Similarly, some municipalities have tree ordinances that specify what species of trees can or cannot be planted. It may also be necessary to determine what building permits if any are required. The copy of the base map is the best place to record field observations when the site visit occurs at a later time. First, they serve as visual reminders of the existing house and site conditions, ideally reducing the need to return to the site to gather additional information. Whatever the source, the designer should only collect information that is directly applicable to the project. Regardless of when they are observed, field notes and graphic symbols are used to identify and highlight necessary information. Figure 7-2
View of garbage cans and debris along the east side of the Duncan residence. On-Site Visit The most useful information about a site is normally obtained by walking around it with an observant eye, a clipboard and paper for taking careful notes, and a camera. maple and the swing set located on the northern part of the site. Local Government and Community Offices Information regarding setbacks, permissible uses, fence/wall height and location, height restrictions for site structures, allowable materials, and so on should be obtained from the local governmental office that regulates and reviews zoning. The Clients Another key source of information about a residential site is the clients themselves. Figure 7-4
View of the neighbors’ house to the north as seen from the Duncans’ backyard. Nevertheless, there are some notable off-site views. Online Sources There are a several online sources that can be consulted for usual information regarding a residential site. Will this information influence how I design?” If the answer is yes, then the information should be recorded. If the visit coincides with taking measurements, then field observations and notes can be recorded on a sketch of the site, plot plan, or printout from an online source. Therefore, it is important for the designer to seek the clients’ input about existing site conditions. And there should be a photograph of each side of the house to show changes in materials and patterns that may occur from one side to the next. Photographs should be taken from different vantage points throughout the site. One is the online GIS mapping system available through a city or county auditor’s Web site that was discussed in the previous chapter. Often, the clients have invaluable site information gained from observing a site over an extended period during varied weather and seasonal conditions. Is it important? To avoid this, the designer should repeatedly ask: “Do I need this? It is useful for site inventory and analysis because one can view a residential site from any aerial distance or angle. The backyard is open and free of obstacles with the exception of a Norway
View of the existing concrete entry walk and earth mound in front of the Duncan residence. Some online GIS maps also permit the plan view to convert to an aerial photograph that can be useful for locating trees and helping one to understand the areas immediately surrounding the site. This can occur during the same site visit for taking measurements or later once the base map has been completed. The result can be printed and used to record site inventory notes or simply used as an analysis tool by itself. Typically, each landscape designer or firm has a particular vocabulary of symbols that has been developed through experience. How will I use this information? In addition to providing useful dimensional information, this interactive GIS map system may also locate utilities, contours, flood plains, and neighboring houses and structures. It will be recalled that the front yard of the residence is rather open with existing trees in good condition located on both sides of the driveway. This knowledge needs to be obtained each time a new design project is located in a district or neighborhood where one has not previously worked. Figure 7—1 shows the existing 3-foot-wide concrete walk leading to the front stoop with a low earth mound to its west. The views to the northwest (Figure 7—6) and northeast (Figure 7—7) are also attractive. The character on one side of a house does not always match the character on the other sides. In addition to these online map sources, much of the previously outlined information that is needed from governmental sources can also be acquired online. When standing in the Duncans’ backyard, the neighbors’ houses to the west (Figure 7—3) and north (Figure 7—4) seem relatively close and are easily seen, whereas the view to the east
View of the neighbors’ house to the west as seen from the Duncans’ backyard. As with site measuring, there are a number of potential sources for the needed site information including (1) local government offices, (2) online resources, (3) the clients, and (4) on-site observation. While taking pictures on the site, it is helpful to note the location on a plan where the photographs were taken so both “during” and “after” construction photographs can be taken from the same locations. These “before and after” photographic comparisons are extremely beneficial and rewarding. So, it is wise to do an Internet search for needed data before actually going to a governmental office or agency. A split-rail fence and plantings on the northern and eastern property lines of the backyard give it a partially enclosed feeling. In addition to zoning, some communities and condominium associations have design standards that define acceptable styles, materials, and colors.