We’re designing Seattle’s first office building to housing conversion since the pandemic. Read more…
Cantilevered Home – Modern Cantilevered Residence – Board & Vellum

Custom Residential

Do I Need a Feasibility Study?

A lot of questions come up when you embark on a design project. A lot of questions come up before embarking on a design project! A feasibility study, especially for complex or potentially complicated sites or projects, might be just what you need to kick off a successful project.

When starting a home remodel or new build, you’ll probably have a lot of questions. How do you ensure your goals work on the property? Can you build that house near the water or add an addition to an existing home?

Understanding what is possible on a site or property is a crucial part of the project process. And a feasibility study that explores this is essential to ensuring your project’s eventual success.

What is a feasibility study?

A feasibility study, in the simplest terms, is testing to see if your project or an idea you have for your project is feasible. The best time to do a feasibility study is at the very beginning of the project process, before any design begins.

Feasibility studies cover everything from possibilities within your budget to permitting and zoning restrictions. It is a high-level check to see if the project can move into more detailed analysis and design.

The purpose of a feasibility study is to determine whether your project is compliant with municipal standards. A robust feasibility study will provide an in-depth, thorough assessment of codes and regulations that could apply to your project. They do not cover or include a survey of the property, geotechnical reports, wetland delineations, or other details. This information is gathered after a feasibility study is complete. Then, you can move forward with confidence knowing it has been determined your project is compliant.

It’s important to note that once you have the initial feasibility study is complete, your design team will still need to perform deeper-dive analysis on codes and zoning regulations as your project progresses. The more design evolution that occurs after a feasibility study, the more we need to incrementally fold in new areas to study. These studies are in service of things like permitting just as much as they are in service of the design.

As as we fold in jurisdictional requirements from permitting, you project will become understandably more complicated. So, think of a feasibility study as a first pass, “hold your horses” moment. Before we all get carried away planning and designing other aspects of the project, let's make sure it's even possible.

When is a feasibility study performed?

Feasibility studies are most effective when performed as the first step of a project. Imagine you skip out on a feasibility study and reach the construction phase only to discover your plans weren’t possible in the first place due to a single zoning restriction. Then you’re back to square one and have needlessly cost yourself time and money.

Feasibility studies are a great initial if you have an idea but want to make sure it’s possible considering your budget, timeline, site, and municipality restrictions. They’re a low investment that could potentially save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Is a feasibility study required for my project?

This question depends on the project. However, feasibility studies are typically recommended for any new construction including major renovations or additions, as well as construction on complex sites.

For multifamily projects, feasibility studies are always a requirement and are quite different than what we’re writing about here. We’re focusing on single-family projects in this post.

When could my project benefit from a feasibility study?

You still may be wondering how to tell if a feasibility study is the right call for your project. While this question can typically be answered with an intro call with an architect or designer, we’ve compiled a few key pointers that generally lead to the need for a feasibility study.

Waterfront Properties

If you plan to build on a waterfront property or near a body of water such as a stream, a feasibility study is a wise investment.

Puget Sound Bluff Home – Cape Cod Style Remodel of a Historic Home with Water Views
On the Water

This patio area overlooks the Puget Sound — and its proximity to water may impact the design of this amenity.

Waterfront properties can be complex sites to build on with their own specific zoning and permit requirements. This applies to both major additions and home renovations, as well as new construction. A feasibility study should capture most of the concerns but with water comes regulations and additional analysis in the early design process will be required.

New Construction

Any type of project that will “touch the dirt” will need to be assessed for soil liquefaction, slide zone potential, hydraulic soils, and other red flags. These are all fancy industry terms for “the dirt under your house may not be great for what you want to put on top if it.”

Backyard Reading Retreat – Board & Vellum
Something New

New construction of any kind, including DADUs, benefit greatly from feasibility studies.

This includes major home additions such as adding a garage, pool, patio, a second story, you name it. Restrictions, regulations, and processes will vary based on your municipality, so it's also important to uncover how the rules of your area will impact your plans.

Complex Sites

Before you even begin dreaming up new plans for your home, we’ll want to pull your property’s GIS (geographic information system) report.

Mount Si Retirement – Board & Vellum
Site Requirements

This site, which is on a flood plain, required special considerations to make sure the design met the requirements of the land.

This report can help reveal key components of your property, such as steep slopes, changes in grade, landslide history or probability, and other aspects that can make building more difficult or hazardous. This will help identify any elements that make your property unique, unusual, or just downright tricky.

Unusual Plans

Perhaps you want to build a bridge connecting your guest house to your main — that sounds awesome! But unusual, unique, or more quirky endeavors require extra preparation.

Cantilevered Home – Modern Cantilevered Residence – Board & Vellum
Hanging Out In Style

This cantilevered design, though beautiful and unique, can be quite difficult to pull off and comes with many risks that will have to be navigated that could be uncovered by a feasibility study.

The more unique the plan, the more imperative a feasibility study will be to ensure that your big dreams are possible.

Before Buying a House or Property

Let’s imagine you’re looking at home and you’ve fallen in love with a wonderful property in your favorite neighborhood. Only, it doesn’t have a garage and street parking won’t work. The site is oddly shaped, and perhaps on a bit of a slope.

You may have been told by the seller that it won’t be a problem to build a garage as part of an overall remodel of the house and property. And while people may have good intentions, you’ll get more accurate information from an architect and design team as they’re familiar with zoning codes and permit requirements.

A feasibility study is a great way to ensure that your vision for new additions and amenities will actually fly — that way you don’t purchase the home and discover the slope was too steep to build on. We work with people purchasing properties frequently and are always happy to help be a part of your pre-purchase team to ensure the property you love can have the home you love as well.

We’re always happy to connect to help you decide if a feasibility study is right for your property. In an increasingly complicated regulatory environment, it is a wise investment to ensure you’re making the right decisions.

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

Do I Need a Feasibility Study?

A lot of questions come up when you embark on a design project. A lot of questions come up before embarking on a design project! A feasibility study, especially for complex or potentially complicated sites or projects, might be just what you need to kick off a successful project.

Fireplace Options For Your Home

If you’re considering adding a fireplace to your home or restoring an existing fireplace, the options may seem overwhelming. There are many things to consider, like aesthetic goals, ambiance, and sustainability. Luckily, we've assembled this essential guide on fireplaces to help you decide what’s right for you.

Navigating Updates to Historic Homes

Are you curious about updating your landmarked home, or your home within a historic district? What kinds of considerations do you need to keep in mind? Is there anything you can’t do? What about things you have to do? These questions might seem overwhelming, but don't worry! We’re here to help.

Considering a project? Or, just curious about something?

Send us your questions about design, architecture, interiors, landscape, LEGO rooms… Anything, really. We’re always eager to meet new people, and we’d love to get to know you, your project, and your goals.

Get in touch.