Building Design

There are functional aspects of building design that impact how effective transit supportive local development may be. However, there are also qualitative aspects that impact the character and desirability of an area. Communities throughout Chicagoland vary greatly in terms of local character based on their local histories and development influences. These guidelines are not intended to create a consistent character throughout the region. Rather, they are intended to illustrate some of the fundamental principles that exist in most successful transit supportive places.

The following elements of building design impact the local character of a place. The general elements provide the flexibility for communities to integrate more specific character-defining elements such as architectural style, lighting and signage, details, etc.

Building Access

Development should strive to provide direct access from local transit service to the uses it hosts. Buildings should be designed to include a prominent and attractive building entrance that is as close to transit service as possible. Pedestrian access from the public street should not be considered secondary to access from a parking area. Architectural massing, design details, signage, lighting and landscaping should all be used to articulate the primary pedestrian entrance.

Massing and Scale

Buildings should use massing and scale to create comfortable, pedestrian-scale places. Interesting corner elements, set-back upper facades, variations in rooflines, and other design techniques make the street environment more attractive for pedestrians.

Façade Design

Pedestrians experience buildings more intimately and at slower speeds than motorists. Their experience is most closely influenced by the façade of the building along which they are walking. Facades can create a comfortable pedestrian environment by incorporating design elements (such as columns, awnings, cornices, etc.) that break up blank walls and reflect traditional design characteristics. While the level of transparency may vary based on the specific use and architectural style, ground-floor facades should include between 40% and 60% of window area.

Design Details and Materials

Design details and materials should reinforce local community character. They should be used to create an interesting and attractive environment that makes transit and pedestrian mobility a desirable alternative.

Lighting and Signage

Buildings should include lighting and signage that reflect the scale and travel speeds of pedestrians. With buildings placed closer to the public sidewalk, development should rely primarily on wall signage to identify businesses. Any detached signage (i.e. pole or monument signs) should be small-scale and maintain safe visibility lines between the public sidewalk and driveway entrances. Lighting should be integrated into the building facades in order to provide adequate illumination for a safe sidewalk environment.

Building Design Implementation Checklist

Guideline PrinciplesImplementation Tools
Design prominent and easily-identifiable front entrances to buildings that are as close to transportation as possibleLocal zoning regulations, design standards, architectural guidelines
Create an attractive street environment through architectural design elements that enhance the pedestrian experienceLocal zoning regulations, local subdivision regulations, design standards, architectural guidelines
Design facades that have transparency and articulation through the use of both horizontal and vertical elementsLocal zoning regulations, design standards, architectural guidelines
Utilize wall-mounted signage and integrated lighting features to enhance the pedestrian experienceLocal zoning regulations, design standards, architectural guidelines
Reinforce local community character through the use of design motifs and materialsLocal zoning regulations, design standards, architectural guidelines