Every community starts with a master plan. Creating an enduring master plan is a truly multi-disciplinary effort that includes architects, developers, sustainability and specialist consultants, community representatives, legislators, and engaged businesses.

Architects are at the center of the master planning effort. We recently had the pleasure of talking to Vice President Michael Lee of CallisonRTKL. CallisonRTKL has an industry-leading planning and urban design team. Their master plans are known for their visual excitement, economic vitality, and high-performance communities.

CallisonRTKL spent the last three years defining what sustainability means for their firm. Performance-Driven DesignSM is the cornerstone of their green building perspective and, in the context of master planning, that means that they create experiences and places that support communities, economies, and the planet.

As they say at CallisonRTKL: Design can change the world. Design should change the world. Let’s see what Michael had to say:

What is CRTKL’s approach to master planning?

 CallisonRTKL takes a holistic approach to master planning. We look at key factors that influence a site: 

  • Surrounding demographics and psychographics
  • Existing and future traffic and transit patterns
  • Site constraints and opportunities including natural and physical features
  • The end-user or customer and how to meet or exceed their wants and needs
  • Government or jurisdictional regulations
  • Economic market analysis
  • The client’s economic goals and brand values

 We consider all these factors when developing master planning concepts and responses because we ultimately need to balance the needs of the client, their brand values, and the community.  These three pillars guide our design approach.

How does sustainability, resilience, and wellness factor into your approach to a master plan?

Sustainability, resilience, and wellness are critical factors we consider when developing environments that are responsive to the needs of the end-user, whether the development will eventually be a collection of small retail shops or large-scale planned districts or communities. People want to be in environments that promote health and wellness. 

People have become much more sophisticated in recent years and they have come to expect high-quality design and sustainable environments. In fact, sustainability best practices are no longer optional and are now part of most project scopes. As master planners, we always look for ways to meet client goals and create the most resilient environments possible.

What is one thing that you wish more people understood about master plans?

There is so much more to master planning than metrics, formulas, and numbers. There is an art to crafting well-proportioned spaces and environments that are functional and also aesthetically pleasing.  It takes a lot of skill and discipline to balance the needs of the client and customer while providing spaces that inspire and delight.

What are some of your favorite master planning projects? How did you bring the sustainability vision to life?

 I would say one of my favorite master planning projects is City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

City Creek is a 20-acre, three-square, vibrant mixed-use development with a sustainably designed, walkable urban community of residences, offices, and retail stores. This project was about identifying ways to re-introduce a natural environment to an urban downtown setting. Key sustainable features like a three-blocklong retractable skylight allowed the indoor mall environment to be a response to favorable outdoor climates, thus reducing mechanical ventilation costs and energy consumption. An old stream bed that initially rolled through the site was also re-imagined as a landscape and water feature. 

As a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Salt Lake City, City Creek Center draws on the natural attributes of the region and the cultural sensibilities of local residents to create a modern, dynamic destination. The mixed-use retail and residential center is LEED for Neighborhood Development, Silver Certified and features open space for public gatherings and smaller spaces for more intimate venues to encourage civic connections.

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What’s next in master planning and sustainability for CRTKL?

As we all know, technology is rapidly changing how we interact with our environments, whether the environments are natural or manmade. We continue to study how technology influences things like mobility, communication, retail, the workplace, and building permanence. These issues have a profound effect on how we create viable master plans, leading to new questions for many of our projects:

  • How much parking to provide?
  • Can parking structures be converted to other uses?
  • What are the distribution and service patterns?
  • How will it impact flexibility in building typology for future uses?
  • Will there be a need for Mobility Hubs?
  • How will people use spaces in the future?

 If you would like to learn more about sustainable master planning, download Paladino’s e-book here.

To learn more about CallisonRTKL, visit www.callisonrtkl.com.

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