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Site Planning

We would be happy to perform a site evaluation that lays out your house footprint on your lot (or prospective lots) in a way that makes the most sense. We can work with your chosen house footprint, or we can compare multiple houses to help you choose the one that is most appropriate for your lot. We consider as many of the following items as possible:

  • Buildable area inside setback lines

  • Access to a public street or alley

  • Restrictive easements

  • Respect buffer lines to wetlands or water bodies (or minimize impacts)

  • Topography

  • Floodplain

  • Solar orientation for PV panels, passive heat gain, and shading

  • Vegetation to be preserved

  • Prevailing winds

  • Desirable and undesirable views

  • Public Utility Connections (if applicable)

  • Well and septic (if applicable)

  • Planning for future additions, garage, pool, or other outbuildings

  • Stormwater management treatment

  • Bedrock

  • High groundwater or groundwater seeps

  • Homeowner’s association restrictions

Site planning for passive solar and PV panels


Why do a site evaluation?

The most significant benefit I can provide is to help orient the house to maximize (or minimize) solar gain and to adjust the glazing parameters for your windows. This is especially important if you are not orienting the plan according the the “South” arrow on the plans. If the south facade on the design ends up being the west facade, you are likely to experience some serious overheating in summer unless we adjust the low-e parameters on the windows.


Isn’t my surveyor going to do all this anyway?

For the most part, the answer is yes. But you won’t be hiring a local surveyor until after you’ve bought your land. I can help evaluate a parcel you are interested in buying to see how it might work with one or two or three home designs you are considering. (They don’t need to be one of our plans, FYI.) Alternatively, I can evaluate multiple parcels to help you hone in on the one that best suits your needs. Also, you might consider forwarding me your local surveyor’s plot plan before you submit for your building permit for a quick review regarding solar orientation and general compatibility with the house plans. I can even do that as part of the 4 hours of phone/email support that comes with your construction plans.


Not all jurisdictions require a plot plan or survey stakeout.

All the more reason to involve a professional in the decision-making. If you’re a DIY sort of person and prefer to do your own thing I respect that too. I’m just here to provide expertise when desired.


How much will this cost?

Most evaluations cost around $800 for a one house on one lot. There are economies of scale if you’re looking at three houses on one lot, or one house on three lots for example. Those scenarios might cost about $1,400. We customize every proposal based on the information you provide with your “Site Evaluation Request Form”, and we will have a brief phone call to discuss the details of your project. We’ll use this information to prepare a proposal, and we ask for 50% prepayment to begin the work.

How much can you really do without visiting the site?

You’re right, I’m working with one hand tied behind my back. That’s why my fee is low and I recommend working with a local surveyor. I can usually make many relevant recommendations that help focus the surveyor’s efforts and hopefully this will reduce their fee. If they feel differently about anything than I do, you should rely on their expertise.


Can you help me research codes or other background information?

Assuming this is possible to do via the internet, we can build this into our fee. But be aware that research can be time consuming, and my time may cost more than yours. Any preliminary details you can provide will speed things up if you provide links to online codes or public staff contact information.


What tips can you offer when taking photos?

  1. Place a notable object (safety cone, bicycle, or favorite pet) at the center of home site or sites. Take eight photos if that object (N NE E SE S SW W NW) from about 30’-50’ away. If this requires you to trespass on the neighboring property and you don’t have permission, take the photo from the property line itself.

  2. Take eight photos from home site looking toward each of those same directions.

  3. It’s best to take photos on a cloudy but not rainy day, not too close to sunrise or sunset.

Planning Tip

If you’re considering building in a newer subdivision, keep in mind that the covenants and restrictions, as well as the other residents, may discourage or exclude a smaller house that is out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood. It’s possible to disguise a compact house with oversized porches or an attached garage to make the overall structure appear larger. If there is a specific square footage minimum, consider designing an unheated seasonal room. Or if necessary, you can design in an inexpensive resistance heater if that is necessary for the room to be counted toward the minimum square footage Just because the heater is on the plan doesn’t mean it will be used or even installed.

Keep in mind that our evaluation will only be as good as the information you provide to us, so the more information we get, the more useful our recommendations will be. And please be clear--the plan we prepare is only a recommendation, not a permit-ready plot plan. Before submitting a building permit application, we recommend you work with a local surveyor or engineer to prepare a plot plan that is based on professionally procured base information such as property lines on the required horizontal and vertical datum, easements, topography, environmental resources, etc. We hope the information we provide will be a useful guide for them in performing their work.


  1. Feel free to contact us with your initial questions and thoughts before delving into the process. We can also chat on the phone if desired.

  2. Fill out the “Site Evaluation Request Form” and email it to We will be in touch by email with a dropbox link for you to upload the site information you’ve gathered and a proposed date and time for an initial phone call. Please upload that information before our call so I can have this available to view before we talk. On the phone, I’ll be able to firm up what I’ll be working with and what your needs and expectations will be.

  3. After we talk, I’ll send a proposal via email with a lump sum price and expected delivery date. If this is acceptable, sign and date the proposal and email back a scan. I will send an invoice for 50% of the contract total. Once you’ve paid that, I will begin work on the site evaluation.

  4. Once I’ve finished the site evaluation, I will email a sketch plot plan (see example in the pdf) and list several days/times I am available for a follow-up call. After we talk, I will send an invoice for the remaining 50% of the fee.

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