In a special three-part series, here at CityNews we’re pleased to
introduce readers to the work of Rick Harrison. Harrison is the
President of both Neighborhood Innovations, LLC and Rick Harrison Site Design Studio
and has designed over 650 neighborhoods in 46 states and 12 countries.
Throughout his career he has worked extensively with land developers,
builders, municipalities and educators throughout the United States and
overseas and has become an industry leader in Land Planning, Civil
Engineering, Land Surveying, Land Development and Computer Software
Development. Below is part two:
If you missed part one, click here.
Prefurbia, Part Two – Technological advancements allowed design breakthroughs:
Your Smart Phone is a combination of dedicated technology and software created over the years to be somewhat intuitive. For land development technology, we do not have the luxury of having a dedicated hardware technology that is specifically designed for the task. As such, we need to use the same platforms (your desktop and laptop) that are designed primarily for word processing and photo-editing for the design of land developments.
Who Plans the Neighborhoods we live in?
Everyone! Yes, it seems that every Architect, Civil Engineer, Land Surveyor, Landscape Architect and many other professions (including Planners) offer Land Planning, or Master Planning, on their websites and business cards. Land Planning is the first step in the design process and is typically contracted right after the developer secures the land, or the city determines they want to rebuild an area. Those that offer these planning design services will likely secure the lucrative architectural, engineering, etc. design services later on. Fact #1: Land Planning is the carrot on the stick to attract the overall development work. Since Land Planning is not regulated or licensed, one need only to add the two simple words “Land Planning” to their list of services and instantly the developers and cities will assume they are experienced and qualified. Fact #2: To become a Land Planner, all that is needed is to claim being a Land Planner. When a client demands services, all the “land planner” needs to do is review ordinances and follow the minimums allowed by regulation to squeeze every possible square foot of use from the site. Fact #3: To plan a site, one needs only to follow minimum front, side, rear yards, low width and square footage minimums (perhaps a few more requirements) to geometrically claim the maximum allowed units. Fact #4: Our system of minimums pretty much guarantees the resulting development will be based on the most minimally functional cookie-cutter (monotonous) design. The developer presenting the site plan may be admonished by the planning commission and council if the design lacks imagination and excitement, but, alas, the developer was simply following the regulatory minimums created by the city in the first place. Fact #5: It is cities’ regulations that promote cookie-cutter designs, whereas the developer just assumes this is the best way because his “land planning” consultant would have surely used his expertise if there had been a better way.
And round and round we go in this continual battle between developers and cities that only adds to frustration and eventual increases in home prices.
Lack of Communication and Collaboration:
Place an Architect, a Civil Engineer, a Land Surveyor and a Land Planner in the same room, and they will all be speaking a different language, even though they all speak English. Rarely do you see a collaborative effort from the initial design on through to the revision stages and to final plans and construction. You would think that our universities that teach varied degrees in the land development process would have their architectural, engineering, and urban planning students all work on the same projects, but we have not seen a college that teaches our future experts on how to closely communicate and collaborate.
Part of the lack of communication and collaboration is because of the very technology these different consultants use.