Cascadia Partners works with city governments to evaluate their land use and zoning policies in order to address the housing crisis. They also work with cities to create inspiring, yet realistic visions for publicly owned sites. By assessing current zoning rules and their impact on housing production and affordability, Cascadia helps cities reshape their policies to encourage housing development and more affordable housing.
Inaccurate and Inefficient Building Modeling
Before adopting TestFit, Cascadia relied on spreadsheet-based building modeling to estimate site capacities and the feasibility of different typologies. While useful for approximating site potential, they always knew that method was less precise than a building model because of the complexity of building geometry.
On top of that, to visualize what these potential buildings would look like, they had to create a SketchUp model for each alternative, requiring up to 2 hours ($300) each. For a land use analysis like the 10 prototypes above, that’s 20 billable hours ($6,000) of modeling time that could be spent on higher-value activities.
Finding the Most Comprehensive Tool for Site Analysis
Jamin Kimmell, Partner at Cascadia Partners, decided to explore TestFit as a potential solution to their challenges. The team at TestFit demonstrated the product and helped them understand the software's capabilities and how it could fill the gaps in their current tools.
To start, TestFit offers more accurate estimation of site capacity and building feasibility, providing real-time financial data and quantity takeoffs. In the housing modeling below, completed for the City of Lebanon, Oregon, Cascadia was able to reduce the minimum feasible price of housing by 28% while fitting 2x more units per acre. This type of analysis helps city planners see the impact of their zoning code on real life housing affordability challenges.
3x Iterations to Win More RFPs
With TestFit’s real-time AI configurators, the Cascadia team is able to generate more iterations within the set budget provided by the city. This allows them to include more alternatives in their proposals, resulting in more winning projects.
Since they have significantly reduced the time spent on creating models, they can allocate more resources to enhancing the overall quality of their work. With the ability to control each variable in TestFit, they can easily test out different scenarios based on different zoning parameters and come up with the best result.
This competitive advantage not only helps them win more RFPs, but also increases the likelihood of receiving follow-up work due to the higher satisfaction levels of their clients. As a consulting firm, this is highly beneficial, as it reduces the cost and effort associated with responding to proposals—averaging a saving of $5,000 per project.
Unexpected Outcome: Better Relationships
Jamin found that TestFit has the potential to improve the relationship between developers and city planners. There is a lot of stigma between the two stakeholders, especially when it comes to balancing development feasibility and community impacts.
Using TestFit, Cascadia was able to clearly translate the rule of what’s allowed to be built to what’s actually likely to be built. This helps the team come up with code solutions that are both beneficial to the developers and the community.
For example, in a code audit with the City of Lincoln California above, Cascadia was able to provide an alternative code that results in a rate of return at nearly 10% for developers and a 7% reduction in rent for the community.
Openness Leads to Innovation
Unlike other specialized planning consulting firms, Cascadia Partners integrates different perspectives and expertise into their planning process, such as in-depth public engagement, land use planning, and real estate economics. This openness to new ideas is what got them to try out new software like TestFit, and will continue to push the company forward as an innovator and leader in urban planning.