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Underground & Land Development

Underground and Land Development: The Foundation of Success

So you’ve got a piece of land that you want to develop. Great!

Is the land hooked up to water, electricity, and sewage in all the right places for whatever facility you will be building (as determined by your feasibility study)? Are common areas levelled and landscaped? Are roads paved? Does your land meet all municipal building and zoning regulations? Probably not.

Underground and land development is often easy to overlook, but is an extraordinarily important phase of any project. Furthermore, it can represent a large expense before beginning construction on any buildings (whether it be houses, condos, warehouses, commercial storefronts etc.)

Let’s talk about two fundamental aspects of the underground and land development phase of your project by answering these questions:

1. Who needs to be hired?
2. How do you ensure you achieve the best results?

Note: We are assuming that at this point in the project, that you’ve completed your feasibility study and have detailed project plans outlined. If you haven’t gotten either of those items completed, take a look at our feasibility study and planning blog posts!


Who Needs to be Hired?

Underground and land development entails a wide variety of tasks that need to be completed in order to get a piece of land ready for construction. Depending on your situation, there will be a varying number of professionals, tradespeople, inspectors (etc.) that you need to get these tasks completed and approved. We have compiled a general list (in no particular order) to give you an idea of what services you should be looking at hiring for your project!

1. Surveying
2. Excavating/Land Clearing
3. Landscaping
4. Civil Engineering
5. Road Construction
6. Paving
7. Trucking (Dump Trucking, for example)
8. Plumbing/Drainage
9. Utilities (Gas and Electric)
10. Well Drilling (if not near existing water supplies)
11. Electrical Engineering
12. Sewage
13. Irrigation

Don’t forget to consider these important items when developing your land:

2.Guest parking
3.Curbs and gutters
4.Street lighting
5.Fire hydrants
6.Mail boxes
7.Common areas
8.Rain water collection and run off


Furthermore, you will need approvals from various inspectors (such as plumbing, electrical, fire department, transportation etc.). These approvals may vary by each municipality, and may even vary from inspector to inspector at each municipality.

How Do You Ensure You Receive Best Results?

Development is a phase of your project that’s just as important to plan out as the construction phase itself. Lost efficiency can create undue frustration and a lower ROI, two results that would be best left out of the equation. Focus on the following two areas to achieve the best results:

1. Coordination between your service providers:

Dragging the development process out can leave your project sitting idle – costing you money in interest and missed opportunity. It also creates annoying calendar gaps for everybody else involved in your project.

Once you’ve outlined what your market needs through your feasibility study, you should strive to meet that requirement while it still exists. If your project takes twice as long to get to market, the opportunity you expected at the beginning of the project may just be lukewarm by the time you finish.

Here are some tips to coordinate between your service providers:

• Consult your service providers to determine timelines for different tasks – the tasks are going to be unique to your project.

• Identify and work to curb any challenges that could stall your timelines. These challenges may include poor weather, holidays, sick days, supply delays, WCB events or even worker strikes.

• Whenever possible, try to get answers in writing from your service providers. This will help with accountability, and also discourage any overly ambitious claims they may make to ‘keep you happy’.

• Develop and monitor a schedule so that you always know where your project is at in the development phase. For example, we use specific task-tracking software here at Mastercraft Construction.

• Constantly communicate any delays with your service providers.

• Communicate your schedule and goals with service providers, workers, inspectors and investors. Keep them up to date with the status of other services in the process (for example, if you need paving services immediately after levelling some land for roads, let your paving service provider know when you expect the levelling to be complete. If the levelling goes well and is completed ahead of schedule, you might even be able to complete the paving early too! Communication is really the key here.)

• Hold service providers accountable to their estimates, and convey to them the importance of your schedule – the service providers want positive reviews, and want you to use their services in the future if you take on another project.

• While following your schedule is important, expect the unexpected. Surprises are going to pop up (adverse weather, unanticipated underground complications etc.) and you have to adapt your schedule to keep up.

Bottom Line:Plan, set goals, track and measure, be fair, expect changes, adapt, and be involved in the process to ensure maximum efficiency. Communication is key.

2. Understanding municipal regulations

When managing your project, you are the person with the end goal in sight. You have the vision of what the project will be, and you are in charge of how the project gets there. While your service providers are professionals who understand bylaws, building codes, and restrictions (provided you chose well!), you are the one who will suffer in the event of any miscommunications or misunderstandings.

For example, if your underground electrical utilities fail to meet a municipal requirement after an inspection, it’s easy to point the finger at your electrical engineering firm. But in the end, finding out who messed up doesn’t get the project done any faster.

Know the laws pertinent to your project, and actively communicate with your municipality and service providers. You don’t need to be an expert in the laws, and you don’t need to necessarily memorize that “a setback must be at least 0.5m from a front lot line for a building in which the first storey is not used for residential purposes” in Victoria’s Harris Green district, but having a general understanding of laws and knowing where to find them is critical to ensure you can have an informed conversation with your service providers and inspectors.

Contact us for a free no obligation analysis of your project