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Jan. 20, 2020 | Monday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: Considering design review guidelines
Streetscape with Intuitive Respect for Neighbours. (Supplied/Brian Marshall)

In my opinion article last week, I suggested NOTL would be well served by adopting “design review guidelines” similar to hundreds of other municipalities in North America. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the content from both American and Canadian examples.

In Ashland Massachusetts, an application for a permit to construct a new build or a renovation involving an addition must be accompanied, at a minimum, by the following:

1. Building elevations and rendered presentation drawings for all sides of the building accurately showing materials of choice and colour.

2. Material cut-sheets on exterior building materials.

3. Landscape plan and schedule of plantings with plant details.

4. Perspective streetscape rendering which includes adjacent structures.

5. Photographs of the site’s existing conditions and those of the surrounding properties.

This information is assessed by a Design Review Committee; a body comprised of 4 professionals with backgrounds in architecture, landscape architecture, or engineering, plus one person owning a business in the town; to ensure compliance with the details contained within the Guidelines (which includes, amongst other items, a list of acceptable exterior cladding materials and ‘recommended’ native plant species) and generally conform to a series of identified architectural standards.

We can illustrate the impact of this review process by looking at one of the architectural items: height. Ashland’s Guidelines specify that the height of a new building should be generally consistent with those of adjacent structures and, when there is an existing height variance, it must relate to a neighbourhood average. In application this does not produce a row of houses with identical height, but rather avoids both the dominating visual and shadowing effects of a house that is much taller as well as the attention-drawing void space created above a significantly shorter building. The result is a generally harmonious height line on the streetscape with enough variation to be interesting while eliminating visual dominance and/or interruption caused by any single building in the overall

All of the components of a ‘good’ set of Design Review Guidelines are focussed on producing a single result: the maintenance of unique and/or special community streetscapes while ensuring every house (or building) has an equal opportunity to shine. 

Next week, we’ll draw on a Canadian example.