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Ideas for action - developers and investors

Championing urban design and raising awareness

Raising awareness of the benefits and challenging existing approaches where they do not result in good outcomes, is an important component of achieving good design. Individual champions at a senior level within an organisation can be a very effective mechanism for bringing about change.

Examples:

  1. Appoint a 'Design Champion' at a senior influential level to promote and champion high quality design to challenge existing approaches throughout the organisation.
  2. Develop ways to encourage innovation and creativity within your organisation when addressing issues relating to the built environment and urban design.
  3. Develop an urban design demonstration project.

Developing strategy and policy

Relevant strategies and policies include:

  • investment strategies
  • development land identification studies
  • land banking strategies
  • strategic plans
  • development strategies.

All of these will influence the form of development and the overall urban design of the areas in which an investment is being made. It is important that the implications for the overall urban design of our cities and towns are considered as an integral part of the strategy development phase.

Examples:

  1. Make a commitment to consider the urban design implications of any proposed strategy or policy relating to the built environment, as an integral part of the policy formulation stage.

Planning futures

Forward planning is essential to guide the future development of major development areas, including significant individual development schemes. There is a range of tools that can be used, such as:

  • structure plans
  • master plans
  • site briefs
  • design codes.

In some cases it will be the developer who will lead their development, in others it will be the local government or the landowner, but it is nevertheless important for the developer/investor to be closely involved in the process.

Forward planning for areas proposed for major development provides the following advantages:

  • an integrated approach to ensure the development is responsive to its urban context
  • quality urban design outcomes through more integrated planning and appropriate design criteria for development
  • co-ordination of infrastructure provision to service the development
  • focused community participation at an early stage of the development process
  • co-ordination amongst the various public and private sector organisations that will have an influence on the eventual form of the development
  • clarity about the vision and expected outcomes.

Examples:

  1. Make a commitment to proactively lead the development of appropriate forward planning instruments for major development schemes.
  2. Work closely and proactively with local government and other sector groups in the development of forward planning instruments.
  3. Undertake focused community consultation to inform major urban development schemes at an early stage of the process.

Being a good client

Developers contract a variety of design professionals including architects, planners, urban designers, landscape architects, surveyors and engineers, as well as construction companies as part of their core business. Both investors and developers also build or take long term leases on office space for their organisation. As clients, developers have a significant influence on the urban design outcomes. It does not make good business sense to be focused only on least cost - any new development or office space should also be considered in terms of quality, adaptability, sustainability and functionality, as well as its potential contribution to the urban area it serves.

The most effective stage to influence outcomes is at the tender stage, particularly the brief for the consultant/contractor and the tender evaluation criteria. These should include achieving quality urban design as a key outcome and provide guidance to meet this objective. The relationship between developer and designer is an important one and particular care should be taken to ensure they are given a clear brief that emphasises the importance of achieving quality design and responds appropriately to the site context. The private sector should lead by example and insist on quality urban design in all construction projects.

Examples:

  1. Commit to achieving high quality urban design in all development projects.
  2. Ensure tender procedures for construction and maintenance are judged against value for money and quality, rather than just least cost.
  3. Make a commitment that all briefs for construction will be clear, well thought out and consider urban design at all stages of the project.
  4. Develop a 'partnering' approach between client, designer and contractor as an alternative to the standard contractor relationship, to ensure quality urban design at all stages of the project.
  5. Set a clear and realistic budget that reflects capital costs and whole life costs, including putting an economic value on the added benefits of design quality.
  6. Incorporate urban design criteria into relevant technical guides and guidance.

Making decisions

Although developers and investors have no formal decision-making functions, they do participate in statutory consent processes particularly under the Resource Management Act. Developers can influence the quality of design outcomes and therefore the quality of the eventual development scheme by adopting best practice procedures. These may include:

  • consulting early with local government on a proposed development scheme, including pre-application meetings
  • preparing clear design statements that outline the intended quality of design
  • appointing a quality team of design professionals, including architects, planners, urban designers, landscape architects, surveyors and engineers, with a lead consultant
  • preparing comprehensive resource consent information that addresses all relevant policy and guidelines
  • consulting early and proactively with the community
  • working in partnership with local government, infrastructure providers and other key stakeholders
  • submitting major development schemes to an urban design advisory panel (where available) and acting on the feedback received.

Examples:

  1. Consider ways to incorporate urban design best practice procedures into development projects to improve design quality.
  2. Submit major development schemes to an urban design advisory group or design review panel (where available).

Exchanging information and research

Good research information is essential to creating better urban design outcomes. Most research in New Zealand is led by government agencies, local governments and universities. However, developers and investors do undertake their own research, for example research on housing preferences and market trends. Sharing this information helps maximise the usefulness of such data and makes the most of scarce resources. Learning from past experience increases effectiveness and results in better outcomes. All organisations need to document and share their own research, information and experience.

Examples:

  1. Document and publish any urban related research and best practice procedures produced by your organisation and make this information available to others.
  2. Participate in joint programmes of research with central and local government, universities, and research agencies.
  3. Learn from other organisations and search out examples of best practice before beginning a major development project.
  4. Document case studies of good urban design practice, including demonstration projects.

Integrating management

Urban areas are complex systems and good urban design requires integrated management. Development schemes, whether large or small, have an impact far beyond the site boundaries, and this has to be recognised and appropriately managed. Developers and investors need to recognise their key role as contributors to the development and management of towns and cities and develop more integrated ways of working.

Examples:

  1. Develop a multi-disciplinary team approach to urban development schemes, ensuring there is effective interaction across professional boundaries.
  2. Work in partnership on major development schemes to ensure there are integrated outcomes.

Building capacity

Developers and investors need to build their own capacity in urban design and management, including people, funding and structures. Expertise can be provided by consultants, but developers and investors themselves need a broad understanding of the issues to manage projects successfully and to develop sound strategies. They need to understand their role in shaping and influencing the urban design of a region, city, building or space.

Examples:

  1. Provide training and education programmes for all staff involved in changing the built environment.
  2. Seek specialist urban design advice when making decisions.
  3. Work with universities, professional institutes and other training providers to provide effective training and education programmes in urban design at a range of levels for staff.