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What’s important in site design?

Whether you are a first-time developer, property investor or a landowner, there is one thing everyone can agree on – residential development is a long-term profitable investment. With the new housing policy favouring new builds, many developers and investors are taking a step back to rethink their strategy. This week’s blog will cover various site design issues that need to be considered when planning a new residential project.

The following elements will all influence the final design of the development:

  • Access, Parking and Maneuvering,

  • Sunlight access,

  • Outlook space,

  • Building design,

  • Market considerations.

Access, Parking and Maneuvering


Access is important in site planning and it must be considered at an early stage of the design process. This will ensure the proposed access will complement the remaining spaces and dwelling design. A good vehicle access addresses the following:

  • Minimise the number and width of vehicle crossing serving a site by sharing access where possible. A larger site may potentially require more than one vehicle crossing, but these crossings should be well separated from each other. This reduces potential safety effects, including on pedestrians.

  • Locate vehicle crossings where clear visibility is provided, and traffic safety is not compromised.

  • Access entry points should be legible and clear, facilitating safe and efficient access for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.


The number of parking spaces should be determined by the types of services and amenities as well as access to public transport available within the area. Car parking should not detract from the streetscape such as by locating a large amount of car parking to the front of the property or having garage doors that dominate the street.

Uncovered carparks are often best provided to the rear of the dwellings to minimise negative impacts on the streetscape.


On-site maneuvering is a preferred option in residential development. This is because it allows vehicles to enter and exit the site in a forward manner that ensure clear sightlines of traffic from both directions are provided.

Sunlight Access

In order to maximise sunlight access, buildings should be orientated to the north if possible. Where it is not possible, the provision of dual aspects will help maximise sunlight penetration into the dwelling. Secondary areas such as stairways, garage and toilet should be located to the south of the dwelling as these areas are used transiently.

It is important to maintain an adequate separation between adjacent buildings to ensure sunlight access is not notably obstructed. Where sunlight and daylight access into the dwelling is lower, more/ larger windows or skylights can help to improve natural lighting.

Outlook Space

The design and location of the dwellings in relation to neighbouring properties should be carefully considered to minimise the extent of privacy or overlooking effects. Similarly, future residents should also be provided with sufficient outlook space from any habitable rooms. This can be achieved by providing sufficient physical separation between the proposed dwellings and neighbouring properties, location of rooms and orientation.


A good residential design should not only improve the quality of life for people but also contribute positively to the character of the areas, including the streetscape. You should consider:

Architectural built form

Architectural built form is a main element that can be viewed from the streetscape. It is therefore important to have a good architectural design, quality finishes (and utilise these to create variety and avoid monotony of design). Done under estimate the value of a good designer!


High quality landscaping is essential to not only soften the proposed bulk of the dwelling but also to create visual interest when viewed from the street. Fencing should generally be low, to allow easy overlooking into the street. Landscaping also provides important on- site amenity and privacy between units (fencing is also important here, and should be high enough to prevent direct overlooking into neighboring yards). It can also be used to screen or visually soften utility areas, car parks or rubbish storage areas.

Outdoor living space

A good design should provide private outdoor living space (primarily patios, balconies, decks) with good connections to indoor living areas. The outdoor space should be functional in terms of its size, shape and location. These outdoor spaces should also benefit from good sunlight access, particularly a minimum of 2 hours of winter sun.

Market Consideration

It is important to understand who your target market is- what do they want, what will they compromise on, what can they afford and what are they willing to pay? Factors such as site topography, location, demographics, recreational spaces, and amenities all play a role in deciding which residential typology is best.

Providing a variety of dwelling types and sizes will enable the development to be desirable to a wider market and will meet prospective buyers’ different needs and values.

Have more questions?

If you have a development in mind or need more detailed feasibility advice, please get in contact. Get in touch to discuss your proposal with one of our friendly team at


As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

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