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I’ve got four hectares. What now?

An architect writing a guide to development. Ironic. Or is it?

An enormous number of projects cross our desk. We see those that don’t get beyond the feasibility phase, and others that fall at funding. Sometimes, we inherit projects from other designers, and occasionally (and after a lot of soul searching) we walk away from a project. Why? Because we know what it takes to steer a project through myriad hurdles and trapdoors to emerge from the development process with a finished building that delivers strong returns.

Stakes are high, numbers significant and the challenges many in property development. Which is why following a systematic process is so important. And why it’s so counter intuitive that some projects start with a sketch.

At Context, we start with numbers. We don’t draw until we’ve understood and interrogated your brief, business model, ambitions and even funding mechanisms.

Making it stack up

A feasibility report, not a sketch of a beautiful form will tell you if your project stacks up. It’ll tell you about likely demand, cost and price. When you come with your four hectares, that’s what we’ll do first to make the most efficient use of your time, effort and budget. It will establish the best use of the site and an idea of the right form for the largest yield, considering your commercial and other drivers.

For some clients, creating an example of sustainable, dense urban living is important, for others it’s to grow an asset base that supports tribal development or fund universal superannuation.

What can I build?

We’ll analyse what you can build on your site – planning constraints and accelerators, height and use restrictions. And market analysis will tell us about likely demand – tomorrow. A skill of a good architect is to be able to anticipate the forces that will shape how we work and live in the future - when your project is completed three years from now, what will inform the kind of buildings people want to live and work in.

In the site report we interrogate the physical nature of your site - location, existing infrastructure and services and if development contributions apply, topography and orientation.

Finally, in virtual reality we create a simple massing model - building shaped blocks that show the basic arrangement of structures that’s the best option for your four hectares, having taken into account what you want to build, what you can build and what the market wants.


Then we refine it by running it against financial modelling until we are all confident we have the right development strategy and vehicle. And only then does the designing and drawing proper start.

Hand sketch of Te Uru, Hobsonville

Rich, immersive experience

And because we work in VR you can be fully immersed in your building and its design and at a 1:1 scale long before its built. You will see how your project looks, feels and works before anyone has stepped near the site with tools. This mean the quality of your built form will be better, designed and built quicker and more cost efficiently.