ARE 4.0: Site Planning & Design

December 16th, 2013 – the fateful day of my Site Planning and Design exam. I was not hopeful going in to the testing center. I was even less hopeful once I got through the multiple choice division. Not because I was worried about the MC section – that was no problem – but because I knew the graphic division was coming after my required 15 minute break. I was sweating. A lot.

After pacing the waiting room for about 14 minutes I headed back into the testing room to face the music and just get it over with. The countdown finally ended and I was set to begin the two graphic sections: Site Zoning and Site Grading. If you’re reading this blog you’re most likely familiar with these graphic exams, but just in case you’re not…

Site Zoning is the first of two graphic sections for this exam in which you are given a site plan usually bound on two sides by public roads, with assorted trees spread around and some sort of visual feature like a body of water. You’re given a site program and asked to place two buildings on site with some kind of public plaza and a required number of parking for the given use. Rolled into the program is a series of requirements and restrictions that will inform on how the site is developed and where the buildings and other improvements should or should not be placed.

My zoning exam, I think, was conceived by a truly evil and cruel person. While I can’t divulge the specifics of the exam I was given, I can tell you that after 45 minutes of monkeying around with the site elements and realizing that it was just not working….I hit the reset button and started over. It was hell. The site grading portion was easy peasy lemon squeezy. And thank God that it was otherwise I would  have run out of time.

In the end, with about 90 seconds to go, I quickly reviewed my solution (if one could even call it that), resigned myself to whatever fate may come and hit the submit button. To add insult to injury the next screen is a pop-up that asks “are you sure you want to submit”…..Was I sure? No. Did I have a choice? No. So, 4 1/2 hours after I sat down to begin my exam I got up and left. Again I was not hopeful. In fact I was already planning my retake 6 months down the road.

BUT as luck would have it, on Christmas Day I got an email from NCARB alerting me that my results were available for viewing. I did NOT want to look at those results on friggin Christmas Day. How cruel can NCARB be?! I mean, wtf? But, I needed to see the results, so I braced myself, clicked the link, logged in and finally made it to my results page.

PASS!!!!!!!   BOOM BABY!

So, now I’m 5 exams down and 2 to go. I failed PPP in September, so March will be my 6 month mark. Next is Structures and I’m freaked out about that one, but I WILL make it and I WILL pass and I WILL be licensed.

Good luck to all those taking their exams. My best advice for SPD is to practice the NCARB Vignettes as often as possible. Just take them over and over and over again. And each time try to create a new solution that works to get used to thinking outside of the box. And once you get into your test, read through the program carefully and then just breathe for a minute. Calm yourself as best you can and then get to work. Work quickly and efficiently. Don’t worry about making it pretty just make it work.

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5 thoughts on “ARE 4.0: Site Planning & Design

  1. “Make it work.” That’s why Tim Gunn is my hero!
    Great post! It is a great reminder to focus on your goals and not get hung up on “Pretty.” The right solution will inherently be asthetically pleasing. (We all hope.) 🙂

  2. Good job! Site Planning was one of the sections I was sure I’d failed when I walked out, but also passed the first time, so I understand. AFAIK, there is no truly elegant solution, it’s just about cramming in all the program elements, pretty or not.

    If you haven’t already taken the Schematic Design yet, DO NOT make the mistake of thinking the building layout is the same – there will usually be one L-shaped room, but other than that the floor plans need to be very clean.

    • Already took SD and passed. That one was actually really easy. I was surprised. I’m just glad this one is done and only two more. My other exams start expiring end of 2014 so I need to be done ASAP.
      Thanks for the comments!

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