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Thread: Design for a gated community

  1. #1
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    Design for a gated community

    Hi There. I am working on a design for a Gated Community in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I decided to post my initial sketches here, in order to change the way I ususally do things and gather advice and criticism from experts and urbanism people from all over. Of course, I can't tell you to like the concept of a gated community, it is an assignment my office received and cannot change the idea by proposing open plans. Things have to be the way the boss likes. So, working with what I have, I need to land a good design.

    Here are the points I must consider:
    - Must be a Gated Community
    - The lot size is 3.79 hectares (9.3 acres)
    - 15% of the total area must be left for future municipal use.
    - Lot sizes aren't restricted, but each unit must have at least a 6.5 meter (21 ft.) front.
    - Individual homes will be from 95 to 140 sq. mt. (1,000 - 1,500 sq. ft.)
    - We need to build at least 136 units
    - No more than 149 units can be built.
    - At least two common areas with pool are required.
    - In this proyect, I tried to have all homes to have direct access to gardens, and units will not have garages, but instead parking will be concentrated on different locations near each unit group, by the road.
    - Everything else is free.

    Any suggestions?
    [IMG][/IMG]

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    It would be helpful to know topography, surrounding land use and zoning, and desireable views and undesireable views.

    Is that a power line crossing the lower left of the site?

    Do you need retention/detention pond holding in your area?

    Parking at edge of property should have some landscape buffering.

    Roadway seems high in proportion to land use.

    Gate location not shown, need some space for at least a couple of cars. Should have a turn-around space outside of gate to allow vehicles to turn around if they have made the wrong turn.

    If the main entry is along the bottom edge of the property because that is the location of the access road along that side, the view from that road into your property is not an inviting one, because of your road right along there. It would appear that a gated community would also require a fence along there also. This could be very unappealing, depending on fence type and landscaping if any. Consider relocating the road.

    Locating the road in the center or along the upper edge would probably be a more efficient use of paving. This also usually effects utility lengths and costs, too. Underground wiring?

    Consider which lot you would most want to buy. Why? Can more lots have the same conditions that make that one desireable?

    Consider a feature near the entrance that would be an attraction, such as a gatehouse, fountain/pond, boulder/landscaping, even how to treat the sign as a desireable feature, etc.

    Consider larger lot sizes near entry for good first impression, then smaller lots to the interior.

    Entry road appears too close to the first lots. More setback gives better impression and privacy.

    I am sure I will think of something else as soon as I press the Send button.

    Nice question. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Fortified Spanish Hill towns in the Med are "gated communities" ante-litteram AND the style would look nice in Mexico.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Comments continued:

    Are those rectangles lots or units? If they are lots, why are there gaps between lots? This would be a costly and problematic area to maintain. If they are units, they seem very boring and without variety.

    Some of the units (or lots) appear to be facing the sides of other units (or lots) and their "fronts" are too close to the sides of the others for a decent frontage appearances. These would be slow selling units (or lots). Need to provide more space in front of those units (or lots).

    Is there a powerline pylon on the property? This could be an important feature to avoid or minimize visually. If so, maybe the main entry road should not be there.

    Long rows of parking spaces should be interupted with planting islands. We limit parking rows to 12 spaces max.

    Terrible visual situation after your entry road turns back to the south and there is nothing but road, parking and unit walls - no landscaping - and everyone must drive through this area to get to most of the other lots.

    There seems to be a shortage of parking spaces at the eastern cul-de-sac. These would be undesireable units depending on how far away their assigned spaces are. And where would guests park, and how do they know?
    Last edited by Streck; 09 Oct 2007 at 7:06 AM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks a lot for your comments. I really appreciate them. I will revise the comments and show them to the design team to evaluate them and maybe apply some of your ideas to the project.

    There have been some changes to the overall plan, mainly the location of the main entrance road. Iíll post any additional changes made in the future.

    For further understanding of the context and the project, I also attach some renderings and photos. I also include a picture of the new plan.

    Aerial Photo of plot


    Photo of land as it is today


    New Urban Plan


    Entrance


    Typical House block w/pool


    Typical Cul-de-sac w/parking spaces

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Thanks for including concept renderings of the units.

    You have good apparent visual depth of the units by creating offsets, second floor "sun screens" and low patio walls in front.

    I recommend that you consider providing parking spaces of at least two car depths to get the cars further from the street and to allow for occasional guest parking on the same lot.

    I also recommend relocating the pergola parking "covers" so that they are attached to the housing unit, extend over the patios for shading, are supported by the patio walls, and cantilever over a little more than one half of the car space (shading the important occupant portion of the car). Cantilevering will eliminate posts at the cars and street. The linking of the units by cantilevering the pergolas will provide a design unity to the whole ensemble.

    This also allows for low tropical planting to be visible along the lane rather than just the monotonous sides of cars and car bumpers along the street. (Keep the medium height planting along the outside of the patio walls.) This will give a gradual increase in height from the low flat street/sidewalk to low bushes, to "car trunks," to pergola framing over patio walls, to solid walls of units.

    Please consider changing stark white walls to variations of the same family of colors such as beiges, tans, and light browns. (or greens) (or aquas, etc) This enhances a sense of personal idenity to the unit the occupant chooses.

    No walks?

  7. #7
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    Thanks for your comments.

    Recently I have changed the proyect a little, retaining the concept but I believe it has better results. Partly from people's opinions (including those expressed in this forum), partly according to surveys and a marketing study for the area, and in a smaller way due to changes made necessary by request of local authorities, the results I believe are much better.

    I still welcome any comment you might have on the proyect, as it is always a work in progress.

    Below I put some images of the final project on a general level. House models were changed too.

    And by the way, If any of you is looking for a vacation home in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, just mention you're members of Cyburbia and recieve a nice discount on any home or condo! (not spam, just a token of appreciation for your help!

    Regards,

    Masterplan


    Entrance


    Type "C" House


    Type "C" House plan (labels in spanish, sorry)


    Type "A" House


    Typical walkway


    Adults Only Condo Building detail (No children allowed on condo's jacuzzi and spa areas)


    Another view of top of condo building

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    I am tempted to comment further, but there are some odd conditions bearing on why you have arranged your streets in the lower left hand portion of the plot - and since I don't know what they are, I will not comment on your site.

    I recommend that you get with a landscape architect or other land planner that can bring some interest to your layout. Some are knowledgable about costs and return on investment for the improvements offered.

    I see you got all of your plumbing on one back wall, which is very efficient. This wall will probably be back to back with the next condo. In that case, it is very important to assure correct soundproofing. That will be hard to do with all the pipes and cross connections and spaces that will allow sound to travel across the space and into the next condo.

    Good luck.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Very nice design. I agree with most of strecks comments. Sorry this is going to sound like a review memo (YAWN).

    Architectural:
    Do you have floor plans for the adult-only condo? You have the floor-area for the townhome units. Can you dimension this?
    I would add more slats within the carports to offer more screening.

    Site Design:
    The revised site plan looks like there are barriers between the main collector and the interior road network, and I don't see any access points to adjacent parcels, so the entire road looks like it is blocked off.

    What are the adjacent land uses? Are there any roads on the edges of the abutting parcels? You might need to provide some sort of bufferyard landscaping, especially if it is a different residential use (single-family residential) or an incompatible use (commercial, industrial, office, etc.).

    Landscaping:
    I would add more shrubs, ferns, perennials, or grasses in front of the monument signage, along with hidden lighting so this can be visible at night. The sign is about 5'-6' tall and is located very close to the edge of the pavement, which might cause visibility problems. I would repeat the yellow/orange color within the development either as a house color or as accents, as streck suggested.

    Take the plants out of the planters near the homes, and stick them in the ground I would increase the foundation landscaping, where appropriate, to soften the architectural features of the building. You have a lot of palm trees, can you add more deciduous canopy trees and ornamentals that would grow in this climate? (natives or non-natives).

    I would also add more parkway trees on the far-side of the interior drive at about one tree per 50 feet. It looks like there is about a 5' planting strip which would also be the only area for bufferyard landscaping. Depending on the adjacent land use, you might need additional screening such as a fence or a masonry wall (check with the community's landscape ordinance, if available).

    Graphics:
    The site plan has drop shadows on the vegetation, but not on the buildings, so the townhomes appear flat.

    I really like the rendered perspectives. I assume these were created in Revit or Viz (possibly Sketchup?). What 3-d components did you use: formfonts, I-render plant generator, sketchup 3d warehouse? I am doing similar work on a portfolio right now for grad school. Be very careful when choosing 3d components. The buildings are not rendered to the same level as the trees, flowers, cars, and other components so it can appear unbalanced. In addition to more colors with the townhomes, I think you could add additonal texture to the walls. Are these white-washed? stuccoed?

    If you have the time and budget to be really creative, I second streck's suggestion, to have a planting plan created by a landscape designer/architect. Hopefully, the proposed plantings and the renderings will have the same plant material. A lot of planting plans which are designed by the landscape architect do not always correspond with the plant material in the renderings (the renderings are often created by an architect who mistakingly drops in any material to make the rendering look good). I never comment on this practice, but I sometimes give kudos to plans where there is much more consistency between the plant material in the planting plan and the rendered perspectives.

    In terms of landscape material, I think you could go with a more conceptual/less realistic look, such as the hand-rendered 3d components available at entouragearts.com. If you want to be more site-specific, the plant material can be hand-rendered in 2D in pencil, marker, pastel, or watercolor. Scan the images in, photoshop out the white, drag the transparent tiff into sketchup or another 3D software as a face-me 3d component (a 2d component that always faces you as you orbit through the file), and then drop the 3d compoenent into the main 3d site file. ***Again, I recommend this only if you have the time and resources in your budget.

    Are these renderings presented on boards? Can you add the titleblock. Will they be presented in an electronic presentation? If these designs are on a website for potential home buyers, you could do an animated walk through (depending on your graphics card) and do more rendering using a 3d animation software such as iclone, and possibly add background music. The animated movies created in sketchup are junk, and it often has to be combined with a different program to have better resolution. If you are sending this as an attachment, you could also create a 3D PDF, which is basically a movie within a PDF.

    Hopefully, my comments were not too interrogating.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 20 Feb 2008 at 10:10 AM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    I am tempted to comment further, but there are some odd conditions bearing on why you have arranged your streets in the lower left hand portion of the plot - and since I don't know what they are, I will not comment on your site.
    Thanks again for the comments.

    Yes indeed I forgot to epxlain further on this. The thiner street on the lower left corner will be the access from the municipal road. Kind of odd, but regulations in Mexico say that developers must build half of the public road leading to their development, in case there is no road already.

    Tha larger one, that runs diagonally to access the private streets, is required to be big (altough it wil lead nowhere) beacause high voltage cables run in that direction and can't be moved, so we have to make an 18-meter street right below them (in the future, other developments will have to leave a similar street when they build, meanwhile, it will be a private avenue until it is connected to the rest of the city's street grid).

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    ...
    Architectural:
    Do you have floor plans for the adult-only condo? You have the floor-area for the townhome units. Can you dimension this?
    I would add more slats within the carports to offer more screening.

    Site Design:
    The revised site plan looks like there are barriers between the main collector and the interior road network, and I don't see any access points to adjacent parcels, so the entire road looks like it is blocked off.

    What are the adjacent land uses? Are there any roads on the edges of the abutting parcels? You might need to provide some sort of bufferyard landscaping, especially if it is a different residential use (single-family residential) or an incompatible use (commercial, industrial, office, etc.).

    Landscaping:
    I would add more shrubs, ferns, perennials, or grasses in front of the monument signage, along with hidden lighting so this can be visible at night. The sign is about 5'-6' tall and is located very close to the edge of the pavement, which might cause visibility problems. I would repeat the yellow/orange color within the development either as a house color or as accents, as streck suggested. ...

    Graphics:
    The site plan has drop shadows on the vegetation, but not on the buildings, so the townhomes appear flat.

    I really like the rendered perspectives. I assume these were created in Revit or Viz (possibly Sketchup?). What 3-d components did you use: formfonts, I-render plant generator, sketchup 3d warehouse? I am doing similar work on a portfolio right now for grad school. Be very careful when choosing 3d components. The buildings are not rendered to the same level as the trees, flowers, cars, and other components so it can appear unbalanced. In addition to more colors with the townhomes, I think you could add additonal texture to the walls. Are these white-washed? stuccoed?...

    Hopefully, my comments were not too interrogating.
    Thanks for the extended comments!

    I am attaching a site plan, a picture of the current site with the project on top. Right now, there are no developments around it. The whole area is marked as H-211, which basically means: H= Habitacional (Residential), 211 (211 inhabitants per hectare). So similar proyects in terms of density and land use MUST be built around our present site.



    In terms of landscaping, you are right about height and volume variations on plants. Unfortunately for the purpose of renderings, I do not have the plants I want on a digital form in order to use them. I worked with sketchup, and are creating the 2d face-me components of every plant I propose to use, in order to show them as the will really look. Also, the topography of the renderings is innacurate (working on it).

    You are right about the monochromatism of the design. Oranges, browns and generally earthlike colors will be proposed for detail in some units and common grounds, altough the owners think white should be the dominant color. Also accents in teak wood will add up.

    In terms of buffering with nearby sites, you are right, there is a 5' planting strip, which will be covered possibly in part with bouganvileas, goldcane palms, midget bamboos and other tall bushes, also it will have a permiter wall 10' tall (unfortunately, tall walls are a MUST in Mexico due to the feeling of insecurity, specially in rural areas like this one.

    Below are the floorplans for the condo units. Some changes are being made at the present time, we are adding up another bathroom to every unit, liberating space for this purpose by bringing out the sink of the room, and placing it in the small vestibule outside the rooms.

    In these plans, I am omitting the terrace, since every condo is the same in its interior space. Below I also add a typical floor, including the terraces.

    Condo unit type 1 (one floor)


    Condo unit type 2 (lower level)

    Condo unit type 2 (upper level)


    Condo building Typical floor

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    You have very interesting modular designs for the condo units. I like how everything is organized on a grid.

    The floor plan and rendering doesn't show any railing along the second floor hallway.

    I think both types of condos could have a coat closet next to the front door, instead of the washer/dryer. For the one-story unit, I think you have enough room in the hallway for the washer/dryer (you could position it so it faces inward towards the bathroom instead of the dining area). For the duplex unit, you could place the washer/dryer on the second floor. This could be located to the right of the stairwell, the door to the master bedroom would be moved further to the right, and the closet space would either be smaller, or could be moved to the wall shared with the bathroom.

    Maybe you could also add some variety in the floor layouts. Flip the upstairs with the downstairs for the duplexes, so people walk upstairs to the commin areas. The one-story units could have the two bedrooms along the wall farthest from the entry, or you could have one bedroom in one corner, and another bedroom in the opposite corner, with the kitchen/dining areas and living room in opposite corners as well (this could be a less airy/open plan than the others).

    The depth of the shower stall could be reduced to have room for a linen closet (or you could just have built in shelving over the toilet).

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Thanks for the info on what graphics you used.

    Regarding the site, since you have given some info on the site that there is a large power line cutting diagonally across the lower left of the site, I would comment that to build a major road under power lines will be very unsightly and constantly remind your potential buyers of the "industrial" quality of the site. It will be a distraction. Your main entry should not be where it is - and maybe you can avoid having to build half of a major road if you can enter elsewhere.

    Thanks for the additional surrounding site info. It appears that you are building a large 4 lane "boulevard" under the power lines which would be parallel to the existing 4 lane major roadway a short distance away. It would seem that if such a large "boulevard" is needed at your property, that the small 2 lane connecting road between the two is too small.

    I also question the placement of the "community buildings" (?) at the far corner away from the main entry. It means more traffic wear and tear along your internal roads - including heavy garbage trucks. Why not have a main "community buildings" near the main entrance so that visitors (and prospective buyers) can be received immediately without having to roam your property in (as you described it) a relatively or potential high crime area.

    It appears that your units are too close together for a decent view out of the windows - 3 meters apart? in a two storey configuration? Not good. Can you reduce density or re-arrange site plan? Stagger condo placements so that vistas are available to every unit?

    Perimeter road being so straight and having a 10 foot high wall adjacent to it on one side and continuous parking spaces on the other will make it a speedway for people trying to just get out of the uninteresting and monotonous conditions there. What about some traffic calming devices so that the roadway must curve and traffic slow down?

  14. #14
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    Contact and Design Possibilities

    Hi Xibutride

    I am working on an 18.74 acre development on a Caribbean island and I need design ideas and a software to do it on. If not, I would like to outsource the design to a company that would be able to give me digital renderings like the photos that you have listed above. How can I contact you, or your company, to find out about designing a site plan for the project.

    What software did you use for this?

    It is an 18.74 acre property with quite a bit of road frontage running up a hill with north shore views and then down the other side of the hill with south side views. I already have a road cut, but I will need to alter it. I want to put around 30 town home units in a courtyard style with a pool and BBQ common area and gardens in the middle, then the remaining acreage would be for estate size 0.5 acre lots and common area for landscaping, pool, and community aesthetics. I need a design scheme to submit to my investors. Where do I start?

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