New construction is really alteration

Even new construction includes alterations. An existing site is altered. A neighborhood is altered. Drainage patterns are altered. Utilities and transportation patterns are altered. Access is altered. Resource sites are altered through extraction of materials that are ultimately utilized in the new construction. Energy demands and utilization are altered both during and following construction.

Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language (1977) offers this advice about Site Repair (Pages 508-511): “On no account place buildings in the places which are most beautiful. In fact, do the opposite. Consider the site and its buildings as a single living eco-system. Leave those areas that are the most precious, beautiful, comfortable, and healthy as they are, and build new structures in those parts of the site which are least pleasant now.”

Alexander’s advice about building location can be hard to follow in light of factors like building program requirements, project size, established property boundaries, zoning and environmental regulations, all of which can heavily influence the location and layout of a new building on an existing site. For example, in developing a new secondary school on a limited site, substantial space requirements (and topographic requirements) for outside athletic facilities like running tracks and football and soccer fields may limit the options for building location and configuration. This dilemma highlights the importance of these considerations when a site is being selected for a building project, and it also points to the importance of community planning.

(Incidentally, I really like the book A Pattern Language. It offers a multitude of useful and brief vignettes including both narrative and illustrations for considering development and building projects – neat ways to see ways in which design and construction can support the needs and interests of people of all ages. You can zoom in from the scale of a town to the scale of parts of a room or even furniture. Best of all, it is understandable.)

Posted in Design, Project Administration, Project Management

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