There are four phases to a development project: pre-design, design, construction, and closeout. Pre-Design is the foundation of your project. As the stages of development continue, more and more will be built atop of your foundation, so much like your project, ensuring that your foundation supports the weight of what is to come is essential. This is where a pre-design strategy comes into play.
In this article we will discuss the necessary steps to a successful pre-design phase as well as some of the overlooked attributes that benefit from investing time and assets this early on.
This is the first instalment in our overarching series on development and design. The series covers many of the questions and concerns regarding strategy, design, building, and close-out. If you’re just joining us now, you may find the rest of the series of use as well.
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The importance of pre-design
Many developers run through this phase as fast as possible. On the surface, the idea of matching a vision to an economic model and slapping it onto a property seems like a great approach, but when it also skips past opportunities to increase ROI and goes straight into unforeseen obstacles, then the importance of pre-design is shown.
Pre-design is your chance to mitigate risks, optimize yield, and refine your vision, so to not pay enough attention at this point is to ignore opportunity and oncoming danger.
The steps to a successful pre-design
While generalized, these are the critical milestones in any pre-planning stage:
- Matching vision, budget, economic model, and site: The investment, costs, timeline, product, market, and return all have to be realistic. If there are discrepancies in this mix, there will be discrepancies in your bottom line.
- Understanding all of the obstacles to a chosen location: The only thing worse than a loss is a preventable loss. Keep this in mind before using an estimation in your models in order to save money.
- Optimizing return: This means understanding the market and leveraging amenities to encompass their expectations.
- Creating a clear and concise brief: More than just the number of units and basic size, a brief should have all of the points that you need to make your vision a reality. Visit the site, get a real feel for it, and decide on how to optimize natural light, views, access points, etc.
For all of the steps mentioned above, an expert in design will be able to offer advice and validation. Some architecture firms offer integrated pre-design solution services which can help streamline the pre-design phase.
The best practice for pre-design is to prepare for everything. This is your planning phase, and as a result your priorities are:
- Researching the market
- Defining and optimizing a vision
- Discovering all of the risks and planning contingencies
- Creating a realistic budget and timeline
- Validating the economic model
- Preparing a clear and concise brief
By the end of the pre-planning phase, your pro forma ought to be worth its weight in gold.