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Urban Design Compendium

Building Size and Scale

The scale, size and configuration of a building have an impact on the sustainability (energy consumption), relationship with the surrounding urban structure and the contribution to the neighbouring space.

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Active enclosed public space created with medium rise mixed-use buildings

Building Height:

  • Tall buildings act as focal points, emphasise hierarchy i.e. of urban activity such as town centres or transport links
  • They have a positive role to play in signifying locations of civic, commercial or visual importance
  • In many urban areas tall buildings will be placed on corners, end of vistas etc. Medium size building will instead provide the optimum form due to their ability to accommodate a range of uses
  • Problems of different juxtapositions can be resolved by a variety of measures i.e. wrapping large spaces with small buildings
  • Negative effects equate to the intensification of micro-climatic conditions, environmental performance of neighbouring buildings and the reduction in active frontages

Building Depth:

  • Building depth impacts upon artificial lighting and ventilation
  • Impacts upon the ability for flexible internal planning
  • Impacts upon the energy efficiency of the building
  • Orientating the building so that its long side faces onto the street can rectify many of thee problems, creating a more versatile form of design


  • Are visually important. Acting as gateways or focal points
  • Corner buildings can be staggered in height, with the highest angle on the immediate corner
  • They can have two frontages and can, potentially, have more frontages
  • Provide great opportunities for mix uses

Building Width:

  • Width can have an impact on the flexibility of a building, active frontage etc
  • Buildings comprising 5-7m wide day lit ‘cells’ or ‘modules’ provide an extremely flexible forms


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