In tandem with entitlement research, it is often prudent to initiate capacity studies. These studies - which are responsive to the entitlement research - explore the physical capacity of a given site to accommodate and optimize the project's program. In the most prosaic terms, the capacity study shows what will fit on the site.
Prior to embarking on a project which requires a large commitment of resources, it is imperative that client and architect develop a comprehensive understanding of entitlement constraints and obstacles to a project's development - zoning and building codes, governing commissions, local design guidelines, stakeholders, utilities, and existing conditions on (and below) the ground. Through these entitlement reviews, client and architect are prepared to explore the physical potentials of a site while being responsive to as many codified and/or obviously-political requirements as possible.
Entitlement Review and Capacity Studies are often combined in a single phase. They are a highly economical way to explore a project without deep initial commitments on the part of either client or architect. This phase can also be an opportunity for client and architect to become comfortable with each others' values and their working relationship.
A more robust master plan may be required for larger projects in instances where:
Zoning or planning codes require.
Institutional regulations mandate.
Phased funding and multi-year construction requires comprehensive planning.
In the case of a master plan, careful construction of a highly detailed task and work plan - collaboratively between client and planner | architect -is the best mutual assurance that a fair and efficient process will result.
This work plan should include an understanding of targeted master plan deliverables, as well as allowances for contingencies and unknowns, such as an agreed-upon number of assumed public meetings and presentations.
An additional important consideration in a master plan is its potential to assist in ongoing fund-raising for an institution. Where this is the case, a master plan may be best accompanied by collateral envisioning materials such as interpretive aerial sketches or renderings of the completed project.