A critical step early in the process is to do a thorough inventory/analysis of the site to be designed, just as it is in any landscape design or planning process. This will include all the ‘standard’ information-gathering relative to soil type, steepness of slopes, solar orientation, views (both on-site and off, desirable and undesirable), and existing vegetation (both as an indicator of site conditions and as a basis for determining what to retain and what to remove). Additionally, in adopting a native plant-community approach to designing the site, micro-environmental observations may be of special importance: zones with different shade-density and duration under trees and adjacent to structures; depressions, swales or poorly drained areas that will tend towards wetness during parts of the year; or exceptionally hot, dry zones, as in places where heat may be reflected by south – and west-facing walls or paved surfaces. Off-site features, such as buildings or trees, which may influence the microclimate, should also be identified and noted.
Identify users’ needs and functional requirements
As in any landscape design or planning process, it is necessary to overlay an understanding of the existing physical characteristics of the site with an understanding of the spatial and experiential needs of the future users of it: vehicular and pedestrian circulation, parking and any other specific uses of the outdoor space, as well as climate modification (e. g., shading and windbreaking), screening and enclosure needs. If the future users of the site include wildlife, these species’ needs for food, cover and water need to be included as part of this analysis.