I'm looking for tips about calcuating floor area ratio that actually accurately describe the actual mass/size of a building. Like most places, we don't count areas devoted to parking and other uses (stairs, elevators, mechanical/building operations), which in some cases, take up several floors of a building. As a result, projects that are within the allowable FAR end up being much larger, taller, etc...than the average person (and the site plan review board) initally perceives. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to provide a more meaningful calculation of building mass and/or ideas about how to educate the the community (internal and external) about what FAR means?
This is always a difficult problem. If its a general problem it may be worth while for your Council / Municipality to amend the relevant scheme definition of FAR to refer to either gross or nett FAR. Gross FAR requires developers / architects to include normally excluded factors such as stairwells into the calculations. If you can't amend the scheme, request the architects to distinguish between the two to help you gauge the size of the building.
What Council normally do to us in cases where new land use rights have been applied for is to rather increase the required parking, coverage an building lines to restrict buildings to an acceptable size .... with a bit of imagination and alot of audacity a good Council planner can go a long way to influencing final built products.