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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.  

Learn about the History of LandMentor and the revolutionary software they develop for land surveyors!

Lake Cunningham

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

www.rhsdplanning.com    www.neighborhoodinnovations.com

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