How to: Prepare a Site Analysis

The first step in my design project is finding a site. Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the process I went through from selection to digitised drawings.

Due to the completely theoretical nature of the project, the selection had a lot less restrictions than one would usually face. It needed to be close enough so that I can visit it to take photographs and assess the site myself, and large enough to have the potential for a large, multi-use development.

I chose the Radford Mill site in Radford, Nottingham. I stumbled upon it (as much as you can ‘stumble’ upon a 26m high mill on fire) walking home one evening and it had everything I was looking for; the C18th, abandoned mill has a footprint of roughly 2500m² on a site about 1.05Ha.


Unfortunately, I am not able to go and thoroughly survey the existing site and mill, which means that I rely on the information that others have collected, available from a number of locations. In this situation the first step is to go to a company like Digimaps to obtain some ordinance survey maps and geo-spacial data. Digimaps gives you high quality information about the topography, geology and history of any area in Great Britain, which can be downloaded as a .PDF, or a number of digital GIS and CAD formats, such as .DWG and .GML. Using a little Photoshop, I was able to express the topography data like this:


Secondly, check out the local council’s planning applications for existing information on the site. You can view applications for both existing and future developments in the area – some databases go back decades. Most applications will include documents such as drawings, design and access statements, planning statements, letters from authorities etc. that can offer insight into the building and site. For Radford Mill, I found the following drawings from Nottingham City Council planning and building control:

Slide1 Slide2

Information can also be found at your local Archives, or maybe even from the firms that filed the planning application. It can be a become a case of piecing together the jigsaw of data from a number of sources, and it’s worth remembering that architect’s drawings are more likely to be accurate than an OS map. The drawings arrive in PDF format; these can be imported into programs like AutoCAD and scaled up to size using any measurement on the drawing – I used the 22m above ground level dimension on the elevation above, and was then able to measure the rest of the building accordingly.

Using the information available from these sources, and programs such as AutoCAD and Sketchup, I have been able to put together this Revit model of the site and existing mill. Once complete, this Existing file will be used as a link in my Proposed file, allowing the design to change without effecting the constants.


Of course, there is still plenty of work to go – this is just the beginning (I’ll keep you updated). There are plenty of how-to’s and video tutorials on the internet, but feel free to comment with any questions.


One response to “How to: Prepare a Site Analysis

  1. Pingback: Flexible Theatre Design | Building Beresford·

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