Site Use

Considering how a building and site impact on each other, enhancing energy efficiency, comfort and convenience.

Positioning a house on the site

Working out the optimum position and orientation for a house on site is crucial for gaining all the benefits of passive design.

For maximum solar gain, the glazing for living spaces in houses should face true north (5 degrees either side usually has minimal impact). This allows them to benefit from the sun in winter but requires well-designed eaves or outdoor shading devices to avoid summer overheating. BRANZ modelling work has found that houses that do not maximise solar gain can require up to three times more purchased energy to keep inside temperatures at a comfortable level than those that do.

Location for solar access

To maximise solar access for warmth and daylighting, the house should in general be located to minimise shade – particularly in the north – from landforms, neighbouring buildings, and vegetation. In most cases, locating a building near the site’s southern boundary will reduce the risk of shading.

Exposure to sunlight also adds dollar value to a house. In their study Valuing Sunshine, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Trust calculated that each additional hour of direct sunlight a house gets per day, averaged across the year, adds 2.4% to its market value.

Also see location, orientation and layout for information about orientation for solar gain, and site analysis: sun for information about sun paths.

Other factors

Site use will also be influenced by prevailing wind and local climate effects, site topography, views, noise and the locations of vegetation, neighbouring buildings, and services.

Site use will also be influenced by hazards such as the risks of flooding, slips and erosion.

Finally, where a house is located on a site may also be affected by easements or covenants on the land title. Covenants on sections in new developments may have restrictions on where a house is placed. An easement on a land title may cover, for example, an underground gas, water or sewerage pipe running through the property.


Updated: 27 September 2022


    Wind effect/microclimateBuilding location will be influenced by prevailing strong winds and local wind tunnel effects.


    TopographyOn sloping sites, topography will affect access to sun and views, and building footprint.


    Adjacent buildingsAdjacent buildings will affect privacy, and access to sun and views.


    Existing vegetationVegetation may shade a house but also provide wind shelter, soil stability, and a habitat for birds.