The plight of the land developer is tough right now, given the housing bubble and the long-lasting impact of available credit due to the global recession. This downturn has had it’s Darwinian moments though, because the developers that took a more irresponsible tact with cheaper and more homes as fast as they could be built have taken the hardest hits, and in many cases are no longer in business.
The demand for new housing will not go away anytime soon. However, new development plans are under increasing scrutiny regarding the value that they bring to communities, and the impacts that they’ll have on quality of life. This growing sentiment of more reasoned development plays neatly into the hands of evolving design and planning approaches as well as supporting geospatial technologies.
Cumulative Intelligence About the Land
There are a broad number of disciplines that are involved in the design of new developments. These steps are currently very disjointed, with such foundational elements as the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being delivered in static reports that are only done because they’re mandated, and are immediately filed away, having met the requirement. The coming evolution of this work will use the EIS and its knowledge of the land as a template for development, and a base map for an intelligent land model, much the same way that topology is a foundational feature about the land.
The idea of intelligence within the land model means that each subsequent discipline adds to the intelligence, with more details about the land, the web of infrastructure that connects each structure, the details about each structure and property, and key operational and maintenance tasks for ongoing work after the last structure is built.
The amount of intelligence that’s encapsulated in the model will depend upon the complexity of the site. The development of new land won’t require the same sort of details that will be contained in a complex urban environment where land is being redeveloped. But all models should live on for the lifecycle of the site.
Collective Field Work
The idea of land design on site in a collaborative manner with a team of diverse professionals was on display recently at the GeoDesign Summit through the work of Dennis Williams with the Civil Design Team. William uses CAD and ArcPad to take his design out into the field for on-site design sessions with planners, the land owner and other stakeholders. The site work is a collaborative endeavor where multiple participants are walking the land and visualizing its future, along with a collection of inputs and measurements that form the baseline for the discussion.
The interactive, real-time and collaborative approach has proved to be greatly efficient in the work that William has done planning 1,000 to 5,000-acre developments in South and North Carolina. The in-context questions help resolve issues before they become problems, and the collaborative work approach means that all concerns are addressed and resolved early in the process, alleviating costly changes that tend to happen later in the design and planning process.
The advent of crowd-sourced and Internet-enabled planning methodologies, along with a movement to greater government transparency, has given rise to more citizen involvement in the planning process. An inclusive approach is aided by technology to gather opinions and drive consensus in a much quicker timeline than previous approaches.
While the developer can expect much greater feedback and scrutiny in the design and planning process, the end result is an engaged and satisfied customer base that will be ready and willing to support it. With each well-planned development that takes into account the community and the environment, we make our collective home a better place.