The availability of highly accurate and frequently updated aerial imagery online is having a transformative impact on myriad facets of the property development sector.
Jim Karakatsanakis, senior project manager of LWP Property Group, said aerial imagery technology provided by companies such as NearMap has impacted a multitude of functions in the property development business.
“All of our consultants are now using this technology, including the planners, engineers and landscape architects, as well as our own internal project managers, acquisition personnel, marketing department, sales staff, building coordinators and design guidelines administrators,” he said.
“It has to a definite extent revolutionised the way we do things, by cutting down on time as well as visits to sites.”
According to Karakatsanakis, aerial imagery is beneficial due to both accuracy and the frequency of updates, resulting in improved work quality while simultaneously achieving a dramatic reduction in the time required for project delivery.
“While programs like NearMap provide a variety of tool and features, the biggest advantage is the imagery itself, and the fact that it’s updated on a regular basis," he said. “This has improved the quality of the work done by our consultants significantly – both in terms of the fact that they’re using the latest imagery and not what was taken five years ago, and the speed with which they complete the tasks we give them.
“They don’t have to go our themselves and measure a site – they can do it all from their desktop. We’re now seeing work come back in a couple of hours that would normally take a week or two.”
Karakatsanakis also points to the advantages that the use of aerial surveillance provides to a broad range of LWP Property's in-house operations, from project management to acquisitions and marketing, to building coordination and design guideline administration.
“In my role as project manager, I use it largely to check on progress,” he said. “When you’re building a whole new town, things happen quite quickly, so month to month streets and parks have popped up that weren’t there a month earlier.
“The frequency of updates make a huge difference when it comes to checking on progress and making sure everything is moving to the right timeline.”
Karakatsanakis also uses software tools for analysing aerial imagery to track and verify the work conducted by contractors.
“For instance if they have to move a pile of sand, and they’re telling me it took them two days to move 20 truckloads, I can actually use the measurement tool to get a rough estimate of how big the stockpile was and are they telling me the truth,” he said.
Advanced software tools used to augment imagery acquired by means of aerial surveillance has proven immensely useful for LWP Property’s acquisitions team.
“The acquisitions department uses Nearmap’s software features to show how land is encumbered,” Karakatsanakis said. “For example if we are looking at buying some land for urban development, we can bring up the fire protection areas that might impede the project, or display wetlands straight away, as well as get information on what type of vegetation is on the site.
“Again, just getting the latest information all from your desktop saves a lot of saves a lot of time, and helps you perform a more accurate assessment.”
The high quality of aerial surveillance imagery also helps sales personnel to vend real estate to prospective buyers.
“The technology helps our sales team out quite a bit, enabling them to show customers the site that they’re about to sign up for,” Karakatsanakis said. “From the sales office, which is 10 kilometres away from the site that they’re buying, they can bring up the imagery, show the customer where the site is, as well as proximity to schools and other amenities.”
Once projects get off the ground, aerial surveillance technology is tremendously helpful when it comes to building coordination, and in ensuring that the disparate parts of a large master plan development are coming on line as originally scheduled.
“The building coordination department use aerial surveillance for checking on whether houses are started, because when we sell land on the condition that people will build on it within two years," Karakatsanakis said. “While previously we had to go out every couple of weeks to make a note of which ones have started and which ones haven’t, now this information is all online.”
The backlog of highly detailed, regularly updated imagery provided by aerial imagery platforms is also of benefit once construction finishes and residents move in, as it permits more expeditious handling of commonplace procedures such as consumer complaints.
“As you can imagine, when you have 25,000 residents living a development, you will have a few people calling up to complain about things broken footpaths or neighbours building a shed in their backyard,” Karakatsanakis said.
“We can now check all these things using online aerial surveillance imagery. The historical aspect of the photos is particularly handy, as it can help us verify when something like a footpath was broken in order to help ascertain the cause.”