Environmentally sensitive areas include wetlands and marshes, significant individual trees or forest stands, steep slopes (over 20%), 100- and 500-year floodplains, water courses and water bodies and locally or regionally recognized landscapes such as painted deserts and prairies. Properly incorporating protected areas into your community design can help differentiate your community by creating a “sense of place” and uniqueness.
Carefully planning the street network and clustering housing to avoid disturbing these areas will not only make for a more interesting community, it could lower your development costs. Avoiding sensitive spaces often reduces permitting requirements and can also trim your landscaping costs. Yearly maintenance of natural areas costs about $75 per acre versus $250 per acre for lawn and landscaped areas.
In addition to the up-front savings, you also can achieve long-term benefits through higher price points and resale value. Lots bordering or within close proximity to open space achieved through cluster design sell at premiums that range from 5%-32% over conventional developments. These same lots also appreciate in value approximately 12% faster.
Provide ample community spaces for residents.
Many people selling their 30-year-old homes and moving into a resort-style community may now want a socially and physically active lifestyle — one they don’t necessarily have to work so hard to achieve. Consequently, some developers have created and are marketing a “cruise ship” lifestyle for their communities, a lifestyle where residents have more activities to choose from than they can possibly do, and where they can pursue those activities with other people their own age. This requires incorporating a variety of community spaces in your land planning.
Creating convenient common areas that enable residents to congregate, while also providing multiple levels of privacy, enclosure and intimacy, is an easy way to enhance the community. These areas include interior and exterior spaces, and all should be within easy walking distance. When locating smaller spaces near each residence, take into consideration the sun and the space’s orientation, among other things. Also, take advantage of indoor and outdoor views as well as views within the community and more distant views.
Integrate architecture and land planning before developing your community.
Open space and land planning and design should be integrated with your architecture, not developed in a vacuum. After all, active adults will be living in homes, not these outdoor spaces. It’s important to consider the unit types and examine how building spaces relate to the outdoor environment. Transitioning into the outdoors from specific interior spaces (especially in warmer climates), the width of the house, window placement, individual patio and deck spaces and the orientation to the sun are important criteria. All these factors should be considered prior to proceeding with detailed land planning.
Proper integration of the building and site will result in a project that blends into its surroundings, provides a sense of privacy and security and can make the lives of its residents more enjoyable.
Doug Parkins is the principal-in-charge of the residential, commercial and healthcare Markets of RETTEW, a comprehensive consulting firm based in Lancaster, PA, and has 20 years of experience in land planning and site design, entitlement procurement and project management. He previously served as RETTEW’s director of land development services and was responsible for the group’s administration and technical management. Parkins is a registered landscape architect in Pennsylvania, New York and South Carolina and is an active member of the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County, the NAHB Seniors Housing Council and the American Society of Landscape Architects. He can be reached at 717-394-3721 or email@example.com.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
BuilderBooks.com Has Publications About Seniors Housing
BuilderBooks.com offers a variety of publications about the seniors housing market. To view or purchase these publications, click here and type “seniors” in the search engine.
2004 Seniors Housing Symposium
To learn more about the seniors housing market, plan to attend the 2004 Seniors Housing Symposium, Building for Boomers & Beyond in Chicago from April 14-16. The symposium will focus on the lifestyle component of 50+ seniors housing.
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