Let me start with saying every site is different and unique by the nature of the physical world. Therefore, it is best to start with a general analysis of the site.
The owner’s input as to their goals for the use of the site must be known. A detailed survey by a licensed land surveyor of the site features, easements, property lines, topography, etc. is also critical to start the design process. Once that is all available, the architect will create a very preliminary site plan indicating the building footprint. Other considerations also must be inserted into the analysis. These are city zoning regulations for landscaping, parking, building setbacks, buffer zones, public open spaces, required walkways, trash enclosures, fencing, fire department access and driveway locations.
Once these elements are all known the preliminary site plan can be created. The preliminary site plan then goes through a multi-level review process with the owner, architect, landscape architect and consulting engineers. I have seen this process take from two months to over a year to finally arrive at a site plan that works for everyone. Once the site plan is at this stage a formal set of site plans called a “site submittal package” is prepared by the architects and engineers. That formal site submittal package is then officially submitted to a city staff for their review and approval.