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About Architectural Site Survey

Architectural works emerge from a lengthy process that begins with the design phase. Before designing, site survey activities are crucial because the data collected from the survey results will be the basis for creating concepts and design drawings. The following details the data that needs to be known when conducting an architectural site survey. What I am explaining below is a simple architectural site survey. Larger projects may require more teams to conduct the survey.

Peralatan Survei Site Arsitektur
Site survey tools. Image by Adityuwana


The first piece of information to be known is the site location, including the street and coordinates. You can use GPS or simple applications like Google Earth to determine this.

Site Size

Find out the length, width, and perimeter of the surveyed site. Use measuring tools such as a tape measure, and if possible, ask a colleague to assist with measurements. After determining the site's area, the next step is to sketch the land's shape. The sketch doesn't need to be precise because you can match the land's shape through Google Earth later. You can also use a drone to obtain aerial photos of the site for greater convenience. The site's area data is used to determine the space size and calculate the Building Coverage Ratio later.

Site and Surrounding Conditions

After knowing the size and area of the site, the next step is to find out the site and surrounding conditions. You can find out the following:

  • Site Boundaries: Use GPS to determine the site boundaries. Find out which buildings the site borders from all four compass directions. Drones are the most practical and fast tool for obtaining this data. Alternatively, you can use a third-party service for aerial photos.

  • Existing Objects: Find out what objects are present on the site and their positions, such as trees, etc. For a residential renovation project, determine the positions of clean water wells and septic tanks. Also, find out the neighbor's septic tank position. This information is needed to determine the piping route and the positions of the new clean water well and septic tank.

  • Soil Conditions: You need to know the soil conditions on the site to determine the appropriate foundation structure system, especially if you are designing a multi-story building. You can use a drilling service to survey this.

  • Site and Environmental Potential: For public or commercial building projects, you need to look more broadly at the area around the site. Is the site close to public facilities such as hospitals or schools? Are there other potentials around the site that can support the presence of the building? For example, if you are designing a family restaurant, find out if there are residential areas around the site. These factors contribute to the success of the restaurant business.

Land Contour

If the site you are surveying has contours and is not flat, you need to collect contour data. This is to facilitate the design of a building that adapts to the contour and determine which areas will be cut and filled. To obtain accurate contour data, you can use a theodolite or hire a topographic survey service to do it.

Peta Kontur Survei Site Arsitektur
Land contour line. Image by Adityuwana


The next thing you need to know during an architectural site survey is the site's accessibility. How far is the site from the main road, how wide is the road in front of the site, and what is the traffic density around the site? Besides determining the entrance and exit directions, the building you design should also be shielded from traffic noise, especially if you are designing a building like an office, library, or hospital.

Wind Direction

When setting the site boundaries, you need to know the wind direction. Wind direction is also useful for determining the building's orientation and opening direction. Wind direction is closely related to the direction of sunlight, and both of these factors affect comfort in the building. You can use applications like Sun Seeker and Wind Seeker to find out. With this data, you can design and determine which directions from the site should be avoided, which directions can be maximized to provide optimal lighting and ventilation, and so on.


The view or perspective from the site also needs to be known. The view consists of two aspects: the view from outside the site to inside the site, and the view from inside the site to outside the site. Both of these data are also useful for determining the building's orientation. Where is the best view from the site? Is there a sea or mountain view from the site? If so, how can the building accommodate users to enjoy this view?

Survei Site Arsitektur
How can one maximize the potential of views like this? Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash.

Local Regulations

Every city and region has different spatial planning regulations. The information you need includes land use allocation, Building Setback Line, and other related regulations. If the site is near a river, you need to find out about the River Setback Line. This data is used as a reference for designing a building that does not violate regulations.

Site Survey Tools

Peralatan Perlengkapan Survei Site Arsitektur
Image by Adityuwana

To support site survey activities, you need to prepare several pieces of equipment, and here are some of them:

  1. Survey Guidelines. A guide containing a checklist of data to be collected in the field to ensure nothing is missed. The data collected in this guide is then processed into a site analysis concept.

  2. Lyra A4 Sketchbook. Compared to a notebook, a sketchbook is more suitable for field surveys because you need to sketch the land's shape to match it through Google Earth later. Choose an A4-sized sketchbook for practicality.

  3. Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen, with three different colors for marking objects in the field.

  4. Clipboard, A4 size to help you fill out the survey guide.

  5. Roll Meter, for measuring the perimeter of the land, choose at least 30 meters.

  6. Measuring Tape, for more detailed object measurements, choose 5m or 10m.

  7. Laser Measuring, to make it easier for you to measure distances when surveying alone, laser measuring also displays more precise measurements.

  8. Smartphone. a must-have item with features used during the site survey such as a camera, compass, calculator, voice recorder, and site survey apps like Sun Seeker, Wind Seeker, and Google Earth.

  9. Backpack, to store all your survey equipment neatly, choose one with many compartments suitable for all conditions. Consider a backpack with a laptop compartment if you're the type to back up data immediately after the survey. A backpack is chosen to free up your hands during the survey.

In addition to the above equipment, you can check other site survey equipment in this link.

Architectural Site Survey Tips

  • If possible, bring some colleagues to help with the site survey.

  • Prepare equipment that supports survey activities.

  • Prepare a survey guide so that you don't forget what data to collect on the site.

  • Record the arrival time when you arrive at the location.

  • During the survey, make the most of your time.

  • Assign tasks to each person to save time.

  • Don't forget to photograph the site and its surroundings.

  • Record the departure time before leaving the site.

  • For data related to local regulations, you can obtain it from the relevant department or the local government's website where the site is located.

  • After collecting all survey data, transfer it directly to a computer or laptop. If possible, immediately back up to a cloud drive to secure the data and avoid having to resurvey due to damaged or lost data.

I hope the above tips are useful for those of you who will conduct an architectural site survey. See you in the next post. Bye!


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