planning narrative & flexibility study in China

Because most of Chinese developers are inexperienced in master planning of large scale developments like a resort, nor do they know how the international resort section works, most of the time they expect our master planner and architects to do their work before any solid flexibility study and market analysis. So before we provide any concept the planner is expected to do some basic flexibility study to avoid waste time. Here below is an example:
1. Pls use the format of Q & A (Question and Answer) to write your market analysis as a planner hired for this project.
Why? Because we need to assume our client is lack of experience and knowledge to see every point you make. If you ask a question on behalf of the client, and answer it yourself as a planner/architect, your points cannot be missed/ignored. The client will not have excuse to ask you to revise your plans without paying you in extra.
This format is proved to be more effective/clearer than a typical narrative. For example:

Question (by the client): Do you think, based on your concept, we will be able to meet the F.A.R. goal? (F.A.R.=Floor Area Ratio, it’s a very important goal for projects in China where the buildable land is very expensive.)
Answer (by you): Yes, we are suggesting a large underground public garage to leave more land for buildings and gardens/lawns. So our concept looks loose but the F.A.R. requirement will be met.
Question: What sustainability technology are you suggesting to apply in our project?
2. Pls try to ask questions on behalf of either the client or a potential Chinese customer/buyer, think about all the possible questions they may have when they review your plans.
This will help you to fully understand China, the client, the potential customers’ needs, so that you know how to avoid possible problems/issues in the future. Do not expect the client tells you all the requirements in advance. Because in China they expect you, a professional planner/designer they hired and paid a lot of money, know all the requirements of potential buyers/homeowners/hotel guests, and remind them. Not the other way around. So this step is very important but sadly most of the planners we work with would not want to do this.
Here is an example:
Question (by a potential buyer of home): I only have one child, why do I need so many bedrooms?
Answer (by the planner and architect): We are suggesting one guest bedroom for the grandparents, the other guest bedroom for relatives of the family. Other bedrooms are actually multi-functional rooms which can be designed by the interior designer as art studio/music room/study/workshop, etc.
3. List all the points that you are confused about the client’s instructions/analysis/requirements before you write down your thoughts, and send them to the client to answer before you submit any plans/concepts/analysis. Also, if you disagree with the client regarding some points they make, pls write them down and send to the client, asking them to confirm in writing that they acknowledge the points/issues and they will not ask you to revise your plans if they later find out they are wrong. Do not write a bunch of emails whenever you found them. Make it serious as most of the questions will need to be answered by the chairman of the client and they seldom touch the computer. For example:
Questions from the architect:

  • How many entries do you expect for this community to have, according to the codes and your experience? only 2, or 3, or even 4?
  • Have you claimed the land from the government yet?
  • Would you like us to produce a fly over using Sketchup to impress the government?

beautiful.yunnan.mountain4. The following are the questions from Amasia and the LDI friend, regarding a resort called Longqigu in Yunnan Province. We are suggesting the master planner to write them down, and answer them one by one. Such questions and answers will be the main part of the first narrative of master planning.
They are just examples.
a. Do you believe the site is enough to develop a boutique hotel, a Five Star hotel, and residential community for seniors?
b. Would you put a boutique hotel there if you are the developer? Or you think it will be too risky to invest in a super-luxury very low density boutique hotel.
c. Would you put a Five Star hotel there if you are the developer? List the hotel brands that you think appropriate.
d. If your parents in the USA are going to retire soon, or just retired, will you recommend our project to them? What would you like them to tell them? The nice weather? The beautiful landscape? Low cost of living? Nice architecture? What will be attractive to them?
e. If a Chinese government is going to hold a conference in a hotel, do you know how much they are allowed to spend per day? It’s $25 a day, do you think we should try to develop conference facility and hotel to accomodate them? If yes, what are they?
f. The FOUR Groups of our targeted market is: seniors, tourists for vacations, conference, and training. Which group do you think more likely to become our major market? Which are less likely to bring us good cash flow?
g. Do you suggest the Owner to consider other markets? If yes, what are they?
(Suggestions: corporations may want to own a corporate clubhouse here, a place for their employees to enjoy a vacation, or the company can come here to have an executive level meeting, etc. Some companies may want to work here, like researchers, writers, artists, designers, etc. International academic conferences/training, etc.)
h. If you are going to make a decision on behalf of a Chinese friend’s family, to rent a place for their parents here. What aspects would you consider? If they are going to rent a room or suite and live here for, say 10 years, how big do you think it should be? Would you like to have a living room of your own or you would rather pay less and share the living room with other residents? What facilities would be necessary?
i. What are your ideas for the use of the three hills? How would you like to use them?
j. Some think the cottages on the hill should be just one storey, so that the beauty of the hills are not badly destroyed, what do you think?
k. How many GFA do you plan to achieve on the two larger hills?
l. About the idea of hotel rooms inside the body of the mountain, how many of them would be appropriate, why?
m. Do you think it would be expensive to make those cave hotel rooms? Would it be expensive to operate?
n. Which option do you prefer in terms of planning? A village with all the building attached to/close to each other, and sharing large gardens/ponds; or, all the buildings are spreading out, each building has its own gardens. Why do you prefer that one? Which one would bring us more profit?
o. If you can choose, on behalf of a Chinese friend, to spend 200Yuan per night to rent an apartment on the 10the floor of an apartment building or above, with great view to the mountains, or you spend 800Yuan per night to rent a room in a house with its own garden, and their living conditions would be similar, sam size, etc. which would you choose?
p. If are going to organize a training in our resort, for your Chinese friend’s company, what would you like the resort to have? What do you care the most?
q. If the Owner insists to build a boutique hotel in this property, which location would be appropriate? How /in what form can we make the hotel as unique/successful as a boutique hotel?
r. Is there any way that we can just use the so called boutique hotel facility to attract attention of the market, and to improve the quality of the entire project, but we do not need to spend a lot of money/energy on it? For example, make the size small enough to reduce the risk? How big would be appropriate/less risky?
You normally do not do this part of work as an architect/planner, but answering these questions will make your planning work easier I believe.