Few things are more satisfying than getting to design your perfect home from the ground up. You get to personalize everything about it, making it the perfect living space for your unique needs.
Want a home theater room? Go for it. Mud room? Sure. In-home observatory? Sure, why not.
But while the interior of your house is obviously very important, make sure you think about -- and plan for -- the exterior as well. How and where the house is going to sit on the land. Do you want a deck? A pool? A shed? What kind of trees -- and where? Your driveway. Your walk. There are all kinds of things to think about.
How do you go about planning all of that? With a site plan.
What Is a Site Plan?
A site plan is a residential drawing that depicts the plot of land on which your new home will sit.
It’s comparable to a readable map showing everything within the property lines -- including the topography of the land, as well as such exterior features as swimming pools, garages, power lines, easements, driveways, fencing, and more.
Generally, the site plan will show the proposed home footprint, parking, trails, travel-ways, water lines, sanitary sewer lines, drainage facilities, and lighting, as well as the home garden and other landscaping elements.
A well-drawn site plan helps you communicate your ideas and expectations of the physical nature of the upcoming building site to anyone who might be involved with the project.
Related: Everything you need to know about a site plan in 2019
Site Plan vs. Floor Plan
Something important to note is that many first-time homeowners mistake a floor plan for a site plan. Although the two are both important residential drawings, they’re quite different from each other.
A site plan (also known as a plot plan or block plan) shows the full relationship between a building and the land on which it sits. It is a graphical representation of what happens outside the house.
A floor plan, on the other hand, only shows what happens on the inside of a building. It’s usually a view from above that depicts the interior walls, rooms, spaces, and other physical features of a house.
Why Do You Need a Site Plan?
Drawings are pivotal in any planning process. Residential drawings such as a site plan provide essential information that describes your building proposal in detail. They also enable proper assessment and approval of the project by the relevant authorities.
However, site plans are much more than formal requirements by your local authorities. Here’s why:
A site plan helps you communicate your project to all interested parties.
You won’t be building your new home alone. You will at some point have to explain your project to:
- Your family
- Designers/architects, who will offer guidance about the construction process
- Local government officials, who will decide whether or not to authorize your project and give you a permit
- Contractors, who will be building your home
A good site plan will help you identify potential constraints even before you begin building your home.
Every good site plan touches on some of the critical issues that will be addressed when building your new home. A site plan also demonstrates the developable building area in relation to the land, zoning, and other site-specific constraints.
A professionally-designed site plan may, for instance, include a topographic survey and an accurate depiction of the underground drainage and utility lines onsite. Such vital components of a site plan will give you a more comprehensive understanding of how your new home will be served, as well as how it’s going to fit in with the known existing features.
A site plan will help you anticipate and plan for future construction changes.
It’s normal for changes to happen during the building process. Sometimes a project might turn out to be bigger or smaller than originally planned. Budgetary issues might also compel a person to make changes to the original plan.
An accurate site plan can help you identify areas that might need changing before construction begins. It also makes it easy to incorporate new changes that come up during construction. In the long run, this saves you and your construction crew valuable time and resources.
Your local jurisdiction may require you to have a site plan.
The permitting processes for various types of construction varies from one state to the next -- and even from one municipality to the next. However, most regulatory agencies that oversee the approval of construction projects ask for accurate and detailed site plans before issuing a construction permit.
By going through your site plan, the reviewing agency is able to understand what you wish to build and how it will impact the surrounding area. They may also express concerns or make comments over some details of your proposed project.
Even if your site plan isn’t approved when you first present it, the simple fact of having one that presents a clear view of your design can allow the agency to help you find solutions to the challenges that hindered the plan’s initial approval.
You should know that the local government is most likely going to retain the site plan you present to them for historical records. This is not only because the county government needs to have them on record to prove that your new home is in line with the state building codes, but also because you might make significant changes to public property and resources during construction.
Essential Considerations to Make When Designing Your New House
Before you begin sketching your site plan, you should pay special attention to certain external factors that allow you to exploit your land’s potential for a picturesque home. In fact, one of the merits of building your own home is that you have a chance to put it right where you want it.
Thus, the very first step in designing your new home ought to be thoroughly exploring the land and capturing unique positions that allow you to take full advantage of views, breezes, sun, shade, and so on.
Picking the site for your new home should consequently put into account the following critical factors:
A home is much more enjoyable to live in if it’s in harmony with its surroundings. Therefore, take time to catalog the natural features on your land. Take note of the planes and slopes of the proposed building site.
Try to visualize how your new home will sit in with the existing natural features. Look for a site that offers the best views for your new home’s windows and decks.
Many homeowners even want to build their home around a specific view. If you have this goal in mind, though, understand that picking the perfect view may require you to plan several site visits at different times of the year. Why? Because what looks amazing in summer might not look as good during winter -- and vice versa.
You might even have to mark off two or more probable building sites with stakes and strings and then pick the site that allows you to use the existing natural features to their fullest potential.
Studying the sun’s orientation is very important when designing a new home. Depending on how your home is positioned, the sun can either be a friend or a foe.
You need just enough sunlight to brighten the interiors and possibly even provide free heat. However, you don’t want too much sunlight to stream into the house or it can drive the temperatures inside your home to insanely high levels.
In addition to helping you benefit from indoor solar heating and lighting, studying the sun’s orientation also helps you take full advantage of shade from existing trees, rock outcrops, slopes, and more. Shade is good for the house -- especially during hot summers.
Study the drainage patterns of your proposed construction site. Your new home should not be placed in the way of springtime gully-washers or other places through which surface runoff during heavy rains is likely to escape.
If you are building near a water feature such as a lake or river, be on the lookout for signs of flooding. Always position your site well above the high-water indicators.
All in all, the natural drainage pattern will have a huge influence on how you build your new home. Thus, it helps if you have professional help when looking for the ideal site for your new home.
You could position your home strategically so that soft breezes sift through the windows to cool the interiors, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning. You could also position the deck in a way that it will be swept free of snow during winter so there’s no need for shoveling.
These are merely examples of how carefully analyzing wind patterns can be beneficial. Remember that strong winds can cause damage to structures, so you should design a home that takes advantage of such windbreakers as hillsides and rock outcrops.
There’s more to a building site’s terrain than you’d imagine. The terrain will affect the cost of building your new home, as well as its maintenance, convenience, and energy efficiency. To say the least, the slope of the land may favor or hinder construction. So, if you have doubts about the ground, always consult a professional.
What Important Things Must You Include in Your Site Plan?
Every site plan is unique. However, the main conceptual and technical components are pretty much the same across the board. The following are some of the key things that you should include in any site plan for a new home.
Note: Your local/county government might have specific requirements with regard to the site plan that you present to them. That’s why it’s quite helpful to meet with the relevant planning departments early on to discuss any special inclusions that need to be incorporated into your site plan.
Related: How do I draw a site plan?
Property lines and (optionally) items in the immediate vicinity.
Site plan creation begins with clearly defining the property lines. Obviously, you do not want your new home to encroach onto the adjacent neighbor’s property. By specifying your property lines, you set the stage for a site plan that sits squarely on the plot of land that’s legally yours.
You may also choose to include immediate vicinity items like streets, fire hydrants, and important neighboring structures. These structures not only provide context for your new home, but they may also have an overall impact on how you design certain elements, such as access roads and driveways.
Adding immediate vicinity items may also help the individuals reviewing your plan understand your proposed home better. Adding a street name, for instance, can help someone who’s familiar with that area understand why it’s appropriate to design your home as presented in your site plan.
Additionally, some local/county governments have specific guidelines for the acceptable distance your building should be from features like a fire hydrant. Learn about the specific construction and building rules in your area and make sure to include those associated features in your site plan.
Accurate measurements and distances.
Usually, this where you’ll need the help of an experienced professional. A good site plan should depict the precise relationship that your new house will have with adjacent structures, utility lines, and the nearest property lines in terms of distance.
Accurate measurements also make it easier for the contractors to work on your project. For example, if the site plan has a scale and the measurements on the drawing are accurate, it will be very easy for a contractor to calculate the length of your desired driveway.
Existing and proposed conditions.
Plan reviewers, city officials, and any other concerned parties will have an easy time understanding the full scope of your project if you present both the existing and proposed conditions. Doing so provides a vivid picture of how your new home will affect the site.
You might also get crucial insight into how the site itself will affect your new home. And you’ll learn whether you need to bring in other inspectors or professionals during the construction period.
When talking about physical features here, we mean anything that is worth noting in your site plan. This could be many things, but the following are the main items that you should include:
- Parking. Space for parking is particularly important if you are building a home in a neighborhood where parking is a premium, such as in a dense downtown environment. Because of this, a parking diagram in a site plan may be of great significance. It can help both you and your contractors determine the appropriate amount of parking for your new home.
- Driveway/pathways. Your local government probably has some code requirements governing site access and circulation. Such code will have an impact on issues like the width and dimensions of your driveways, pathways, and curbs. This is why it’s important to ensure that they are depicted on your site plan.
- Detached garage. Where applicable.
- Pool, patio, and deck. Where applicable.
Traditionally, site plans don’t do the best job of representing aesthetics, nor are they expected to. However, there are times when the landscape contains a fragile ecosystem that needs protecting.
For instance, building your new home doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to bulldoze every tree and later plant them all over again. The world today is all about sustainability and reduction of site impact. This is why it’s encouraged that your site plan includes existing and proposed landscaping elements.
Be sure to show on your site plan where water, gas, and other utility lines are on your property. Be sure to also note on your site plan any specific portions of your land where other people have a legal right of use such as for crossing over.
Easements can be shown either graphically or with text, but it’s much more ideal to use both.
Creating a Good Site Plan
A good site plan tells a story of the construction site and the new house you are going to build. Anyone reviewing your site plan should be able to understand the whole story. This means there’s no room for omissions or undesired interpretations in your plan.
By the time you sit down to sketch a site plan, it’s expected that you’ve completed the research for the site itself and the proposed house. You should also have some sort of design wish-list for the house.
Often times people find that some of their design ideas cancel each other out. This is normal and shouldn’t discourage you in any way. In fact, you might soon see that what starts as a design conflict could be a creative solution.
It also helps to have accurate measurements of both the existing and proposed structures. In the past, this means painstakingly measuring things on your own or calling in an expensive professional, but today things have changed.
At MySitePlan, you input the desired information. Then we use a combination of county parcel maps, satellite imagery, and GIS data to craft a site plan that is as comprehensive as you want it to be. Even our most detailed plans are under $200. And the best part is that we can deliver a complete site plan to you in less than 24 hours.
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