'Market research is key to a great real estate master plan'

Superior Homes chief executive Shiv Arora. [File, Standard]

Superior Homes is a real estate developer with a niche in master planned developments.

Some of the firm’s developments in the market include GreenPark Estate in Athi River, Pazuri in Vipingo, Lukenya Wildlife Estate, Arcadia Mall, Lake Elementaita Mountain Lodge and Sundowner Hotel. 

Real Estate had a sit down with Superior Homes chief executive Shiv Arora who shed more light on why a master-planned development is ideal, the inception process of a master plan, why research is important and what role this type of development can play in affordable housing.

What is master planning in real estate?

Master planning is taking a site that is usually quite large, which could be anywhere from 30 acres plus - GreenPark for example is 160 acres - and really looking at how you can design in such a way that it encompasses all the users that you have.

Our master plans are centred around residential buildings, but how do you incorporate your social facilities, offices, retail, recreation and everything within a development into a large plan as to what the development will look like when it is rolled out.

That also includes how the infrastructure will work; this includes water, sewer, and power and also how human traffic will move within the development.

Putting all of that together, allows you to master plan the development.

Why is important to look at all these facets of development compared to just putting up a piece of real estate?

You do not want to put up a development where your infrastructure is not up to par with your housing or there is an amenity that is not there to cater for the needs of the residents. 

Superior Homes' Pazuri in Vipingo. [File, Standard]

Or there is a use that is not well defined and brought out clearly within the development. You need to start thinking about a lot of these things many years in advance so that you put in place the right structure in planning to be able to achieve them as you get there.

What is the process then of coming up with a master plan?

Usually, we get a land parcel, we look at the surrounding area and the site to figure out what is the best type of housing that would fit on that development. 

We then do our house types then get our house footprints which will help us define the plot size that we will offer.

We then do a topographical survey of the land so that we can understand the controls and the slopes. Based on that we then start with an initial road design.

Once you have your roads, you then fit in all, your houses based on the plot sizes. You then incorporate all your amenities within the development.

From there you continue to refine until you have a master plan that you think works and can deliver a solution.

At what stage does the developer come in?

Even before we start the master planning process with our master planners, the developer will write a brief and say; based on what we understand, this is what we want you to develop for us.

You can’t just give someone a blind canvas, you need to guide them in that direction because as the developer, you know what the market wants.

Do you then go out into the market to do research?

Research is the key thing. We go out in the market, look at what is selling and why are they selling, what’s the design, how many rooms, how many square metres, what is the feedback, what are the amenities, what are they charging as service charge.

And we can then look at it and say: “I don’t agree with the market but in most cases, the market is telling me something.” Actually, in all cases, the market will ultimately tell you.  

Superior Homes' GreenPark Estate in Athi River. [File, Standard]

How different is one master plan to the next?

Master plans are very different because they are often in land parcels that are different from each other and in different locations.

The locations then determine the type of houses you build, and the density that you build at – which is the most important thing; are you doing five units to the acre, three units to the acre or seven units to the acre – as it determines the size of the house, how many amenities you need to put.

If there are amenities nearby you may not have to put that many and if not, then you need to think about it.

It is also dependent on the infrastructure - Is there a sewer, water, and power? if not, how many transformers are needed, how is the flow of traffic and also, how will sustainability be incorporated into the development?

How is the demand for master planned developments?

Demand is dependent on location. Superior Homes has a good grounding in delivering quality and well-thought-out master plans with good rules and regulations that govern the estate so, we see good demand for our developments.

Is there a role master planning can play in affordable housing?

Of course. The whole point of affordable housing is not just building the houses. It is thinking about how the people move, how they interact, what amenities will they need, what are the rules and regulations in the estate, and what are areas to consider owing that you will have so many people in one place. It is all of these things which are symbiotic to the development.