What is a Setback? Purpose and Methods to Calculate

In the architecture course, there's no way you would not have heard the word 'setback'. Setback refers to the space left in between the built area and the boundaries of a site according to the local regulations.

These regulations are put in place to ensure that a building does not obstruct or encroach on nearby buildings and other structures.

How to find setbakc for my site
Guide To Calculating Setbacks

What is the purpose of a Setback?

Easy Access

Providing proper setbacks ensures proper and easy access into the plot.

  • Space for vehicles to enter and park is sufficient.
  • Many access routes can be given to ensure safe evacuation during an accident or an emergency.


One of the main reasons for providing setbacks for a building is to ensure safety to the users during an accident or a calamity.

  • The setback around the building must be wide enough to allow free movement of fire services and ambulances.
  • In case of a collapse of one building, the neighbouring building is left unharmed.
  • Fire does not easily spread to the nearby structures.
  • Evacuations during emergencies happen faster.

Less Obstruction

Providing setbacks reduces obstructions caused to the nearby buildings.

  • Better natural lighting and ventilation is ensured to all buildings.
  • To prevent the shadow caused by one building to fall on the other as much as possible.
  • Better view is ensured.


Setbacks provide privacy not only from the nearby buildings but also from the roads.

  • Infringing and encroaching on someone else's plot or on the roads are prohibited.


The provision of proper setbacks also reduces the level of noise from the neighbouring buildings and traffic from the roads.

  • Providing trees as a noise buffer further reduces noise and increases privacy.


Setbacks allow space for designing structures which enhance the beauty of the site.

  • Allows space for trees and landscaping
  • Unique features can be designed and implemented.
what can setbakcs be used for in architectural design
Various methods in which setbacks can be put to use

What Factors Determine The Size Of The Setback?

  1. Type of building
  2. Size of the plot
  3. Number of sides open to the roads
  4. Height of Building
  5. Width of the road
  6. Presence of natural features or protected resources

1. Type Of Building

Setback values depend on the type of building that will be constructed on the site.

  • The buildings are categorised as residential, commercial, industrial, leisure, sports, institutional etc. It can also be a mix of multiple types.
  • Different types of buildings have different bylaws specified for each of them.

2. Size Of The Plot

Most of the time, the area of setback is proportional to the size of the site.

  • More the area, the larger the setback that needs to be provided.

3. Number Of Sides Open To The Roads

The site which opens on two sides has different amounts of natural light and ventilation available compared to the ones with only one. Naturally, setback rules also vary depending on this.

  • More number of access sides requires less setback area.
  • There are exceptions present.

4. Height Of Building

Height of the building refers to the number of floors or more accurately, the FAR of the building. 

  • More floors requires more setback area that needs to be provided.

5. Width Of The Road

The size of the access road also plays a part in deciding the length of the setback.

  • Wider the road, wider the setback.

6. Presence Of Natural Features Or Protected Resources

Presence of a protected area or a water body near the site anlo affects setback specifications.

  • More setback needs to be given in order to protect these areas from human interventions.

How To Find The Setback Regulations For Your Site?

It is extremely important to know the setback length before buying a house or a plot. If the rules are not followed, the owner shall be penalised and forced to reconstruct according to the regulations.

Each state and locality has its own regulations based on its resources, roads and geography. Refer to the official documents to get the correct values.

Not following proper setback rules is a punishable offence in India. Likewise, if your neighbours don't follow these regulations and encroach into your area, you can take them to court.

What is a Setback? Purpose and Methods to Calculate