Developing the built environment is a complex process with many variables at play. It can, however, essentially be represented as a linear journey, from planning, through to construction, and then the on-going life of a project. There are various thresholds to pass through along the way as the project takes shape, and not being properly prepared for any of these can lead to setbacks and increased costs. At GeoAfrika, we not only take a macro view of this process as development custodians, but are also able to bring expertise and guidance at multiple points, adding value and clarity. In this series of posts on the development cycle, we will be unpacking the three main parts of the journey, as well as the thresholds and considerations that are important in each one.

The Groundwork for Successful Developments: Planning

Starting at the beginning of the process, Phase 1 involves upfront planning, where the development is taken from an initial idea through to a properly scoped and funded project, ready for construction. During this time the developer works with a feasibility team to explore the opportunities and limitations of the project site. Here, GeoAfrika is involved across the surveying, land-legal and project management functions, helping to ensure the project is properly prepared for construction by assessing all of the potential issues upfront.

There are two thresholds to be aware of in this phase, the first of which is the initial due diligence. Here the team needs to determine any potential barriers to development and how to overcome them. This often involves a detailed examination of the property’s restrictive conditions of title, zoning and applicable developmental by-laws. The second threshold, at the end, is funding. Here the team needs to sufficiently convince potential backers that the project is financially viable so that they can raise the capital needed to begin construction.

GeoAfrika’s Difference

GeoAfrika is involved in this stage in a few different ways. As specialist service providers, each of our divisions is able to contribute meaningfully, particularly Surveys and our legal partners HSG. Bringing the different specialisations together is where the most value lies, however. GeoAfrika is skilled in conducting comprehensive Land Audits that look into all the factors that could impact a potential development. This covers everything from providing a clear picture of the land itself, and what can be built there, to the more intangible aspects like zoning, usage and potential claims against the land, any of which could impact whether the development would be able to get off the ground at all.

GeoAfrika is also able to take on a more advisory role for a project, and bringing the business in at this point ensures that this is done most effectively. In this role, the business becomes the key contact point for all of the other role-players involved in making up the professional team, ensuring that the inputs are considered systematically and with the broader development in mind. This ensures that the project is able to be effectively planned and scoped, but most importantly that the two main issues in this phase are addressed, namely:

  1. ·        Is the project able to get funding? I.e. is it effectively scoped out in a way that would give investors confidence in its viability?
  2. ·        Will the local authorities provide planning consent for the project? I.e. does it align with development framework(s) in place                                                                       and are there any reasons it would be rejected?

Another key consideration at this stage is ensuring that what is proposed in the planning phase is actually what is going to be delivered in the construction phase. Once permissions are granted, it is important that what is built at the end of the day aligns with them, otherwise the final development cannot be signed off. There is a “conditions of title” section of the planning consent that needs to be met by the actual built outcome in order for the deeds office to allow the transfer of what is ultimately built, and without proper documentation, during the planning and construction phases this cannot happen. This results in additional delays and expense, which is never ideal for any development.

Linked to the issue of planning permissions, GeoAfrika is also able to help developers effectively phase their process. While the process, on the whole, is linear, a project can have many phases, each at a different point in its own development. Considering this phasing upfront ensures that it can be planned in a way that best serves the needs of the project and ultimately results in a built form that meets the planning framework.