FirstLook - a new innovative digital platform for preliminary site risk screening

FirstLook - a new innovative digital platform for preliminary site risk screening

As New Zealand’s population continues to grow, developers and landowners have a strong incentive to invest in large residential and new commercial development portfolios. While construction moves ahead at a rapid pace once shovels are in the ground, projects can incur substantial costs and delays if potential development risks are not identified early.

The trend towards land intensification and construction on brownfield sites is common as we strive to create connected communities and reduce the potential for sprawling cities. Most ‘easy’ sites have already been developed and the remaining available land often comes with constraints and challenges to overcome before new housing or urban developments can be delivered.

In the present buoyant market, developers often have multiple sites under consideration and decisions on which sites to develop and when to develop are often made based on preliminary screening of the land. Potential risks such as geotechnical, contamination, consent planning, flooding or ecological significance are often critical in determining if or when a site is suitable for investment. Lengthy and often expensive pre-purchase assessments are often completed when cashflow is low and funding is not necessarily secured.

Firstlook, an innovative and unique new desktop tool from T+T, streamlines and simplifies preliminary site risk screening. In very basic terms, Firstlook takes a ‘first look’ at the site, screens it against a multitude of hazards, assigns a risk score to the site based on those hazards, and generates a report in an easy-to-read browser-based format. It reduces the time and cost of preliminary screening and enables developers to make faster and better-informed decisions so they can advance to the next stage of assessment and development with confidence.

The apparent simplicity of Firstlook belies the real power and benefits of the tool. Developed in conjunction with a major land developer who wanted a faster and easier way to do preliminary site assessments, Firstlook interrogates the extensive T+T geotechnical database along with both Council and NZ Geotechnical Database (NZGD) sources.

Each site is analysed using a sophisticated multi-criteria screening of hazards and a risk profiling algorithm developed by T+T specialists to provide comparable risk profiles and therefore screening of multiple sites.

Hazards are weighted and assessed according to the quality of the data source and risk, with ‘showstopper’ hazards such as flooding or land instability given a higher weighting to reflect their elevated consequence, which in turn returns a higher overall risk score. The browser-based portal enables users to compare risks filtered on discipline or individual hazards such as the risk of asbestos in the soil or the presence of an ecologically significant area.

The output – a report that uses a traffic light colour approach to present the hazards.

Firstlook makes it easier and faster for developers to make site business investment decisions. Sites can easily be categorised into high and low-risk sites with just a few simple mouse clicks, which means a site with fewer identified issues can be investigated and developed sooner. Furthermore, Firstlook utilises algorithms to provide a measured and consistent result, removing the potential for human bias and inconsistent reviewers as a high level FirstLook at sites.

Firstlook is further refined and updated as more data becomes available. Its framework is agile and can easily accommodate your requirements by introducing bespoke definitions of hazards, score calculations and choice of GIS data.

If you think FirstLook would help with your site screening process, please get in touch with Senior Geotechnical Engineer, Karin Speight.