Exam 2, Question 37

Why is the correct answer not small squares/clusters throughout? This is what I found in Site Planning and Design

A developer has asked an architect to propose an overall layout for their new shopping development. Since the site is small and hilly, the developer wants to minimize the impact on the existing site by reducing the amount of impermeable area, while maximizing the number of parking spaces near each storefront.

Which of the following building layouts will meet all of the developer’s needs?

Long rectangle with storefronts along one side

Incorrect. A long rectangle, such as a traditional strip mall, creates the need for a parking lot that is stretched along the entire strip so that all stores have adequate parking immediately in front of them. This layout increases both the building length and the overall amount of impermeable paving, which also increases site disturbance.

A square with storefronts on each side

Incorrect. Having the stores along each side of a square would provide a compact building layout, but would also require a parking lot on each side which could not easily be shared, thereby increasing the impermeable surface area.

U-shaped layout with storefronts along the curve

Correct. A U-shaped layout provides a compact parking surface with a minimal amount of paving and a smaller building footprint, both of which reduce the overall impact on the site.

Small squares distributed around the site

Incorrect. Smaller building footprints might allow for less site disturbance for the buildings, but distributing them throughout the site would increase the need for access roads and single-business parking areas.


Thanks so much for your question! I don’t have access to the Site Planning and Design Handbook, so I’m not sure if they’re showing the exact same scenario as this question from Black Spectacles.

The key takeaway here is that the developer wants to reduce the amount of impermeable area while also maximizing the number of parking spots. While small squares distributed around a site that is hilly might work well for minimal grading and site disruption, this also greatly increases the amount of impermeable area which is what we’re trying to avoid. As the answer states, there would be a lot of increased pavement needed to get vehicles to each of these small squares across the site and in comparison, we would only need one vehicle access road to get to one building thus minimizing the impermeable area.

A U-shaped building is also able to encapsulate a lot of parking spots in more of a compact area than the long rectangle or the square would. I hope this answers helps, but if not I’m happy to draw out a diagram for you. Thanks!