When most people think of a planned community or planned commercial development they may think of the actual buildings and how they are arranged, but what most overlook is the amount of planning and work that goes into the actual decisions to get to this point. There are many factors that determine how these structures are built, where they are built, how large they should be, how they are accessed, where the access roads are located, how people are going to park, where people are going to walk, locating important fire hydrant locations, knowing how to deal with storm water drainage adequately, providing sufficient utility access, knowing and selecting of the best types of building materials, selection and addition of landscape elements, etc.
These decisions are part of an overall planning process that involves several professional disciplines and can take months to years to complete, depending on the size and complexity of the development. In addition to the involvement of architects who design the actual buildings, there are landscape architects, land planners and civil engineers that are needed to complete the plans necessary for such an undertaking. Most of the time, these other systems are not even looked at twice because they are quietly and efficiently doing their job in the background or below ground in a development, but are all an integral part of the function and success of a development.
To start, a development needs to be planned out in detail on computer, so that each system works together with all the other systems in a development. Most of this planning is done in a form of AutoCAD which is a computer aided drafting program, once drawn completely in this software; it is printed out in large sheets as a complete construction document that is distributed to the various contractors for installation. The construction documents include every detail that the contractors will need to install the system to the specifications necessary for the development. It can include ‘plan view’ drawings of the site and buildings, elevations, blow up details of important areas, various construction details and written specifications for each.
In addition to the above mentioned necessary drawings of the development’s systems, to achieve a high level of aesthetic design in today’s commercial and residential real estate developments and to producing the high quality real estate products that clients demand and expect, there are additional layers of design considerations that elevate a development to a more refined finished real estate product. These more refined considerations can include such things as custom street signage, custom monument markers, custom mailbox selection and design and street light fixtures selection, elaborate tree and landscaping plantings that produce development continuity, to name a few. All of these additional aesthetic elements are considered to create a complete overall ‘design theme’ and achieve what is referred to as a ‘sense of place’ in a development. This ‘sense of place’ is what gives all great land design developments their identity.
When created in harmony with carefully considered building architectural design elements, through the implementation of well written architectural design guidelines, a real estate development can achieve a higher success of this ‘sense of place’ that is very desirable by today’s high end market and can dramatically increase the ‘sell-ability’ of the development. The design continuity that is achieved when all of these design considerations are working in harmony, layer by layer, system by system, can dramatically enhance the character of the development and make for a more desirable place to live and work.
Any considerations in regard to the aesthetics of a development should be openly discussed as developers work in close relation to focus groups to promote constructive ideas and make sure these ideas get presented to insure important dialog between the development group, city officials, community groups and realtors. Each party can contribute to the ideas that the designers will take into consideration as they plan the development and ultimately produce a well thought out plan which addresses and incorporates all parties’ concerns and wants in the developments final form. However, community contributed group design development does have its challenges and often can produce results that are compromises to what a developmental company desires in the overall design or layout of a community development. But generally it is a wise and fruitful endeavor to include the surrounding community and local government to help in the consideration of these decisions and can make for a well received development.
Striking a balance between buildings and open green spaces, concentrating on the separation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, creating a unity of the design elements, and an attention to the details of a development, with community involvement, all contribute to successful planned development solutions that offer a ‘cut above’ the typical less refined developments and insure the longevity and viability of new development for years to come.