A construction project is a big commitment financially and logistically. In addition to San Francisco’s skyrocketing housing costs, renovating or adding rooms can bring even more steps to an already complicated process. At this moment, based on a quick Zillow search, there are over 1200 properties available for investment, making feasibility studies virtually impossible. Not only is it a time consuming process, but it can be an expensive one as well.
There are 4 distinct phases to a construction project - Planning, Design, Permitting, and Construction. The planning phase is one of the most confusing - obtaining all the information needed to begin a project is an extensive and exhaustive process. Whether it be zoning laws, finding the best contractor, or getting a price estimate, the information you need is currently hard to find. The planning process today usually takes 2-3 months and $1,500-$2,000 in fees, often times as a result of roadblocks due to insufficient information.
At present, there are no tools on the market that allow for a potential or current homeowner easily to obtain the information and cost estimates needed to start their home renovation project. With ArchiTech, we have created a direct-to-consumer platform that brings together all the information you need to make a qualified decision on your project.
What it does
ArchiTech leverages publicly available data to run zoning analysis scenarios on the property. The analysis you choose, whether it be adding rooms to the existing property or creating a new building altogether, will result in a budget and timeline estimate, permit requirements, and team recommendations. The tool allows you to enter your address, and pulls from the public database to provide information (e.g. lot size, zoning laws) and a 3D view of the current property with the option to overlay additional rooms or view a new property.
ArchiTech enables developers, investors, real estate agents, and the most important consumer - you - to run feasibility studies in just a few minutes and at a fraction of the cost. With ArchiTech, we can evaluate 1,200 properties in just 2 weeks, a significant step up from the current estimated time.
How we built it
San Francisco and a few other cities have an open spatial housing database and APIs to work with. The free planning information is also available under SF Property Information Map. We curated this raw data and used QGIS to assign attributes to the properties. Based on local code regulations and planning department restrictions, QGIS manipulates the data to add components to the existing buildings, or creates new buildings. The curated data is imported to the MapBox API in geojson format. This API then eventually renders a 3D modelled graphic representation of additional components that can be added to a particular building. The 3D modeling is carefully done by adding multiple layers to a base map, each one using mathematical manipulations of the data obtained from QGIS. This map is finally exported onto the web using a front end React web application.
Challenges we ran into
You know that web app you wanted with the 5000 functionalities? Well, it’s hard to do all of it in 48 hours. We also had some challenges figuring out the scope of the project - we had a lot of ambitious ideas that we had to prioritize what was important and doable for 48 hours. A big challenge was to curate the GIS data provided by the city of San Francisco in order to create survey grade plans of the existing buildings. Normally, a surveyor would be commissioned to go on-site to measure the lot, but we were able to work with GIS data to generate site plans remotely. Taking a vision and designing, creating, and implementing it all into an end-to-end product was also a challenge.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We’re proud to be able to take raw data and ultimately output 3D images of an existing property, the property with additional rooms, and a new building that fits the regulations. We’re also really happy that we were able to successfully integrate the front-end and the back-end into a clean, cohesive web app.
What we learned
Crashing computers, broken chargers, QGIS, and broken code are all part of the experience. We learned a lot about the challenges of integrating everything into one platform, and translating design mockups/drawings into an actual website. Beyond the tech things, we also learned a lot about the architecture and the construction industry, since most of us are not experts in the field.
What's next for ArchiTech
We hope to add cost estimate, permitting, and team building capabilities next, and further expand on our project to make it applicable to real estate agents and brokers. We also hope to scale the tool up for construction projects beyond single-family homes in San Francisco.