Sponsored: Making Sustainable Growth – Attainable

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 junkyard 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 advancements of a typical 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 (click on 1959 to see one minute video clip of issues of the day and submittals back then identical to today’s issues and submittal quality). 

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.  www.land-mentor.com

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