The ARE Site Planning Exam is an important test because it tests your understanding of various issues relating to both site analysis but also site design. Although sometimes the architect is not brought on board a project until after a piece of land is purchased, architects play an important role in the design and development of that piece of property. Factors related to sustainability, water drainage, circulation, and building placement are all important issues that architects typically deal with on a project.
With the trends in architecture focusing on sustainable design, site planning and development becomes an even more important skill for architects. There are many simple measures that architects can take early on in the design process that affect various issues related to sustainable architecture. From building placement to take advantage of the sun to using passive methods to cool and heat a building are all issues that can be planned for starting during site planning.
Since some of the topics on the site planning exam deal with planning and programming, you will find that a lot of the material on the PPP exam will relate to this test. I certainly recommend reading through the material for the programming exam as you study for the ARE site exam because there is a pretty big overlap between the 2 tests. It may even be a good idea to take these tests back to back so that the information that you learn isn’t forgotten once you’ve moved on to other exams.
Let’s take a look at some of the concepts that typically show up on the ARE Site Planning Exam.
- Site Analysis
Before architects can even begin to plan a site, it must be analyzed and looked at to see what the major challenges will be. Project sites can vary in a number of different ways including soil types, climate, topography, and water. Although all of these issues are important in site planning, the issue of water drainage on a site is very important because you want water to be able to flow freely away from the building and off the site.
A lot of what architects can do with a site depends on the existing topography and how that affects the existing drainage patterns of that site. Moving earth can be expensive so the more that architects can avoid re-grading a site, the more efficient they will be.
In addition to water drainage on a site, the climate plays just as important of a role because it affects so many design elements. In some climates, architects and owners want to embrace sunlight while in very hot climates, it’s important for buildings to be protected from the sun. Knowing the different climates and how project sites can be affected by each type is not only important for architects to know, but also for you on the ARE exam.
- Site Design
Once the site analysis is complete, architects must deal with different design elements on a site including circulation and building placement. Site circulation includes both vehicular and pedestrian circulation and these two types don’t merge well together. Designing and planning for circulation on a site is challenging because these elements can take up a lot of precious land. Knowing how parking and site circulation affect the layout of a site is important for the ARE as well because you will be challenged in the graphic vignette section to design a site that includes circulation.
In addition to circulation, various sustainable design measures come in to play when it comes to properly designing a site. Sustainable measure such as passive heating and cooling can save owners a lot of money on heating and electric bills so taking the time to design the site properly can go a long way. Simple measures such as tree placement and building orientation are passive ways for architects to achieve their desired goals.
- Site Planning Vignettes
For the site planning exam, there are 2 graphic vignettes that must be completed in a 2 hour window in any order that you choose. The first vignette asks candidates to design a site grading plan where you can modify topographic lines to properly drain water off of a site. This specific vignette does not contain too many design elements and can be completed fairly quickly. Any time you can save on the site grading vignette will be beneficial because the site design vignette can be tricky.
The second vignette is the site design vignette where you are asked to design a site plan that includes a variety of given elements. You will most likely be asked to include buildings, plaza, parking, vehicular circulation and pedestrian circulation. There are a lot of given rules and requirements for this vignette so you will need plenty of time to come up with your design solution.
For a more detailed description of the ARE site planning vignettes, including a breakdown of what to include as well as common strategies for completing the vignettes, see here!
Similar to the PPP exam, the ARE Site Planning Exam study guides do not contain that much material in which to study from. Like the other ARE exam divisions, PPI and Kaplan make individual study guides for the site planning exam, but the material in these study guides are very general and can leave you wanting to get into more detail.
To help cover some of the material that may overlap between ARE exams, it may be a good idea to read through some of the issues on your programming exam study guides as well. Like I mentioned in the programming exam guide, there are many similarities between these 2 tests in terms of the materials covered. In addition to the PPP material, you may want to read through the site materials chapter in the BDCS study guide. This chapter gets into issues of building construction in terms of site work so it will certainly help prepare you for some of the questions that may show up.
In addition to the Kaplan and PPI study guides, note cards and practice exams by both companies are also offered so it’s probably a good idea to read through some of those as well. The notecards from PPI and Nalsa both cover a variety of site and planning related questions that are also useful on the programming exam.
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As you study for the site planning exam, remember that out of all 7 ARE exam divisions, this exam has the least amount of information to study from. This may seem nice at the time, but it can be very frustrating because you know there will be random questions on the exam that you haven’t prepared for. To help you out, it may be wise to take this exam after you have a few tests out of the way already, especially CDS and PPP. These 2 tests have the most in common with the SPD exam so the chances that material will overlap is certainly higher.
Being familiar with how test questions are worded and what information to take away from studying is always important so taking this exam first might not be the best idea. The fact that there isn’t as much material to study for this test certainly doesn’t mean that it will be easy so don’t get tricked into that thinking. Simply prepare for this exam exactly how you would for the other ARE exam divisions.
Good luck everybody!