Subdivision design consulting
When a new subdivision is created a Building Scheme with Design Guidelines may be registered on the lots to ensure uniform quality of home designs and construction. A Design Consultant is appointed to review home designs and perform inspections to ensure the new homes comply with the registered Building Scheme.
The Design Consultant is typically the same person who has developed the Building Scheme by reviewing the surrounding neighborhood and completing a Character Study which is used to develop the Design Guidelines. A Character Study will usually consider such things as style, age, materials and landscaping of existing homes in the surrounding neighborhood and ensure new homes are not significantly contrasting to existing homes.
As a Certified Residential Design Consultant with the National Home Designers Association I am qualified to author Character Studies and Building Schemes for most municipalities in British Columbia. Please contact me today to discuss services I can provide for your development project.
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What is the purpose of a registered building scheme?
A Building Scheme is a document registered on a Land Title as a charge against the land. This means that it is a legal and binding document on the property. The Building Scheme contains Design Guidelines for buildings, landscaping and generally all development on the property. The Design Guidelines ensure minimum levels of quality in the form of restrictions. They may encourage use, materials, design elements, massing and style for the home. They also ensure a minimum amount of landscaping and trees on each property.
There are three main purposes for registering a Building Scheme on properties in a common development or subdivision;
- Municipalities are charged with ensuring new developments and densification are appropriate for the community and surrounding neighborhood. Often a municipality’s Planning Department will require a Building Scheme for new lots in a development to ensure a minimum level of quality is maintained. The Planning Department may also require restrictions similar to Zoning Bylaws to be added to a Building Scheme which is an effective way of requiring unique restrictions without having to rezone the land.
- Developers typically create new developments such as subdivisions with the intent of selling the newly created lots to make a profit. A Building Scheme registered on all of the lots will ensure a minimum level of quality for each. Often new homes will be started on some lots before all the lots are sold. If the new homes are to maintain a minimum level of quality this will protect the land value of the lots that have not yet been sold. A Building Scheme in this case will benefit the Developer by ensuring the value of his investment does not decrease due to low quality on individual lots.
- Property owners also benefit by having the same Building Scheme registered on all surrounding properties. Similar to the interests of the Developer, a property owner will benefit by having their land value protected from adjacent homes that may be of lower quality. The Building Scheme also provides a sense of fairness and uniformity for all property owners which encourages good relationships between neighbors.
How are the design guidelines developed for a building scheme?
The Design Guidelines in a Building Scheme are a set of restrictions which encourage a specific level of quality but also set the overall Character they are trying achieve. The restrictions are not randomly determined, they are carefully crafted to achieve certain objectives. When all of the restrictions are implemented properly they will determine the overall Character of the home and landscaping.
There are two main ways in which Design Guidelines are developed;
- A new development or subdivision that is proposed in an area that is well established with older homes and mature landscaping needs to consider the Character of the existing neighborhood. In this case the Design Consultant performs a Character Study of the surrounding neighborhood. The Character Study considers many different aspects of the existing homes and landscaping then proposes restrictions for the Design Guidelines which will encourage appropriate Character for the new homes. The general idea is to mitigate the impact of new development by providing appropriate Character that suits the area and blends in with the established surrounding neighborhood and existing homes.
- The new development or subdivision may be in an area where surrounding neighborhoods are new or emerging and have already established a new Character and have Building Schemes registered on the lots. In this case a Character Study need not be as comprehensive and instead will heavily rely on the newly established Character of the adjacent developments and specifically try to match the restrictions in the Design Guidelines of other subdivisions in the area.
What if an existing neighborhood has an eclectic character?
When a new development is proposed for an area that has and eclectic Character, or is a mix of differing styles, quality and maturity, the Design Guidelines may encourage specific dominant characteristics while maintaining newer industry standards for construction and quality. Design Guidelines will rarely require the use of lower quality materials or outdated construction practices to match the Character of an older existing neighborhood. Instead the Character Study will identify broader Character and design elements then propose restrictions which mitigate the new development while raising the overall quality in the area.
How is a Building Scheme enforced?
A Building Scheme is registered as a charge on a property’s Land Title. As this is a legally binding document the owner of the charge has the right to enforce the Building Scheme through the court system. However, this is an extreme way of enforcing a Building Scheme and is usually only used as a last resort. Typically a Building Scheme is enforced by means of a review and approval process conducted by a designated Design Consultant. This process generally ensures new development is approved before it is constructed and then inspections will ensure what is constructed matches what was approved.