in architectural design, and it involves data collection, extensive survey, imagination and a willingness to solve problems with creative design solutions. The site and its characteristics are the most significant factors when it comes to designing an energy-efficient building. Site Planning is an endeavour to create the perfect symphony between art and science; it requires a clever arrangement of resources to fit the larger purpose. The site planner makes an informed decision for the site by examining and solving the various geographical mysteries nature has offered. 

1. Earth 

The soil at the site needs proper analysis. This information helps understand the land stability, excavation, erosion, foundation, percolation quality and plant growth suitability. Management of the soil can significantly affect runoff; direct evaporation from the soil surface;the amount of soil moisture available to plants within a range of their roots; and the depth their roots can penetrate.

Earth-the canvas for every designer

The essential factor the designer has to look outfor is the bearing capacity of the soil- it needs mindful consideration whilelocating buildings. Sometimes, the client also wants a particular kind of soilquality, say for aesthetic purposes. The soil analysis at the site helpsvalidate the need for addition. 

2. Rocky plain

The existing rock bed below the topsoil could act as beneficiaries for a strong foundation. The characteristic features of the rock bed and its depth are valuable information needed to determine if it fits the purpose.

Rock- An advantage to the building foundation

They are naturally available to the designer and could act as a visible landform as well. They might add aesthetical value to the site, creating an earthy connection for its user.

3. Contours 

Contours are a part of a study called topography. It is the most informative analysis for the site. The natural erosion processin which the soil wears away because of wind or water is the reason for slopes. A topographic survey helps determine the natural drainage system at the site. The contour also reveals places that might be potentially good landscapes or spots from where selected points on the site can be visible or hidden.

Aerial view of a contour plain

The different levels of the ground would create different viewsheds for the site. Additionally, the slopes do weigh in on the location of the roads and paths. For instance, choosing a road on a steep slope over a plain area might increase the building cost. 

4. Water

Water caught by a catchment will flow towards the lowest point at the outlet, where it may join water emerging from other catchments. A watershed is an area of land that drains water into as pecific waterbody.

The flow of water through the site

Catchments and watersheds are understood better with contour line plans and drainage lines at the site. It also further helpsto identify the area on-site best suited for rainwater harvesting and groundwater replenishment. 

5. Flora and Fauna

Ideally and ethically, the designer should respect the habitat at a site. Conducting a study on the existing vegetation helps decide which ones are to be retained. The height and the foliage of the trees affect the viewshed at the site while the trees themselves act as a cooling device for the site. This analysis should also include what plants or shrubs would grow in that area.

Flora and fauna- A beauty to be preserved and protected

Wildlife adds colour and movement to the environment, bringing the user closer to nature. The designer should be mindful of the existing fauna and properly preserve the natural habitat in which they thrive.

6. Climate

The main climatic factors to consider are solar heat and glare, prevailing winds and humidity, and precipitation. In architecture, psychological and physical comfort for a building revolves around these factors of the climate. Climate influences the planning of the building, its structure, and external features’ treatment.

Climate zone are determining factors in design

In places having a composite climate, like New Delhi, the building should embody both a compact and enclosed design- for withstanding winter, and openness- for the harsh summer. Similarly, in extreme climate the structure needs to minimize heat loss, hence a thick building envelope is preferred. On the contrary, Temperate regions could make use of a lighter structure. The rain and snow command the form and material of the roof. Climate also influences the size and location of the fenestrations. 

In India, some of the popular climatic features include courtyards, verandahs and balconies, chhajjas, perforated jallis, jharokha, pools and fountains.

7. Natural Hazards

The designer should collect data on natural hazard events of their location in terms of magnitude and frequency. Natural hazards have the potential to impact human life and property.

A design safeguarding against nature’s deadly disasters

The destructive forces are typically out of control but finding a practical solution helps avoid the adverse effects of the disaster. 


In conclusion, a site-responsive project creates comfort for its user; it also decreases the building’s dependency on artificial energy. Be considerate of the above-mentioned points when you go on your site visits. During the initial design phase, it is crucial to acquaint and comprehend the context in which you’re designing to the best of your capabilities. It helps to create relevance and a connection between the site and the proposed site. A comprehensive analysis will influence design parameters and decision making, creating a holistic approach to designing. 

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