4.1. Before you purchase a lot, be certain it's buildable to your satisfaction. This means a lot where development is economically feasible. Contact a "friendly" real estate agent to discuss city or county requirements for issuance of a building permit. If you own a lot that's buildable, collect existing site documentation so you don't repeat what's been previously accomplished and officially recorded by others with public agencies governing your site’s location. Get an official copy of your site map with tax parcel number and legal description. Take a look at Johnson’s Residential Land Development Practices.
4.2. Produce a “draft” site plan for your lot following guidelines provided by the local building department having jurisdiction over your site. A site plan usually combines a legal survey, existing natural features, topography, utility locations and house footprint into a single graphic representation. Don't forget to indicate adjacent streets, access to site, tax parcel number and legal description. Make multiple copies so the original never leaves your hands! Review Brown’s Site Engineering for Developers and Builders.
4.3. In addition to the official site plan required for permit application, make a site master plan that goes beyond what's usually required by the Building Department for permit application. Your Architect will put the finishing touches to the official version for permit application but you can go one step beyond. Take into consideration your region's geological, biological, and meteorological conditions as you enhance the basic site plan. Envision how you intend to use the outdoor space once the home is completed so your home is oriented to the sun, off-site features, native plants, lay of the land, and neighboring community. Be creative! See Les and Carol Scher’s Finding & Buying Your Place in the Country.
4.4. Make a copy of your site master plan to create a “working” site layout. You can sketch your layout ideas directly on this copy not the original. A site layout is a visual presentation of the arrangement of the physical facilities for the construction of the project. You'll be required to install temporary electrical and water service, locate a portable toilet and (if necessary) job shack, store materials, allow for parking by trade contractors, and establish work areas. The condition of the site, the problems of access, the space limitations, and the movement of equipment have a significant bearing on the total cost of the project. Determining a “working” site layout is absolutely essential in planning construction operations!
4.5. Set-up site layout. Install temporary electrical and water service. Locate a portable toilet and, if necessary, a job shack on site. Determine where to store materials and designate a work area. Establish building dimensions and elevations for excavation. Protect shrubs or trees that you intend to use later as part of the landscape. DON’T DISTURB ANY AREA WHERE A SEPTIC TANK/FIELD WILL BE INSTALLED. Foresee coming events by placing materials and arranging activities in locations where nothing will be handled twice or later get in the way of productivity. Refer to Gerstel's Running a Successful Construction Company.
4.6. Install landscape features and horticulture. As you eliminate the need for temporary services on site, the area surrounding the building will cease to be a construction site and begin its transformation into your yard. Your site master plan provides purpose and direction for landscape activities so base your installation on this design. Create “As-Built Drawings” for your site, depicting actual layout of site conditions, should there be any changes from the original site plan.
4.7. Store "Official Site Plan, Site Master Plan, Site Landscape, and As-Built Drawings" in the "Cardboard Box Files."
Be Forewarned: You may be heading through a vale of tears and sorrows or into one of the most enjoyable experiences of your life.
Different land professionals from different regions of the country define what may be called a "buildable site" differently.
As you work to determine whether your site is buildable, maintain a positive, proactive attitude. It's better to discover the "truth" about a potential site before the land is purchased, but it's no one's fault but your own if you've purchased the site before you did your homework.
Brown, Thomas. Site Engineering for Developers and Builders.
D.C.: Home Builder Press, 1988.
Gerstel, David. Running a Successful Construction Company.
Newtown: Tauton, 1991, 2002 2nd.
Johnson, David. Residential Land Development Practices.
D.C.: American Society of Engineers, 1996, 2001 2nd.
Scher, Les and Carol. Finding & Buying Your Place in the Country.
New York: Kaplan, 1974, 2000 5th. (The Bible of Rural Property)