Studying the site of a proposed construction is an important element of building design ‒ studying the built environment, therefore, provides information about the social, economic and cultural life of past societies.
The process of planning a building or an urban context begins with the study of every aspect of the site: its environment and climate, research into locally available materials, knowledge of the local cultural, economic and historical contexts, and surveys that detail the needs of the community, including individuals and public entities. This knowledge helps to inform the construction methods and features of the urban plan or design of a building. When studying the built environment, therefore, examination of the local context and the impact it had on the wider area are fundamental elements, because from this, information about the scientific and technical knowledge of a society and its cultural and social life become apparent. Different historical periods connect with different urban patterns and architecture. Knowledge about these can be gained from archaeological finds, plans and maps or other representations of a city and can either depict or help restore the image of urban space, a building or monument, or even an entire city.