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How to Design the Front Elevation of a Building

How to Design the Front Elevation of a Building

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The front elevation of a building is the face it presents to the street or entrance side. It is often the most important façade and makes the first impression on visitors. A thoughtfully designed front elevation brings harmony to the building while reflecting the client’s requirements and preferences. Here is a step-by-step guide to designing an attractive front elevation for a building:

Front Elevation of a Building
Front Elevation of a Building

Gather Requirements from the Client

The first step is to understand the client’s needs and preferences for the building’s frontage. Some key questions to ask:

  • What impression do they want to create – modern, classical, imposing, inviting? This guides the architectural style.
  • What is the purpose of the building – residential, office, retail? This influences functional elements like entrances.
  • Are there any specific features they want to include – porch, balcony, archways?
  • Do they have a budget constraint for facade materials and treatments?
  • Are there any zoning laws, height restrictions, or heritage considerations?

Document all the requirements to reference throughout the design process.

Analyze the Site

Visit the site to understand its surroundings. Note the:

  • Orientation – is the front facing a street, waterbody, or open grounds? This impacts the view and accessibility.
  • Adjacent buildings – their scale, architecture, and frontage help determine a complementary style.
  • Landscaping present – this guides the greenery, fencing, and outdoor features of your frontage.
  • Traffic patterns – entry and exit points need to suit these.
  • Natural light and ventilation – front openings can leverage these.

Select an Architectural Style

The architectural style sets the tone for the entire frontage. Consider the client’s preferences and site considerations while choosing between:

  • Modern – glass, steel, funky shapes, asymmetry
  • Contemporary – clean lines, minimalist, eco-friendly materials
  • Victorian – decorative trim, arched windows, bright colors
  • Colonial – symmetrical, simple, columned porches
  • Mediterranean – stucco walls, tiled roofs, wrought-iron accents
  • Industrial – exposed brick, metal, large windows
  • Vernacular – local materials and native designs

Plan the Entrance

The entrance is a focal point of the front elevation. Consider the:

  • Number, size, spacing of entrance doors
  • Inclusion of an inviting porch, canopy, or portico
  • Decorative surrounds like sidelights, transom windows, trim
  • Statement making doors – double height, arched, multi-panel, etc.
  • Safety and disabled access requirements like railings and ramps

Position the entrance where it is easy to access from entry paths and in clear public view.

Include Windows

Windows have both aesthetic and functional roles. Decide on:

  • The window-to-wall ratio based on interior spaces, lighting needs, and energy efficiency considerations
  • Consistent window sizes, proportions and spacing based on the facade proportions
  • Window style – casements, awnings, double hung, bay, oriel, etc.
  • Window surrounds – colored trim, hoods, boxed frames, shutters, etc.
  • Window placement suited to interior spaces and aligned horizontally and vertically across floors for symmetry.

Add Interesting Architectural Elements

Carefully chosen architectural elements can make the frontage stand out:

  • Balconies – provide depth via projecting platforms and railings
  • Crenellation and arches – add visual interest to roof lines and openings
  • Corner boards and quoins – accentuate edges and corners
  • Pilasters and engaged columns – break up flat surfaces
  • Medallions and bas-reliefs – ornamental carved sections
  • Pediment – a classical triangular crowning element above entries
  • Cupola – an ornamental structure atop the roof

Select Exterior Materials and Finishes

Materials impact aesthetics, durability, and maintenance costs. Consider:

  • Regional availability and ease of installation
  • Usage – primary wall finish, accent, trim, etc.
  • Texture – smooth, grained, brushed, etc.
  • Colors – in harmony with interior spaces and surrounding landscape

Durable, low maintenance materials are best for wall finishes. Use accent materials strategically to balance costs.

Include Exterior Lighting

Lights enhance nighttime visibility, safety, and aesthetics. Design lighting that:

  • Fits the architectural style
  • Illuminates entrances, house numbers, pathways, patios
  • Highlights architectural details
  • Provides ambient uplighting on trees or walls
  • Follows any sustainability or “dark sky” regulations

Prepare the Front Elevation Drawing

The front elevation drawing shows the architectural design. Render it to scale including:

  • Dimensions – height, width
  • Building shape and roof design
  • Materials indicated via color, patterning, and labels
  • Openings like windows and doors
  • Decorative elements
  • Stairs, fencing, landscaping, lighting

Build a 3D Model and Walkthrough

To visualize the design:

  • Create a 3D model using BIM or 3D rendering software
  • Add materials, lighting, and context like trees, street, cars
  • Prepare a walkthrough video touring the frontage
  • Make revisions based on client feedback before finalizing

A well-designed front elevation complements the building’s architecture, reflects the client’s vision, and creates maximum visual appeal. This step-by-step approach helps achieve that goal while meeting practical needs. Paying attention to details like entrance design, style cohesiveness, lighting, and finishes results in a welcoming facade.

FAQs on Designing a Building’s Front Elevation

Q1: How is a commercial building frontage different from a residential one?

A1: Commercial front elevations focus more on signage, parking access, large entryways for high traffic, and reflective materials like glass. Residential ones are more decorative, intimate, and focused on exterior living spaces like porches.

Q2: What are the main guidelines for designing a front facade?

A2: Key guidelines are – integrate with overall architectural style and site, balance aesthetics with functionality, reflect interior spaces and layouts, cohesive visual elements, proportional windows and openings, harmonious color/material palette, and highlighting entrances.

Q3: How do you make a small home’s front elevation look more spacious?

A3: Use vertical elements like tall windows and pilasters to add height, keep wall finishes light-colored, minimize clutter, and keep the landscape simple and low profile. Avoid squeezing in too many small elements.

Q4: What are the principles for arranging front elevation openings?

A4: Align windows/doors across floors for vertical symmetry. Group like elements together – entrances, porches, etc. Maintain rhythm and spacing. Place larger openings like picture windows carefully. Highlight the entry. Consider interior spaces and functions too.

Q5: What are some low budget ideas to improve a basic home’s front elevation?

A5: Add a fresh coat of paint in an updated color, highlight entry with decorative paving and potted plants, install new modern house numbers or exterior lighting, build a simple porch or pergola over the entry, add window flower boxes, and refresh the landscaping.

How to Design the Front Elevation of a Building

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