Master Planning: How to Master your Master Plan

Aug 18, 2021 | Master Planning

Master Planning Benefits Chart

By definition, a master plan is a dynamic planning tool to assist with space optimization, promoting a unified vision, and developing effective prioritization for future improvements. What often makes this process difficult is forcing our minds to think broadly and concentrating on a set of projects rather than a single project. But with a clearly defined vision, your master plan will become a rewarding contract and roadmap between many interested parties.


As with any multi-facility owner, developing an effective master plan is vital in paving the way for future development decisions. A long-term planning tool, such as a master plan, is a living document and forever fluid – never static.

Depending on the owner and what they are attempting to accomplish, master plans should be updated monthly as specific new ideas are presented. Every five years or so, the plan requires comprehensive updating to evaluate how the new ideas impact the overall priority of improvements.

Information collected from your design/planning team and the owner should be analyzed in a general-to-specific manner. Often, we are drawn to the details before looking at the bigger picture due to some personal connection to what is specific. Good planning comes from first studying from 30,000 feet or in a macro sense before organizing the micro.

If the general-to-specific mindset is practiced, long-term goals will receive the correct order-of-go or priority, which will offer the most cost-effective development improvements.

Cleveland Fire Station 7.13.21
Stakeholders Diagram

Who Are Your Stakeholders?

Master planning, if performed correctly, is a collective culmination of several stakeholders. A multi-facility owner often depends on these key members to assist with identifying future improvements and the effect on their community.

A list of stakeholders includes, but is not limited to, municipalities, first responders, realtors, financial institutions, residents, and the owner’s end users.

How important are the correct stakeholders? Without their involvement, you risk alienating potential partners. With their involvement, you’re showing respect for their opinion, which almost always leads to buy-in.

This buy-in is often instrumental in advancing your master plan if it requires a successful voted referendum.

Common Use Hubs

As multi-facility owners experience growth with their organizations and campuses, they quickly learn the most important commodity is real estate. Once a property becomes scarce, there are only two options – become more efficient with the use of land or purchase more property.

Although property acquisition is not always the most popular option, adjacent properties should always be candidates for future consideration. The second option is to identify common uses and then consolidate those like-functions near each other in “common use hubs.”

This will increase the efficiency of operations and maximize the use of an owner’s property. Once like-functions become commonly located, it’s then time to consider “proximity relationships” – what functions are more useful in close proximity to one another?

Effective proximity relationships ultimately become the impetus for vehicular and pedestrian traffic pathways.

Common Use Areas
Rain Garden Diagram with Callouts

Hardscape Vs. Softscape

Now that we have considered buildings and circulation paths for your master plan, we can continue the general-to-specific thought process by looking into the details – hardscape vs. softscape and site infrastructure.

There can be only so much building and paved surface before we consider stormwater collection and containment. If you’re looking to depend on municipal systems to discharge stormwater from your site, be sure to verify that your local government’s system is sized appropriately to accommodate run-off from your development.

Hardscape or artificial features should be blended with softscape or vegetation to soften the built environment. With adequate amounts of vegetation, surface temperatures lower, oxygen production from plant life occurs, and stormwater collection improves – not to mention vegetation provides something nicer to look at with grasses, shrubs, and trees.

Beneath The Surface

Last but certainly not least, we often forget what we cannot see. Beneath a campus of buildings, roads, and walkways are a myriad of site utilities connecting every facet of your property. Even though we can’t physically see them, underground power, plumbing and technology take a tremendous amount of planning to provide proper site lighting, irrigation, and internet service to every facility. Be sure to contact your utility companies early in the design process for assistance with primary infrastructure needs. Remember your project could be one of many utility requests in your area.

CARMI Design Group can maximize the dollars spent on your next development. If you’re looking for assistance with organizing your general-to-specific thoughts and providing an order-of-go priority for your organization’s master plan, contact CARMI today.