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Other software solutions are created to expedite production -  faster – not necessarily better.  From Land Surveying, City Mapping, Land Planning, Civil Engineering, Landscape Design, Architecture, Financial Modeling, and more, there has never been a single product that empowers YOU to deliver a significant improvement in quality – until now:  LandMentor.  

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LandMentor News (12)

Not a Surveyor


The next series of published articles are created for Land Surveyors United and should be mandated for everyone involved in the land development industry (public and private) to understand that reliance on free (and non-free) GIS and mapping data, instead of hiring a professional land surveyor, can be a terrible decision - especially at the beginning stages of a development.

To fix these problems we need to teach the stakeholders of growth (i.e. YOU) to understand the problems. And we have to bring the Land Surveying Industry out of the 18th century (as far as the deliverables) and bring them into the 21st Century - thus, working with Land Surveyors United - the leading blog for the surveying industry over the next few months.

The Land Surveying industry is literally dying - the vast majority of surveyors are over 65 and young people are avoiding Land Surveying as a career.

While we are known internationally as a leader, if not the leader, in innovations for the land development design (planning) industry, few know that our planning company was a spin-off from a land surveying software think-tank founded in the mid-1970's. For decades we collaborated with Hewlett Packard, and are still creating new land surveying based innovations to move the surveying industry out of the past and into the future. We were there at the birth of GIS and have the background and technical foundation to recognize problems that are made worse by existing technologies and solutions from the major software developers and take action to eliminate those problems.

When you understand the limitations of the data structures of both GIS and the increasing problems with LiDAR technology, you will have an understanding that technology itself can cause more problems than intended improvements. Without understanding these problems, those involved in the industry (i.e. YOU) will be making bad business decisions that can destroy economic and environmental progress.

As far as those in the land surveying industry - in our opinion which will be explained in this and future educational videos, in order to reverse the downward spiral of the Land Surveying Industry, Land Surveyors must understand that to attract young people into the industry it takes much more than the latest super-cool field tech - the office tech must be as futuristic, and the deliverables today that look almost identical as centuries ago (because of antique drafting standards). More important is that nobody today is impressed with a survey plat that lacks critical information and is difficult to understand. We have the ability today to deliver far more useful and exact information, eliminate the errors caused by CAD and the complexity of CAD based land surveying delivering easy to understand survey plats in both beautifully rendered 2D and interactive 3D. We need to get the industry excited about retaining a land surveyor and make it attractive to the youth. The existing solutions fail miserably to achieve those goals. The majority of Land Surveying business owners (the bulk over 65) need to move forward and demand change or the industry that they spent their lives in is in danger.

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Not a Surveyor


What’s Elluette GBC?

Elluette GBC seeks to optimize organizational performance in the context of human and planet friendly actions and is also an outreach business seeking leadership collaborations and public engagement to promote the health, harmony and security of the world.

This particular podcast focus targets:

  • today’s lack of thoughtful design from a human- and planet-friendly perspective.
  • poor priorities among planners (focused on maximizing density rather than the quality of life).
  • prioritizing concentration of homes because of the profit-motive .
  • gentrification in places that should have helped elevate the housing needs for all income levels.

How Prefurbia design with new technologies and training solves these issues:

  • enabling consultants to put together extraordinary neighborhoods.
  • easing the difficulty of disseminating this new methodology to educate the marketplace. 
  • delivering profits from development that provides both density and quality.


To watch this Podcast click:  ([email protected])

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Not a Surveyor

LandMentor Update - What's New?

What’s New on the Next LandMentor Update?

We will be soon releasing the next LandMentor Update (early November) and have some great additions which I’ve personally wanted to get in the software for a while, but it would require a file format change.  This new update will automatically convert the old formats to the new formats, so the transformation should not be noticeable.  Since ALL LandMentor users are perpetually updated and upgraded at no extra charge, there is no problem with file format incompatibility as with other CAD based software systems.

Vintage Mode:

Background of why ‘vintage mode’ is important:  The Land Surveying industry is in a bit of a quandary – the general public thinks ‘Google Earth’ replaces the need for a surveyor, even most planners and architects think that’s good enough.  AutoDesk that furnished the industry with most of the (limited ability) software, recently shocked me.  I was invited to a BIM webinar hosted by them in which they claimed you only need two control points and then geo-reference your Google Earth image eliminating the need for a Land Surveyor! I’ve never seen a software vendor systematically destroying the very customers that depend on their product – perhaps the industry should stop supporting this vendor?  Anyway, Land Surveyors have an image problem, which is why we developed LandMentor to reverse it and raise the awareness that Land Surveying should be the foundation of growth.

The Land Surveying industry is in ‘vintage mode’ today:  With all the advancements in field technology (and related high investment costs), today’s surveyor, thinks they have the latest technology – yet the actual deliverable drawings are not any different than the surveyor 50 years ago!  A half century ago, the surveyors who depended upon transit and tape delivering drawings painstakingly created using cross hatching, Rapidograph, and zip-a-tone on vellum.   These ‘vintage’ drawings are identical to those that land surveyors still deliver today. They are difficult for the public (i.e. paying clients) to understand, and the land surveyors work is less appreciated by an antiquated standard which should be abandoned if the industry is to reverse the downward public impression trend.

Beyond Vintage: LandMentor is NOT a line and arc drawing system but a ‘surface’ based system using positional coordinate geometry emulating more of the built environment that land surveyors are supposed to represent.  We live in a world of surfaces.  Surfaces possess area and impact (economic and environmental) – be it man made or natural.  The ‘point number based’ software of others are not spatial, making it difficult to produce in a precision manner the surfaces Land Surveyors define.  LandMentor's natural surface based geometrics require no extra effort to create. A surface based system eliminates most (if not all) geometric errors common to a CAD based software.  Each surface can be represented as to its visual appearance as if it was a photograph.  Concrete can appear – concrete, lawn as a lawn, wetlands as a wetland. The paying customer that hires the surveyor is presented with a replication of their site in a visual format which is easy for them to relate to, and more important – value.  Yet, in many cases submittal requirements demand a survey plat be submitted in the past ‘vintage mode’.  LandMentor can now deliver a cross hatched – black & white drawing automatically converting the fully rendered ‘normal mode’ with a button press.  The submittal can be in the past and the deliverable to the client in the future.  That is the purpose of Vintage Mode.

Scalable Images and Cross Hatching

Past versions of LandMentor allows textures to represent surfaces, but they were not scalable.  This meant the image used for the screen would appear different on the delivered drawing.  The file format change allowed images to be have a scale attached so what is seen on the screen is replicated exactly the same as on the plot.

Past versions of LandMentor crosshatching were calculated requiring no physical lines (as in CAD) and adding no extra data – another advantage of LandMentor vs. CAD.  The past LandMentor could not replicate complex symbols as a background task.  In other words, a wetland symbol would need to be linework added as a ‘group’.  This next version replaces mathematical crosshatching with scalable images creating the ability to emulate almost any symbology, zip-a-tone, or hatching format without adding any extra data. 

Overlay of Lines while in Interactive 3D and VR

LandMentor’s interactive 3D and VR headset support, as well as the reporting and analysis functions are free to the public, and as such instead of just a 2D rendering (and vintage drawing) to the client, Land Surveyors can also deliver the software and a LandMentor file for the client to replicate the surveyors work and access data never before possible – significantly increasing the ‘value’ of the land surveying profession.  Past versions could overlay contour lines (on and off by pressing [C] while in 3D), and now can do that same thing with linework while interactively moving in 3D.  This way, clients can see property lines, easements, or just about anything that could be important while moving about.  Like contours, turning the linework on and off pressing [W] (wireline).  When the 3D is being created, the active linework layers are automatically inserted into the 3D – like many LandMentor functions, a no-effort background task.

More Precise Text Locations

Past versions of LandMentor in some cases shifted text from what was shown on the screen vs. the plot.  This was actually a problem with Microsoft’s misreading of the computers actual screen size which was needed to properly scale the text.  A wrong reporting of the screen size would have a large impact on text positioning.  This next version changed the methods of measuring the physical size of the screen.

Precise Scale on the Screen

LandMentor can now display on the screen a drawing at a precise scale, so you can now lay a scale on the screen to measure, without having to plot and measure.  This is handy for site planning and land surveying applications.


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Not a Surveyor

Stagnation Nation - City Planning


There is an enormous source for delving into historic truths called the Prelinger Archives ( This is a wonderful resource to use to discover movie clips from various industries going back to 1903!   These videos address every imaginable industry and are free to use.

All the books and articles about density and traffic are written by planners and experts that did not live back then, so much of their logic is based upon conjecture. What if we were to go back in time and hear directly from the expert who actually lived back then? 

Here are a few of my favorites:

After a four minute introduction this video explains the real reason for dense cities (hint: it was not for affordability):

The Dynamic American City (1956). 

Another interesting and eye opening video was created in 1957, 62 years ago. It talks about City Planning. We shortened the video to just one minute to make some key points:

                               (click here to view):

  1. The City Planning process is identical today as it was back then;
  2. The plans and renderings have remained the same;
  3. The subdivision layout (10 seconds in) could have been submitted yesterday;
  4. The homes are not that much different (some new homes actually worse).

A Touch of Magic is a film that was developed by General Motors about the advancements of 1961. We clipped a short section for the home of the future, it's a fun marketing piece:

(click here)

In in 1952 the perfect material was developed for home construction promising a revolution. This shows how a couple back then chose the design of their new suburban home.  Have you guessed what this miracle product was?

                            (Click Here to Find Out)

The Prelinger Archive contains a wealth of information from the past that everyone learn from while enjoy searching! For city planning, for the past 70 years stagnation nation is pretty much the way things are - and the way things will remain unless we as an industry change. This is the reason we formed our planning research company, and developed LandMentor - to advance land development and city planning through improving every industry that touches growth.

We hope that these videos will have some impact on your decision making. One thing for sure, if you are reading this newsletter, then you are a decision maker in the process of growth - you can be at the forefront of change.

Will you be proactive for change, or will those in 50 years from now look at today’s planning process and design models to discover nothing changes!

Presenting at the UTAH 2019 APA CONFERENCE

On October 3rd we will be the opening keynote at the Utah State APA Annual Convention and follow up with an educational workshop. If you are near Salt Lake City between October 3rd and 5th, we will have an exhibit at the conference - please attend and visit us! 

For more information about the conference, (Click here).

About LandMentor – this is the first high level - easy to use - precision land surveying based solution created to advance the entire land development industry.  The following video demonstrates how easy and powerful it is to use.  Because one of its best features (plug & play VR headset support) cannot be demonstrated unless on site – we did not include it.  For Land Surveyors – it is the first technology to use positional geometry that will eliminate much of the complexity caused by both CAD and GIS limitations!

Click below for a taste of this advanced system: 

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Not a Surveyor

Big data and what the land surveyor can do about it.

In 1996 I had a buddy who was a photographer want to take some digital pictures of my Buell S1 motorcycle using his handy dandy new digital camera to gain product advertising pictures.  The camera and equipment needed consumed the entire space of his station wagon.  He set up the camera and used Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis as the backdrop.  The 640x480 digital camera would require several minutes for each shot.  Lake Calhoun at any given summer day has thousands of walkers, runners, and bikers, all passing by the shot.  I asked:  won’t the action destroy the pictures?  He believed any motion would not be captured in the long time it took to register each image.  Turns out he was wrong, and every image came out as a complete blur when he got back to the office to process the data.  A 640x480 image is less than 1/3rd of a megapixel, whereas an I-Phone 10 is 12 megapixels or 39X the resolution of that professional camera in 1996.

In 1996, we were selling Hewlett Packard Unix Workstations to surveyors using SiteComp Unix software.  The software was delivered on a single 3 ½” floppy disk that could hold 1.44 megabytes after compression!  A single 1.44 megabyte floppy could hold hundreds of SiteComp job files as calculations and drawings were the same data structures taking a fraction of the disc space of CAD with a lot more usable data.  At the time a HP 9000 series 712/60 (at $3,995.00 the lowest cost Unix workstation) was typically configured with 128MB internal memory and typically a 512MB internal hard drive, enough to store surveying and engineering work for decades.

In the past quarter century, much has changed with those writing software losing control of efficiency of data.  Just because you can save millions of points on that 20 acre site dos not mean progress, in fact quite the opposite.  While not enough data is certainly a bad thing, like the picture quality of a 640x480 camera, there comes a point where too much data is simply too much. 

A decade after my Buell was being photographed, in 2006 I purchased a Sony HDR-SR1 Handycam – the first High Definition hand held camera.  The software to edit its high definition AVCHD format came out nearly 2 years later, and even then pretty much overloaded my high powered office desktops to edit the high definition video.  A decade later (today), desktops have the power to edit high definition, yet the 4K resolution has still not been made mainstream simply because too much data is still a problem, whereas 1080p (1920X1080) is more main stream – still.

Land Surveyors who used to replicate an exact topo on 20 acres with 100 points surveyed on the ground can now have a less accurate LiDAR topo with 220,000 points taken every 2 feet but misses edges of pavement, top and bottom of curbs, and other details critical to those designing with the data.  Those using LiDAR’s 220,000 points for engineering and earthwork will slow down every step of the way compared to the 100 precision point DTM from the land surveyor.

The general public as well as builders and developers (and many professionals) think they can go to BestBuy and get a drone to obtain a topo instead of paying a surveyor – i.e. you.    Unedited drone data overloads the computer and often a terrible representation of the actual contour of the land. 

Software developers who think point clouds are a step forward, so why not fill up that data, are simply wrong. 

Land Survey data is used to convey ownership, define new ownerships, define the natural ground surface for engineers to design from, and stakeout what’s been newly designed.  This has not changed for many hundreds of years.  A step forward is to create all that is needed with less – not more – data and have computers do what they do best – compute. 

Today’s LandMentor software cannot be delivered on a 1.44 megabyte floppy, but like SiteComp Unix, is but a single code just under half a terabyte.  The data structures are pure math, instantly replicating exact coordinate geometry, replicating the land surface, and building all of the parcel data from land surveying based coordinate geometry.  The same coordinate geometry that builds the drawing in both 2D and interactive 3D.  No need for a point cloud or data basing anything… back to the basics the land surveying industry has always been based upon.

When it comes to the future of land surveying we really do need to embrace the past if the industry is to have a future.



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Not a Surveyor

Lake Cunningham

Geospatial technology – it’s not just for polygons (shapes) of a GIS map that can be rubber-sheeting (stretched) to fit GPS section corners – but used in an entirely new ay.  Take for example, Omaha’s Lake Cunningham Village which will be a revolutionary affordable neighborhood.   Using LandMentor’s precision geospatial technology in a very different way we are able to make neighborhoods like this one possible.

Housing affordability is a critical issue in most US cities, but more important than ‘cheap’ housing, is how to increase living standards for those at that lower income level through designs based upon that take advantage of the natural and built space created by design with analysis only available with LandMentor advanced precision spatial abilities.

Henry Luo, Mitch He, and Aaron Yang, principals of A1 Development, Inc. purchased the topographically challenging 62 acre site in northwest Omaha.  The team included Short Elliott & Hendrickson (SEH) civil engineers who have multiple seats of LandMentor, Design Basics, architects, and  Rick Harrison Site Design Studio for their pioneering design methods made possible by their LandMentor system.

In most suburban areas, land costs should not be the main roadblock to affordability, as the expense to develop the land is the major barrier. 

The old way:

The typical process is to create a quick & dirty two dimensional  conceptual layout, as shown here – the actual first design on this site with severe topography.

This layout places homes close to each other demanding expensive earthwork and retaining walls. 

Home design is an afterthought and not part of this process. 

During conceptual design communication between the land planner, engineer, and architect is non-existent. 

This process fails to take into consideration critical elements that would enhance livability that only an analysis using a precision geospatial design technology could provide.  Having LandMentor, an integrated solution that merges planning, engineering, surveying, and architecture with the ability to view interactively in both on-screen and immersive using Mixed Reality headsets is a game changer for the consulting industry.

A better way:

Instead of working independently, the key consultants, Joe Foley of SEH, Carl Cuozzo of Design Basics, and Rick Harrison merged planning, engineering, and architecture at initial design stages to develop an affordable and better housing solution.  The main goal was to concentrate the living quality for the family living in each home, as well, as the security of their investment - value. 

At every step of the way, the professional group worked as a cohesive team under the direction of A1 Development, Inc., either in person at SEH’s Omaha office or through team webinars.

Embracing the Terrain:

To eliminate costly retaining walls, we used large areas of landscaped slopes (maximin 3:1) and designed home architecture that would embrace the terrain with walkouts and lookouts as well as introducing side walkouts and lookouts.  This increases the value of the home while reducing grading issues.

The terrain is easily understood on screen with LandMentor color transition (shown here with 2 foot contours) which indicates low areas in red, then transitions to green (high ground).

Severe slopes along the east side of the site allows homes to view Lake Cunningham to the northeast of the tract.   Homes on the east side will have a view overlooking the homes at the north entrance which also get a view of Lake Cunningham.

Less infrastructure = less cost and more open space:

The method of ‘coving’ reduces street length which also reduces right-of-way dedicated to the city resulting in more useable land.  Increased distances between homes allows transitioning slopes without retaining walls.

As indicated before, the initial plan was designed with a grid-like pattern ignoring terrain - increasing infrastructure (waste).  The average demonstrated street length reduction of ‘coved neighborhoods’ compared to conventional (suburban style) layout is 25%.  Combined with less earthwork and retaining walls, this translates into a significant savings.

Instead of using that cost reduction as profit, those funds are used for better architectural and landscaping elements and simply put – a superior home at competitive pricing.  With the unique geometrics of coving explained in the educational materials include with LandMentor, less is more.

An affordable home with a great view:

By coordinating open spaces around the homes with the floor plan design, the team increased premium views from ‘living spaces’ within the homes – something typically reserved for a custom home on a large lot.   To achieve density targets without creating a ‘garage-grove project’ – we utilized architectural shaping. Again, LandMentor, a precise land survey based (coordinate geometry with actual lines and true curves) system that integrates video gaming for visualization provides instant verification of spatial targets.

Architectural shaping embraces a coved lot’s nonrectangular shape to make the house wider at the front or rear than could typically fit on a grid-like subdivision.  To achieve architectural shaping a minimum angle is established between side lot lines, so that a floor plan is assured to fit on every lot.  A home that is wider at the front has more curb appeal, a fuller front porch.  A home that is wider at front or rear can reduce hallway making rooms within a targeted square footage larger and more usable.  ‘Architectural Shaping’ expands space through it’s living areas to make a small(ish) home ‘feel’ larger.  This adds value for the first buyer and those that will purchase at each resale.

Architectural Shaping is combined with Architectural Blending, a method that can be applied to both single and multifamily housing.  What Architectural Blending does, is coordinate what goes on inside the home with the site plan’s open spaces and viewsheds surrounding that home.  In other words, paying attention to design for the location of windows, walls, and ‘living spaces’.   A person inside the home will have views expand as much as possible looking out into the open spaces adjacent to that home.  In this neighborhood, because of the extreme topography, these views can also be of regional areas when a home overlooks space over other groups of homes or ravines. 

Architectural shaping, blending, coving and more  is explained in further detail in this video (click here).

The market responds to a home that has better curb appeal, but also just ‘feels’ better and larger – even if it’s not.  The abundance of windows overlooking surrounding space enhances this open feel.

Geospatial technology measuring efficiency and function.

Then ability to instantly and effortlessly create visual reports of manmade elements on a proposed plan also apply to instantly providing an analysis of the efficiency of a floor plan.

The comparison below is of a normal floor plan and the same home modified on a shaped lot.  The actual benefits are not apparent until you look at the gains reported on the charts.  By eliminating excessive hallways, construction costs are likely to go down with a significant increase in living spaces – maintaining the same overall square footage.  Without a geospatial instant analysis it would be difficult to measure waste and design alternatives.

The very same geospatial analysis is applied to make sure the proposed plan is as efficient as possible, but also extending to instant analysis and reporting of the required earthwork.  This takes the guesswork out of – guessing!

As seen below, every room – its use (function) and window is coordinated with surrounding views.  Homes situated on the inside of a curve get wider at the front – on the outside wider at the rear.

The horizontal and vertical sculpting of the streetscape eliminates the monotony typical of today’s growth.  The angled relationship of the homes provides an increased depth of views when inside looking out, and the varied setback provides an increased sense of scale.  All of this creates a neighborhood that hides the higher density we achieved.  At each stage of design, the LandMentor technology offers instant access to interactive 3D using video gaming technology, both on the screen and using VR headsets.  What is seen on a screen is very different than the verification that VR headsets provide with immersive witnessing of the final site as if being there.

The above screenshot of LandMentor shows the patented unique easy user interface.  No drawing exists – every screen refresh rebuilds the site from the base coordinate geometry automatically rejecting any linework, spatial information, or other data that would not make sense for legal property descriptions.  Spatial data shown by color or texture (or if you want you plan to look 1960’s cross hatch) is accurate to 20 decimal places.  Combined, this eliminates most geometric errors that results in litigation to the land surveyor!  Since CAD and GIS based surveying systems have the drawing and coordinate geometry separated, and spatial data is tedious, it’s impossible to replicate these advantages LandMentor provides.

Cars as a ‘landscape feature’:

A major problem with any form of ‘affordable housing’ often overlooked are parked cars.  No matter what a developer and builder invests on architectural and landscape elements, if the street is cluttered with banged up and rusty vehicles, it will look like a ‘project’ - not a neighborhood.  Many lower income neighborhoods have no garage, or just a single car garage.  That lower income family will park the better car in the garage and that ‘junker’ or working vehicles (unsightly trucks) in plain sight, and there goes the neighborhood, along with home values  When presenting a low income development, the consultants 3D renderings (if any) never shows the car clutter, and instead everyone seems to have a nice new car if parked outside.  That fantasy is not the real world.  If there is no garage or just a single car, the remaining vehicle(s) are exposed to the sun and elements, slowly deteriorating a poor families second largest investment.   In Omaha, parking outside makes residents deal with snow and ice most winter mornings. 

For those reasons, a two car garage makes more sense which was a goal of Lake Cunningham Village.  Still, even with two car garages, there will be exposed vehicles, just less of them.  The ‘coved streetscape’ with meandering setbacks will soften the impact of exposed cars compared to a row of homes set close to the street.  The combination of coving and two car garages will significantly reduce this problem without having to build with rear loaded garages with alleys that skyrocket construction costs increasing impervious surfaces and thus, environmental impacts.

Reducing minimums by exceeding them:

Even though we were asking for deviation to some of the Omaha code minimums such as lot width at the front setback – the ‘average’ lot width exceeded the underlying code because the lots were not rectangular.  In other words, each deviation from code was not to decrease any existing minimum, but to exceed that minimum on an average dimension.  The neighborhood as planned was quickly approved.


Attainable Luxury Living:

This holistic approach to growth can be applied to every new development and in areas of redevelopment – but it takes an industry to change.  Land Surveyors, Civil Engineers, Architects, and Land Planners must collaborate to work as a group at the concept stage through final plat to make sure each element of the design is executed as intended.  The way the industry works now, there is no communication between these professionals, like an orchestra in which every musician is playing a completely different tune.  To create a symphony (i.e. sustainable neighborhood), everyone must be in concert with another.  That ‘concert’ must concentrate on:

  • Gaining value while also lowering cost.
  • Increasing function without decreasing value.
  • Enhancing curb appeal without breaking the budget.
  • Embracing the natural terrain without sacrificing neighborhood character.
  • Respecting all people regardless of social status or ethnic background.

Technology as a crutch:

A half century ago designers did something rarely seen today – they actually designed.  There was no CAD that automated ‘configurations’ on a button press.  New residential and office towers did not replicate each other as if built on an assembly line. Educators did not teach the mindless automation of CAD or GIS - but taught the student how to think – thus design.  There cannot be change unless we change the industry.  Replication is not advancement.  We (the land development industry, both private and government) needs to step back and see the obvious – not all technology has improved our living standards.  We need to improve that computer between the ears, not on the desktop.  As a development’s affordability gets lower – the situation often becomes worse.  Using geospatial technology as a reporting tool at initial design stages is a first step, but that has to be followed up with an education on how to take that next step – and design method teaching should be integrated into the software solutions the industry uses – another missing link that LandMentor provides.

A high income neighborhood will look fantastic no matter how bad the ‘land planning’ because of the greater attention to architecture and landscaping – as incomes get lower, the industry must work harder to respect the families who will invest in these developments.  Past technologies and industry education overlooks this situation.

Lake Cunningham Village represents an entirely new way to deliver low income housing with the elements typically provided to only those on the upper end of the social ladder – and that will enhance the sense of pride for home owners in this neighborhood. That’s how we solve the affordability issues.  No losers – only winners, all made feasible by harnessing geospatial technology in an entirely new way.

Rick Harrison

(President, of Rick Harrison Site Design Studio, and Neighborhood Innovations, developers of LandMentor)

8832 7th Ave N – Golden Valley, MN 55427
(612-325-1950 cell)  763-595-0055 & 763-545-0216

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Not a Surveyor

Land Surveyors have always been at the forefront of technology, beginning with the first electronic distance meter, the HP 3800 in 1975, to today’s robotic stations. In the field, Land Surveying has enjoyed more technical progress than many other non-medical fields.  Yet, in the office, survey plans and subdivision plans appear the same as if it’s 1969.

When the developer asks the consultant (land surveyors) to subdivide their land, it’s an awesome responsibility.  This is because the site plan is the largest influencer on the developer’s business model and the plan sets the everyday living standards for the initial residents and those who will live on that developed site for centuries.  Please consider the facts and logic in this article which will influence a new era of growth…

… Every week in the USA, there are approximately 35,000 US cities that hold planning commission and city council meetings that determine the growth and redevelopment of our nation. These councils judge plans produced by the consulting industry that vary from a simple home addition to a new subdivision (all with opposing neighbors).

According to the US Census as of December 18th, in 2018 there were 1,256,000 housing starts. The average price of those homes was $395,000 (Oct 2018).

This equates to just under 500 billion dollars in revenue for home builders and developers


It also determines taxable income for cites.  Growth and redevelopment funds the consulting industry who serve land development.

According to the Center for Automotive Research, the auto industry spends between 16 and 18 billion dollars in research to improve their products and be market competitive – coming directly from the income they generate in new sales.  In 2016 17.6 million new cars and trucks were sold in the USA (CNN Business) with an average sales price of $35,309 (Kelley Blue Book).  That equates to $621.5 billion dollars in revenue.  

In other words, roughly 3% of the total income sales goes back into development of better vehicles. 

The vehicle sold today is likely to end up in a junk yard within a few decades…


…The developments land surveyors design and/or plat, being built today, are likely to last centuries.  The street and lot pattern will likely last longer than the home structures themselves.

The car or truck sold today is totally different than the one sold a half-century ago in dependability, safety, conveniences, entertainment, efficiency, value, handling, etc. 

There seems to be no available statistics on what the housing industry spends on research to make their product (housing and development) more dependable, safe, convenient, efficient, valuable, etc.

The land development submitted for approvals today can be arguably more cookie-cutter than those submitted a half century ago with almost identical submitted information.

The homes being built on those lots have better construction materials and methods, but for the most part, other than façade detailing, are not all that much different than offerings a half century ago.

Again, every week in the USA, in 35,000 cities, Planning Commission and Council members judge all aspects of growth, be it an addition on one’s property, a new subdivision, a change in regulation minimums, or a comprehensive plan, etc.  The City Council and Planning Commission members are mostly made up of private citizens volunteering their precious afternoons or evenings sitting through somewhat mundane presentations because they are concerned about the growth of their city.  They are not likely to be knowledgeable on the critical aspects of development and architecture for which they serve as judge and jury.  Nor are they always properly educated on the decisions they must make that directly affect the wellbeing of their town.

The Auto industry directly controls the design and manufacturing specifications of every part within the products they sell, as well as a tight rein on every employee that designs and builds their products. 

The building and land development industry depends on many local and national vendors to supply their ‘parts’ be it siding, roofing, wall studs, windows, etc.  Labor is mostly local workers. 

The actual layout (land planning) of the development is likely to be the local surveyor or engineer acting as the ‘land planner’ to design the project in an AutoCAD or Bentley (software) product – designed by engineer, for engineers.  Some of these products tout how fast a ‘subdivision’ can be created. 

For example, SiteOp’s Residential (Bentley software) demo shows a cookie cutter 162 lot subdivision that is ‘designed’ in just two minutes.  Creating a design that ignores curb appeal, views from windows, premium locations, safety of street pattern, character, etc.

This is not an attack on SiteOp’s Residential, as it is just one of many software’s that simply requires the ‘user’ to enter the regulatory minimums then sweep a mouse across the site and streets and lots appear.  That’s not land planning – that is simple geometry, moving the land development industry backwards - not forwards.   It encourages the mundane cookie cutter growth, not neighborhoods which enhance the profits of developers and builders who contract with consultants in order to have a market advantage.  For that main reason, a very different technology was created – LandMentor, a precision land surveying system focused specifically for the end user - to think differently. 

LandMentor will not produce a subdivision in two minutes. It will empower consultants to create great neighborhoods for people to dwell.

The auto industry develops a product, submits it to their dealerships, and the market votes with their checkbook.  The auto industry must advance materials and engineering methods to survive.

The land development industry adheres to engineering standards that can be traced to the 1950’s civil engineering handbook. It is also weighed down by those who have grown far too dependent upon automated function in their CAD software.

There are few (if any) minimum standards in the auto industry to stagnate progress.  Designers are always encouraged to push the envelope of design and engineering. 

The land development industry must meet the regulatory ‘minimums’, or at least demonstrate adherence of meeting the intent of those minimums for approval.   The regulations in place today in those 35,000 cities can be traced to regulations with similar wording in the early 1930’s. 

Those who ‘layout’ the majority of growth are conditioned to think that holding to the most minimum of the regulatory dimensions would result in the most yield (products or density).  However, density is not the only factor their developer/builder client’s success is based upon.   An underlying avoidance of conflict when presenting something different to the local boards in the city they serve often keeps consultants playing within the regulation requirements – stagnating progress.

One could argue that the average new SUV, Sedan, or Truck is similar in look to the others, with features, pricing, or style differences resulting in market advantage.

For the major national builders in any major city, one only needs to search the internet to see the housing offerings by them. Compare the homes and the floor plans that seem to clone each other’s product.

While homes might mimic each other – the land itself is unique.  The house used in one subdivision can be used on another. One cannot take a subdivision layout and use it on another site requiring every development to be unique.

Universities that teach ‘urban planning’ rarely concentrate on suburban growth where the majority of that $500 billion is spent – and will be for the future.  Students going into debt to learn about growth are educated in demographics and the use of the ESRI Geographic Information System (GIS) software, but not in revolutionary design methods that are improving the growth of our cities.

Because of the technological advancements in computers in the past four decades, the geometry of development (growth) has made revolutionary progress promising to make developments more attractive, valuable, efficient, connective, safe, and with less economic and environmental impact.  No university in the nation currently teaches these advanced planning and geometric methods – nor do they teach the technologies that made them possible!

The leading software companies that currently control the land development industry (surveying and civil engineering) as far as we can tell, make about $4 billion in sales and support (subscription) income annually. 

It seems that their offerings, at least for this industry, automates only known methods which have their basis in the past – not the future.

To move the industry off stagnation into innovation is important.  It will have a dramatic effect on growth. 

For the past decades, when you purchase a car or truck, the advancements are apparent.  You signed onto a monthly payment because you were either emotionally influenced by the design or performance, or by the features or efficiency. 

Nothing about a site plan proposal is apparent - as seen here in a recent proposal. 

A plan showing streets and lot lines is nearly impossible to visualize what it will look and ‘feel’ like when it is built.


Yet in 35,000 cities on a weekly basis, that’s exactly how these proposals are presented – just as if it was 1969, or for that matter 1959

The only material difference between a subdivision submittal 50, 60, or even as far back as 70 years ago, is instead of using an overhead slide projector we use PowerPoint.

The developers and builders who contract with consultants often cannot visualize what the final development will look like.  Clearly as we enter into the year 2019, we need a much different approach to growth. 

We see a much different future, one that will revolutionize the land development and home building industry, as well as how land development is presented.  It was for all the above reasons we developed LandMentor.

Timing for this change could not be better for the land surveying industry, as since the deliverables to the end user, be it an ‘as built’, ALTA, or a plat, the look and information on those plans have no more useful information on them today than in the past.  This, combined with the professionals (architects, planners, and even some engineers), and most of the public now think that Google Map, or the City GIS data can replace the need for surveying services.  The land surveying industry needs to consider the future – surveys and plats with a wealth of information that the end user can use, in interactive 3D and VR that the clients can experience.

Information for Sustainable Growth:

That 1960’s plan typical of today’s subdivision plat has very little data to make proper decisions.  Most regulations have not required more data than 50 years ago. Historically (for centuries) land surveying deliverables have been somewhat complex looking drawings (to the client) in black and white showing lines and curves with text, and maybe some cross hatching to help differentiate a building or easement – same as in 1959. 

Who does not have a color plotter (printer) today?  The pen plotters of the past could not render a more realistic representation of a plan, but raster printing can.

Lines and curves represent what a surveyor delivers, but don’t those lines and curves represent bulk (structures), impact (paved surfaces), physical items (objects or structures), easements or right-of-ways (area), etc.  In other words, land surveying might be represented by lines and curves, but the actual ‘stuff’ of a plan is made up of physical ‘surfaces’.  These physical ‘surfaces’ coincide with a terrain which is not likely to be simple and flat.

The future of land surveying technology is not to use some LiDAR tech to collect millions or billions of points to approximate terrain or surfaces, but to go back to the basics of land surveying – build a surface from the perimeter lines and arcs that surveyors define – pure simple math.  From a mathematical surface we need not download point clouds but instead, use a fraction of the data to replicate precise information to do what ‘computers’ do best – compute.  It is the power of spatial intelligence that provides more useable information that the clients of surveyors can appreciate, and at the same time be used as the basis for interactive and immersive 3D.  It is the power of the future.

Both CAD and GIS can represent area, but often GIS maps are horribly inaccurate and cannot address curves, and CAD, while accurate, is cumbersome to obtain all items such as walks, driveways, patios, parking lots, etc. If the CAD system requires an additional polyline with itsy bitsy small line segments to emulate curved area, instead of the more efficient calculation, the industry moves backward – not forward.

LandMentor’s precision spatial technology using positional coordinate geometry can instantly query a design and report information not possible 50 years ago or with existing CAD systems - last week.

With LandMentor cities can now require far more useful information to be included in any proposal.  

For example, what is the efficiency of the design proposal?  If there is waste on infrastructure, where is that waste and how much can be designed away on a better plan?  

Any waste in street and utility length becomes the burden of the city to maintain forever.  Any waste robs residents of greenspace and makes the increases to monthly mortgage payments.  It also destroys developer’s profits.   It’s bad for the environment too.

The developers of LandMentor have over 42 years serving the Civil Engineering and Land Surveying industry, 50 years in the land planning industry, and have been internationally known for the past 26 years as the leading innovator in new planning methods.  

These methods have a demonstrated 20% to 30% reduction in waste using the LandMentor System (on almost 1,200 neighborhoods in 47 States and 18 Nations) as compared to standard suburban planning at the same density using the same regulatory minimums. 

This translates into five major advantages:  Far less maintenance burden to the city (forever), more greenspace for all residents, less environmental impacts (run-off), more affordable housing, and greater profit for the developer and builder. 

Interactive 3D for proper Visualization:

The CAD industry has marketed their software using 3D representations of land development for the past two decades, yet most cities have never seen a development proposal in 3D.  Even if they did, most often it’s a carefully coordinated ‘video’ making sure the views are in the best locations – no positioning in mundane areas. 


The main reason 3D is not used in land development proposals is the enormous amount of time and manhours it takes to create the presentation.  For cities to visualize and properly judge a neighborhood proposal (or for that matter any proposal), the city commissions need the freedom to move about the site at any location, not just to see the premium places, but those that will affect the neighbors and quality of living for all future residents.  What if a technology was already adopted by the majority of the US population, eliminating the learning curve?

A technology that already exists – video gaming! 

With LandMentor, the native precision spatial geometry in surveying, engineering, and land planning design is automatically set up for 3D.

For existing designs in ESRI, AutoCAD or Bentley, LandMentor can translate these files easily – but more important provide critical decision-making information that those software’s are not creating. 

Thus, by converting CAD based proposals to fully rendered and detailed spatial platforms, not only is the plan information checked and verified, but the 3D presentation as a by product of the conversion process makes interactive 3D practical.   By reporting inefficiencies in the design, changes can be made at initial design stages before the client sees the first layout – in precise geometry.  No other technology replicates this advantage.

Virtual Reality (VR) to be transported into the future.

For those who are somewhat current with technological advancements, a few years ago Oculus Rift seemed to promise an exciting future, one that did not quite live up to the expectations and is rarely in the news.  VR is not easy to develop, and some software vendors have the ability to plug in CAD files for as much as $7,200 a seat - annual subscription.  VR will never take off unless it’s easy – and affordable.  

For that very reason, one goal of LandMentor was to develop a non-modular (all options included) software technology with simple plug & play VR headset support.  This allows consultants and their clients (for that matter anyone) to put on a headset and be transported into the proposal as if it were built. 

The feel of space is accurate.  This will make a good proposal ‘feel’ even better and a terrible proposal even worse.

Imagine the developers and builders as well as every planning commission and council member being immersed in every proposal – be it an addition that neighbors are opposing or that new master planned community.  LandMentor is a truly revolutionary system.

For the first time in the history of growth, developers, builders, planning commission and council member will no longer have to guess what the finished development will look like – at any place in the development they wish to be positioned at moving interactively as if playing a video game.

This is not a vision of some future – but the actual ability of every city to have this technology – today.

A Non-Modular Approach to Software, Education, and Technology

The way software companies hook the customer (you), is to make an initial sale of a base system, then charge subscriptions, support, updates, add-on’s and trainings.

LandMentor is an all-inclusive solution complete with functions specific to growth and redevelopment from land surveying, precision base mapping, and civil engineering, to city planning (regulatory), advanced land planning (design), landscape architecture, architecture (site related).

This is one reason LandMentor is the easiest to use software system in the land development industry.  Non-modular software using a dedicated single core engine will always out-perform software built upon a CAD or GIS software. 

Another reason is that it was developed specifically for one industry – precision design and advanced presentation specific to development.  A CAD (drafting) base in which all other functions are data structures separate of the drafting - which produces the presentation materials. 

In LandMentor, the graphics are a direct result of the geometrics which include the industry’s first positional coordinate geometry (easier surveying & engineering) with precision spatial intelligence. 

Simplicity is the key:

All of this translates to a technology similar to what the I-Pod did to the Audiophile – eliminating components, dials, buttons, etc. for a single button.

Included in LandMentor is a variety of textbooks – not just on how to use the software, but an education on the entire land development industry in an easy to read and decipher full color manner.  These books teach the use of the system while also teaching advanced planning and regulatory methods, how architecture can merge with planning to create a new era of more functional growth, as well as methods that will increase value while reducing costs of construction.

There has never been a software ‘system’ for any industry marketed that way – LandMentor is the first to include what is essentially a complete education from the basics of surveying, civil design, planning, architecture, and much more that can be quickly and easily learned in a week or two – again, no extra charge!

By having a single all-inclusive system, a city who adopts LandMentor  can choose at any time to either outsource their tasks (surveying, site engineering, planning, etc.) or design in-house.  A city can convert submittals in-house or use a conversion service (also available through the developers of LandMentor, and existing LandMentor consultants).

Innovation is not just for cars and trucks – now for growth!

For the first time, developers, consultants, and cities can take advantage of the research and development of new technologies that the automotive industry has enjoyed – to enhance the living standards of all residents within a development, while having the tools to make far better decisions and deliver to clients much better results.   

LandMentor can be used to expand the capabilities of existing CAD or GIS systems or replace them depending upon the individual user needs.

At an introductory price of $2,995.00 per seat which includes the stand-alone non-modular software, textbooks, 3D model library, initial training videos with class examples, perpetual updates, upgrades, interactive 3D and VR Headset (mixed reality) capabilities, and 90 days support – it redefines value in software for consultants.  It’s target market is everyone involved in development including consultants (all), municipalities, developers, educational institutions, and military.

For VR headset use, a VR capable computer is required, along with Microsoft based Mixed Reality headsets.

LandMentor is the first of a new generation of land surveying software in which the drawing, the coordinate geometry, and the precision spatial data is based on land surveying.  The coordinate geometry is both positional and descriptive with each element given a specific location on the planet and describes what that point is – from the field or newly designed points.

Innovation, is not just for what you drive – but where you live!

Neighborhood Innovations Inc.

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We are excited to be part of this platform to help land surveying become a more important industry and help solve many of the problems facing surveyors today.  When I first began this career, many land surveyors also did earthwork, and some minor engineering, and I think surveyors, not engineers, did most of the platting design back then.  Today, licensing prevents surveyors (for the most part) to roll over into engineering, but I think surveyors are better prepared than engineers to take on the neighborhood layout process, and as such we will be teaching some great methods to help surveyors gain that business.  For example, in POB, nearly 20 years ago we wrote this article:

POB Article in 2000

At that time, we had been at initial refinement of the process we coined 'coving', intentionally not patented or protecting it so that others (you) can financially benefit as we did.  In that article we had already been designing 200 developments (to final plat accuracy) over about a 7 year period since the discovery coving's unique geometry.  We claimed (conservatively) 42,000 lots designed with coving.

Today, we still plan neighborhoods, splitting software development and planning about 50 - 50 percent of our time.  We are contracted on average to design about 25,000 lots a year.  All of our designs are a far more evolved set of methods than mentioned in the POB article 2 decades ago, as well as our technologies. 

Our firm is small, like many land surveying firms, a mom & pop family operation.  I'll refer to my son Adam, who for the past 22 years has been my right hand in both planning and software development, and my wife Adrienne has been instrumental in writing Prefurbia, as well as developing seminars and classes.  We recently hired a draftsman to aid in developing 3D models for our own developments, and to offer the services at reasonable prices to our LandMentor users.  Otherwise, all these decades we have had nobody else in production of the designing process or delivering the final product to our customers. 

Typically planners, as you read my story, are about as accruate as throwing darts at a board blindfolded.  We aim to change that.  Adam and I have designed 1,200+ developments in 47 States and 18 Nations, all to final plat accuracy - in all these years we have never had a single geometric error leave this office.  Highly unusual for a planning firm, but in 2019 - shouldn't that be the norm?

Another great (but slightly outdated) resource is this 14 minute educational video, to demonstrate how the methods have grown since the POB article 19 years ago:

YouTube on Planning Methods

The example used in this 2 year old video was Trasona at Viera, which had just gotten preliminary plat approval at the time the video was made.  Here is a drone of Trasona about 4 months ago:

YouTube Drone of Trasona

Land Surveyors that learn and adopt these methods will be at the forefront of change.  Those that monitor this platform will have a unique learning opportunity as we share market proven methods as well as address real problems in todays land surveying industry and at least in our opionion, how land surveyors should overcome them.

Rick Harrison

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