Site analysis and response
Rodney District Development Design Guide
Part 3 Issues that affect all development types
Site and context analysis
The most critical element of successfully designing to avoid, remedy, or mitigate adverse effects lies in understanding how a proposal will react and interact with its environment. A quality site and context analysis is a fundamental tool in this.
The reality of many quality designs is that up to 80% of the ‘concept’ is in fact nothing more than a logical response to what is already going around that design. The most inspiring, successful, ‘liveable’ built environments across history as well as today are the ones that allow intuitive, easy use.
They are compatible with the surrounding built form while still incorporating enough identity and originality to make a clear statement about who, where, and what the users are all about.
An important part of a quality context analysis relates to the ‘intended’ outcomes of the District Plan and other strategic policies (the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy for example). Early discussions with the Council to affirm a common view of what the combined package of policies mean for a development will help inform the best use of a site.
- Section 88 and the First Schedule of the Resource Management Act: An Assessment of Effects on the Environment.
- Long-Term Plan—Group of Activities: District and Environmental Planning, Future Planning
- Vision Rodney
- To be further developed
Environmental effects to watch out for include:
- Site and context analysis will identify where reverse sensitivities and operational conflicts will or may arise.
- Identified adverse effects will be much more than basic site-related ones of site coverage and intensity, building height and so on. Sustainable management is more related to how a development will actually ’work’ with the environment around it.
- Analysis will identify many ‘incremental’ adverse effects that while difficult to quantify (i.e. how much will one additional vehicle trip resulting from an inefficient road layout contribute to the death rate associated with the Auckland Region’s air pollution?). But these can still in most cases easily avoided through sensitive, sensible design.
- Opportunities to deliver positive effects will also be made obvious through a quality analysis.
Site Issue 1 Topography and landform
- Take advantage of height for varied building forms and visual interest.
- Use slope to advantage such as semi-basements, elevated living courts, and far-field visual outlook. Consider flooding issues and surface water constraints.
- Design to respond and follow landform rather than dominate or conflict with it.
Site Issue 2 Natural features, significant vegetation and solar orientation
- Consider retaining significant trees in public or communal open space.
- Incorporate trees into private spaces or streets. Ensure building platforms and construction needs can viably protect features.
- Reflect nature features in the design of buildings.
- Design to allow sunlight into living rooms and outdoor areas.
- Locate outdoor areas away from wind or provide landscaping, or construct wind screens.
- Ensure streets provide a comfortable microclimate by managing street trees and orientation.
Site Issue 3 Adjacent land uses
- Design buildings to respond positively to and fit with the existing character feel of an area.
- Look to integrate ‘fronts and backs’ with existing uses to minimise user conflict and nuisance.
- Development intensity should respond where appropriate. Density should occur where adjacent amenities and character can support it.
Site Issue 4 Movement
- Ensure the relationship between local and through movement does not detract from the immediate area, as too much of either and not enough of the other will result in inefficient traffic movements or unviable service catchments.
- Where possible provide multi-mode journey choices, as this decreases the dependency on private vehicles.
- Promote the intrinsic relationship between, access, permeability and movement choice.
- Understand wider movement patterns and ensure roads respond to this context while supporting the local condition.
Site Issue 5 Features of cultural significance
- Consider celebrating or respecting features.
- Reflect local heritage or cultural meaning into building design.
- Key view paths to and from the site (including privacy issues) Consider how outward views can be utilised. Add highest visual interest where the development will be most visible from the outside.
- Incorporate into open spaces.
Site Issue 6 Key view paths to and from the site (including privacy issues)
- Consider how outward views can be utilised.
- Add highest visual interest where the development will be most visible from the outside.
- Consider existing buildings, ‘fronts and backs’, and privacy issues.
Site Issue 7 Site shape
- Consider how to respond to the site’s shape in an efficient manner.
Site Issue 8 Location of infrastructure networks and connections
- Ensure site layout meets requirements of underground infrastructure lines and overland flow paths.
- Make efficient connections to existing infrastructure services
A complex relationship between land price, development yield, current market conditions, social ‘trendyness’, investor expectations, and District Plan provisions will underlie the use and development of all natural or physical resources in Rodney.
On some sites the amount of development required just to break even (let alone make any profit) may be more than is provided for within the District Plan’s provisions.
If a large development is actually the most sensitive and best available due to wider market conditions this may have a bearing on an overall RMA consideration of whether sustainable management is being promoted despite the development perhaps being larger than may otherwise be ideal.
There will always be sites so sensitive or significant that the purpose of the Act will be best served by the conservation of resources and the refusal of consent to all viable development scenarios, in the hope that a longer-term benefit or opportunity will arise.
But in general consent conditions or design changes that render a proposal undeliverable will not promote sustainable management within Rodney. It is accordingly important that decision makers are aware of realistic, deliverable bottom lines as they apply to the circumstance rather than a more simplistic, ideal or theoretical best-use of resources that may seem attractive. This will allow the right decisions to be made which will enable our well-being.
It is not true that more site intensity always equals more profit. By way of example, the transition from at-grade to underground car parking is a significant expense and will only be paid for by a clear jump in unit yield, not just one or two extra houses. As a function of the economic interactions affecting each site, each will have a ‘bottom line’ or minimum yield required to break even.
Likewise there will be a ‘breaking point’ beyond which additional intensity will either return the same or even less overall return relative to the risk and effort needed to deliver it.
Understanding these two complexities will significantly help understand the context behind ‘why’ a given proposal is in the form it is in, and from there lead to identification of what flexibility for change is available within the realms of deliverability.
Relevant to: To be further developed
Environmental effects to watch out for include:
- When changes are sought to a proposal—such as looking to provide a better-connected road layout in a subdivision, the retention of the same number of lots but made slightly smaller may result in a double negative—more expense to create the roads and less return per lot. Changes that still provide the same or a greater return should be looked for.
- Quality design has been found to positively affect property values and prices. While this is typically more true for longer-term values, it can also be true for shorter term ones and should be pursued where possible.
- The downside of pursuing the best outcomes ‘up front’ can be reduced affordability for residents instead of allowing them to make incremental improvements over time. This may justify mitigation measures to be targeted and associated to specific parts of a development so as to achieve a good balance between both tensions.
A guide to the guideline
- Urban design as a way to balance all interests
- Sustainable management in Rodney
- Issues that affect all development types
- Issues that affect specific development types
- Coastal development
- Town centres
- General employment land
- Case study examples—before and after
- Peripheral residential
- Typical residential
- Mixed density urban residential
- Shopping centre
- Large-format retail
- Office park
- Committing to quality
- A appendix—implications for resource consents
There is a wealth of information available on detailed design elements. Instead of repeating them, this guide will focus on the primary ones relevant in Rodney. Sources of further information will be referenced where relevant throughout but in an overall sense the following are key sources:
- People+Places+Spaces: A Design Guide for Urban New Zealand; Ministry for the Environment, 2002
- New Zealand Urban Design Protocol; Ministry for the Environment, 2006
- Associated Urban Design Protocol documents; Ministry for the Environment, 2006–today
- National Guidelines for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in New Zealand; Ministry of Justice, 2006.