Land Development and the Architect's vision!
What is Land Development?
We do land development to to turn a vacant land or a landscaped area into a built form that can fulfil a human need for housing, entertainment, work, education, and so on. It could also fulfil the need for green parks, playgrounds, agricultural use. In many cases the land developer prepares the land for construction just by adding services such as a sewage system, storm water management system, or a septic system in rural areas, culverts, natural gas, and power, all as infrastructure for further superstructure development. This is often called site servicing.
A developer who purchases the land for development (vacant or developed land), will often want to perform Due Diligience. His/her goal is to maximise the return on investment, and to minimise risk while controlling cashflow. Any mistake in one or more of the above can jeopradize the developer's ability to contiune with the developement. That being said, the developer's task of identifying and developing the best scheme for the local marketplace, while at the same time satisfying the local planning process, becomes crucial.
The Role of Planners at Early Phase of Land Development
Planners are the professionals who can perform all the tasks that are required to service the land or resolve issues related to zoning or land use change.
According to the Ontario Professional Planners Institute - OPPI, planners "prepare and assist in the managing of a full range of planning applications including Official Plan & Zoning By-Law Amendments, Draft Plans of Subdivisions and Condominiums, Site Plans, Severances and Minor Variances."
Planners also prepare and assist in presenting material to clients and/or at public meetings, neighbourhood information meetings, committee and council meetings. Planners also help in performing Due Diligence studies and inquiries, in addition to assisting developers in the preparation for Ontario Land Tribunal hearings.
What Value Can Architects Add to the Developer at the Early Phase of Land Developement?
The short answer: VISION!.
It is well known that architects design buildings. Once the site is ready to receive the structure or foundations, the architect becomes the consultant who takes over from the planner. The architect's role goes beyond providing "architectural permit set" to his/her ability to decide on key issues such best location for the building, its orientation, form, views, landscape, protection from the elements, and ensuring the integration of the building to its surrounding urban fabric. The architect however must rely on the work of other consultants before doing any of the above, including the geotechnical engineer's report and the environmental risk analysis, usually performed at the early phase of Land Developement.
The Architect As a Generalist
Being who we are (both brain sides work in parallel - the analyitcal left, and the artistic right!), architects, like developers always prefer to think as generalists. Architects have a say in almost everything related to architecture, the built environment, culture; from zoning reviews, to best location of services, to the architectural design impact on land yield, to architectural trends, societal issues, neighborhood objections, impact of zoning on innovation, and design intervention's impact on the town/city's urban fabric and many others.
The Architect At Due Diligence
Having said that, I alwasy recommend to client-developers to build the entire team at a very early phase of the development, including Due Diligence phase. You can never predict what happens when the architect presents a sketch with a VISION capturing the potential of future development, which might also work to ease Municipality planners' or board members objections to the development and faciliate the approval process - to make them much more supportive and compassionate than faultfinding!
Architects' vision can be invaluable to the developer since they also have good training in design thinking and innovation. In plain English, that means creatively sustainable solutions to stubborn or old problems - including the obvious housing crisis and the issue of densification of urban and suburban areas.