How to fast-track feasibility phase collaboration with TestFit

In a perfect world, collaboration during the feasibility phase of site development would be easy. 

But in the real world, the developer, architect, and contractors often don’t have enough time or financial incentive to work deeply together. A critical factor is that the tools available in the market don’t allow them to move fast enough. 

🛑 The developer doesn’t have the luxury of weeks to make decisions on a new property – they need to know if this deal pencils or not quickly.

🛑 The architect needs to convert the Pro Forma into a viable spatial design that meets the site, and existing tools are highly manual.

🛑 The contractor doesn’t want to invest heavily in something that might not actually happen. But if this project does move ahead, they need to advise on cost and constructability rapidly.

In order to develop the right site plan quickly that will win that deal, you need the combined expertise of all three stakeholders. 

TestFit creates a space for stakeholders to come together to integrate those different pieces of knowledge. With all that expertise at the table, you’re able to iterate rapidly, make the most of every development dollar, and de-risk the development process.

Keep reading for a collaboration workflow with TestFit, plus some real-life examples of what successful collaboration looks like.

Fast-track your collaboration workflow with TestFit

A collaboration workflow with TestFit centers on the idea of Real Time Deal Prototyping (RTDP). Typically, this can be done from start to finish in under 1 hour.

Fig 1.0 – A feasibility phase collaboration workflow with TestFit.

1. Set up TestFit file with known constraints

First, the developer needs to set up a TestFit file with known deal and site constraints, such as land area, setbacks, zoning parameters, unit types, parking ratios, etc. You can check out our How to Use TestFit YouTube series to learn how.

Fig 2.0 – Mapping out site plans in TestFit.

TestFit’s Kit of Parts (KOP) allows the developer to constrain the test fitting process to their standard units. 

Fig 3.0 – Defining a TestFit Kit of Parts for using configurator 

With the constraints of the site, and the desired unit sizes, the team can now rapidly explore the potential approaches to development. 

2. Iterate live with stakeholders

This is where the magic happens! After the developer has input those site and deal constraints, the architect and contractor can join the fun.

Rather than a typical feasibility study workflow where design options can take up to 8 hours per solution, TestFit allows architects to generate and iterate through options in under 30 minutes.

Fig 4.0 – Rapid iterations exploring design options in TestFit by The Geyser Group.

From here, the contractor can give high-level feedback on the constructability of the proposed development approaches. They should also be able to improve hard cost assumptions with cost information that’s relevant to buildings in that area. 

One of the biggest benefits of collaborating in TestFit is that deal iterations happen in real time, so teams can instantly understand the tradeoffs between building program, cost, and building form. 

For example, with each new iteration:

  • The developer can see the yield on cost 💵
  • The architect can look at the spatial design in 3D 🏨
  • The contractor can track key quantity metrics 🏗️

Fig 5.0 – TestFit’s Development Panel tracks financials in real-time.

3. Agree on a layout and yield on cost estimate

After a round of rapid-fire iterations integrating the expertise of the developer, architect, and contractor, it’s time to commit to a winning site plan and fine-tune the deal.


The Tabulation tab on TestFit’s output panel provides key metrics for the contractor to estimate the cost of the deal. Expanding the tabulation will show instant takeoff calculations done by Test Fit.

Fig 6.0 – Track key quantities and takeoffs in TestFit’s tabulation tab.

The Deals Editor allows the developer to evaluate the costs and revenue from the TestFit. They can also add key data from the Pro Forma, such as assumed costs, targeted rents, or proposed land value, without giving too much information away.

Figure 7.0 – Evaluating costs and revenue in TestFit’s Deals Editor.

This is the sort of radical collaboration the TestFit enables –  everyone has access to the information they need to do their job, and can integrate their knowledge for effective collaboration. 

Ultimately, this leads to faster test fits, better investment decisions, and happier occupants.

Real-life examples of successful collaboration in the feasibility phase

We’ve covered the theory, but maybe you’re still wondering what happens when the rubber hits the road? Keep reading for real-life examples of successful collaboration on both multifamily and industrial deals.

Example 1. A large multifamily deal

Novin Development Corp., an affordable housing developer in Walnut Creek, CA, used TestFit to fast-track collaboration during the extremely competitive process of securing affordable housing subsidies. 

Faced with more than 30 prospective sites, the team used TestFit to move quickly through a collaborative decision-making process that led to a successful acquisition on an ideally suited site.

Figure 8.0 – An initial TestFit made by Novin Development Corp. for an affordable senior housing development.

After outlining initial estimates with TestFit takeoffs, Novin Development Corp. brought on an architect and contractor to validate pricing and give a more detailed estimate. This initial TestFit gave the architect a much more informed starting point to guide their initial design work, which really sped up their process. 

As soon as the site was under contract, the architect went straight into design work allowing the developer to demonstrate project readiness and compete for state funding ahead much faster.

Figure 9.0 – Rendering of 603 A Street in Hayward developed from the initial TestFit.

The team successfully secured $7.4m in State TOD funding, going from site plan to funding in just 2 months instead of the usual 6-8 months.  

You can read the full case study with Novin Development Corp to see their process in more detail.

Example 2. An industrial development deal

Industrial deals present a very different challenge to multifamily deals. Instead of looking at a building’s performance contextually on a site, you’re looking at how to solve a much larger logistics problem in how the building fits into a supply chain.

Figure 10.0 – Creating a site plan with TestFit Industrial.

TestFit Industrial can help with taking parcels of land and arriving quickly to a yes/no as to whether a viable facility can work on the site.

Seeing the trade-offs between layout and operating costs in TestFit in real-time brings immediate clarity to the architecture, developer, and construction teams.

Build an industrial site in seconds

Figure 11.0 – Test fitting an industrial site plan in real-time.  

With TestFit, the starting point for discussion between stakeholders happens in days, not weeks, allowing the developer to get to that site plan quicker. 

TestFit speeds up a very cumbersome process. [TestFit Industrial] helps to remove risk for developers during the site evaluation process. I believe TestFit is on its way to becoming the standard bearer for go/no-go decisions regarding the early financial wherewithal of a development deal.

Mike Jones, Executive, Pankow Builders

Benefits of feasibility phase collaboration you can’t afford to miss

With so much at stake at the feasibility stage, fast and effective collaboration is vital. Any time wasted on a no-go site is an opportunity cost for all stakeholders. 

Here are some of the key benefits of feasibility phase collaboration you can’t afford to miss out on: 

👍 Developers de-risk their development decisions by bringing in the expertise of their architect and contractor earlier.

👍 Architects are able to deliver better design services faster. That competitive edge means everything when pursuing new work.

👍 Contractors can find a simpler path to an estimate with a better understanding of the tradeoffs between the Pro Forma, design, and costs.

Better collaboration in feasibility really is possible! If you’re ready to start TestFitting, you can book a demo with a TestFit specialist or try TestFit out for yourself.

Why Developers Need to Consider Energy Use

This guest blog post was authored by the cove.tool team. Visit their website to discover more or check out our integration.

Importance of Energy Use Intensity (EUI)

Energy Use Intensity (EUI) is a useful metric to compare the performance of buildings across different types, locations and sizes. Think of it as a score to measure the fitness of your building once tenants occupy a space. Simply put, EUI measures the energy efficiency of a building. In general, a lower EUI is an indicator of better performance, which can translate to multiple benefits for developers. For example, higher performance buildings can generally command a higher sale price, a quicker sale, and potentially lower design and construction costs. 

Factors like building assembly, glazing percentages, active and passive design strategies implemented, and loads, can contribute to building owners and tenants paying millions more annually. By knowing the EUI values of design decisions and other iterations, developers can get the best value for a building’s performance.

Site EUI versus Source EUI

There are two different EUI types as it relates to construction. Site EUI is most often a term you will hear in design circles. It is related to the actual energy consumption on a building site, including items such as heating and electricity. Owners see these costs in utility bills or through metering. 

Source EUI is considered a more accurate representation of the energy footprint of a building as it takes more than an electricity bill into account. It also factors a site’s energy consumption and losses due to production, transportation, and delivery to the site. 

Calculating EUI

Primarily used to measure commercial building energy use, there is no one size fits all approach to calculate EUI. For example, energy consumption is not only related to the output of utilities, such as electricity use and fans. It is also affected by the building’s location. 

The first step in calculating EUI is determining how much energy your building uses on an annual basis. Once you have the number handy, divide it by your building’s total square footage. The results are the energy use of the building, per square foot of space. As a next step, calculate EUI by dividing gross energy used in a year, expressed in kilowatt-hour or kilo-British Thermal Units (kBTUs), over the total square footage of the building. 

This provides the big picture on efficiency efforts and identifies areas for improvement. Different structures have different EUIs, and they can vary widely based on the type of building. For example, the EUI of a medical facility will have a higher EUI than a small office or suburban home. This is because of high energy consumption of interior lights, with some running seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, and demands of equipment throughout facilities. 

EUI and Energy Modeling

An energy model can be used to calculate EUI. It uses a series of equations to calculate the heat flow into and out of a building, and measures the amount of energy that must be expended in order to maintain the ideal level of indoor comfort.

This method is useful for new builds and retrofit projects. Performing analysis leads to a reduction in operating costs and improves the tenant experience. Energy modeling is also becoming more commonplace with developers because of the positive impact it can have on improving existing building performance. It is also critical in the design of high-performance buildings. 

Unpacking the Value of EUI for Developers

Savings Associated with Design and Construction Costs

Using EUI as a baseline comparison metric can help developers validate design strategies early to avoid costly changes later. This is key to helping projects stay within budget and on schedule. Considering the full lifecycle of a project, the ability to impact cost and building performance is at its peak at the very beginning when the costs of making major design changes are still relatively low. By conducting early analysis, including calculating metrics like EUI, developers can reap the benefits of increased profits through minimizing design revisions at the later phase of their project.

Increased Asset Value

Since EUI is often used as a benchmark metric to evaluate compliance against energy code compliance, it’s worth noting that studies have shown that green building certifications increase the attractiveness of a property to potential stakeholders. Owners enjoy the benefits of lower operating and maintenance costs, compliance with legislation and CSR requirements, slower depreciation, and increased occupancy rates. Likewise, tenants report increased productivity and increased perception of health and well-being.

Reduced Operating and Maintenance Costs

As energy prices rise, operational energy efficiency will likely become one of the more important drivers for occupier demand. Higher performance buildings have been proven to save money through reduced energy and water use and lower long-term operation and maintenance costs, which overtime, typically result in savings that exceed any design and construction cost premiums. High performance buildings also enjoy the benefit of more efficient maintenance requirements, reducing overall lifecycle costs. Also consider that the United States Department of Energy shared that 30% of energy in commercial buildings ends up going to waste because it is not consumed. EUI considerations can prevent energy waste and reduce costs.

Staying Ahead of the Conversation

Another reason developers should consider building energy consumption and EUI is a shift in the AEC industry driven in part by changing regulation. Energy codes around the world are reducing energy targets to net zero energy use by 2030. 

And with the signing of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, there’s also renewed growth and opportunity in the U.S. for the renewable energy sector that will impact development. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding and State Energy Program (SEP) funding will help states adopt and implement building energy codes. The investment provides an important opportunity for architects, engineers, and contractors to leverage the grants to encourage widespread sustainable design practices. The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (ASHRAE), among other organizations, are expected to update their codes in 2022. ASHRAE 90.1 will push the minimum requirements higher based on the affordability of new technologies and techniques and be further encouraged by the bill’s initiatives. While standards vary between states, several counties have updated their code requirements throughout the years, creating a new sense of urgency that will have an indelible impact on future development. 

57 TestFit tips, tricks & hacks to become a power user

Here at TestFit, I get to show brand-new clients and existing ones how to get the most out of TestFit. I always try to teach something new, so in that spirit, here is The Ultimate collection of some of our most popular how-to’s, tricks, and a few straight up dirty hacks. 

There’s a lot to unpack, so you can skip ahead using this table of contents 👇

Table of Contents

Preferences & shortcuts

  1. Enable large sites (over 10 acres) in Preferences.
Enable Large Site

2. Embed images within a TestFit file (perhaps to share with someone else) by enabling Embed Images in Preferences.

Embed images

3. Adjust size of text/buttons with UI scaling in Preferences.

UI scaling

4. Press “A” to turn on align drawing when defining sites and drawing massings.

Align drawing

5. Hit Escape within the editors (Building, Deals, Units) to go back a screen.

ESC to go back

6. Click the 4-way arrow to fit the building to your TestFit window. Handy when needing to zoom back out.

4-way arrow

The basics

7. Change what floor you’re on by either clicking or using your mouse’s scroll wheel over the elevator tab on the far right-hand side.

Scroll mouse wheel

8. Enable context buildings around your site by clicking on the icon that looks like a house.

Enable context

9. Use the 3D Tab in top left or the 3D box icon towards the bottom of the screen to switch from plan view to 3D view.

10. Add underlays of sketches or property lines (surveys etc) by hitting “Add background image”.

Background Image

Set up tips

11. When pulling up a site, you can type in lat/lon coordinates of the site or the address as needed.

Address or coordinates

12. You can adjust property lines after you’ve drawn them by clicking and dragging the vertex.

Dragging vertex

13. Hold Shift while hovering over a site line to add another vertex (point you can drag).

Add prop point

14. Hold Shift while hovering over a setback will enable you to create a setback on the floor level you are on (allowing multiple setbacks at height).

15. When defining a property line, you can input a specific length immediately after dropping the first point by clicking the point and then typing your desired length.

16. Rotate a site/background image by right clicking on the control node and rotating. Bonus tip: this works for embedded unit plans too!

Right-click Rotate site

Roads tips

17. Create a closed loop with roads to define a site.

Closed loop road - create site

18. Right-click on a road segment to add another point that will act as a vertex you can drag.

Right-Click add road point

19. Curve a road by grabbing the midpoint and stretching the direction you want the road to bend.

Road bender

20. Note that TestFit allows a maximum of 16 roads to be drawn. BUT – each road drawn can have 16 segments. A segment is a part of the road between two points. So by maximizing your use of points, you could, in theory, have 256 roads! You can add points to existing roads once you have hit the maximum

21. When editing a road section, click and drag the (3-line button on the left hand) up/down to change its placement within the street section.

Drag line to edit road section

Massing tips

22. Enable balconies into setbacks to increase density to allow for projections over setbacks. You can find this in the Site tab.

Balcony into setback

23. Use void spaces for rooftop decks.

Voids for decks

Options & Schemes

24. Don’t like the first version of the test fit? Cycle through Options to find one that appeals more.

Click through options

25. Save a first version as a scheme, and compare design and core metrics to subsequent designs.

Saving Schemes

26. Filter through schemes by defining a min / max under the desired column within the Schemes tab.

Filtering Schemes

Unit tips

27. Use dynamic units in the beginning to easily adjust your depth instead of jumping straight into custom units that would need their depths individually adjusted.

Adjusting dynamic units

28. You can copy/paste between unit databases.

copy paste units between databases

29. Use Define in the dynamic units to adjust the dynamic unit names / abbreviations / bed & bath quantities / colors

Adjust dynamic names and colors

30. Change unit type in the dynamic unit editor from units, to modules, to hotel keys.

30 - chaning unit category

31. Adjust angular flex in units to fill oddly angled units.

Adjust angular flex

Exporting

32. When exporting a file (pdf, dxf, skp,) selecting one site will only export info for that one site. You will need to click on ALL (or select outside the site) to export the entire main plan.

selecting site for export - part 1
Part 1
selecting site for export part 2
Part 2

Manual Mode tips

33. The orange circle lets you move the node by clicking and dragging.

orange circle moves node

34. Drawing between the orange and gray circle adds another segments to the road/building.

Adding more road segments

35. Hover over an intersection and right-click remove to remove both segments.

hover over intersection

35. Pull the manual mode segment past the property line to override a snap you don’t like. TestFit will clip out what is past the site lines when you finish editing in manual mode.

Override snaps

36. Click the M button or Solve to finish editing manual mode.

Finish editing manual mode

Parking tips

37. Enable max run for surface parking lots to add landscape buffers between stalls.

Max run surface lot

38. Enable column buffer for podium projects.

enable column buffer garage

39. Right click when defining a podium rect garage on the site to rotate its orientation and adjust its placement. The outer orange offset while defining is the depth of a single-loaded corridor.

Rotate rectangular garage

Deals

40. Deals can be applied PER site and viewed overall as a main plan.

Deal per site

41. Each site can have its own deal metrics depending on building construction style by saving each building’s deal.

defining cost per type

Visualization tips

42. Enable multiple shadows for viewing overlapping shadows.

Enable multiple shadows

43. Shadows saved between views can be saved to export for shadow studies.

Shadow Study between views

44. Save views using the + button.

Save view

45. Try Enscape in TestFit

Straight up dirty hacks

46. Create a 2’ wide road (remove alley and take it down) to divide a site into more sites without actual roads.

Divide a site into more sites

47. Use the easements tool to adjust podium building massing without going into massing mode.

Easements for Podiums

48. Use easements for pushing the algorithm to show a particular layout (massing for podiums or allocation of garden apartments).

garden easement massing help

49. Copy a site into two sites for more complex stacking of units. (Site a = level 1-5, Site B = 6-10).

Complex stacking of units

50. Mix hotel and residential on the same podium building in this super hacky hack. Warning: multiple steps, not for the faint of heart!

  • Podium Fill preset. Pick the units you’d like to use.
  • Draw in manual mode where you’d like units on top of the garage.
  • Once drawn, adjust the PROPERTY line to ½ of the garage.
  • Draw another property line in the other half.
  • Disable parking.
  • Create a VOID SPACE on the first two levels. (Tip, set area to 50,000 SF).
  • Draw the location of the second unit type. 

51. Defining a location for a building (usually in a corner) and using another site to create the parking layout – typically used for surface parking if first results aren’t quite what you want.

52. Use the property lines to manipulate massing for pointy podium garages, essentially blunting the edge.

53. Create a speed ramp by adjusting the ramp percentage, then fill both sides of the ramp with a single loaded space to remove the parking stalls.

speed ramp garage

Clifton's corner

Finally, we leave you with a few bonus tips from our CEO.

54. TestFit ships with Dark mode as a default. Check out how to activate Light mode.

Activate light mode

55. Flick while orbiting to automatically orbit.

56. Engage sound effects to inspire your afternoon

Activating sounds

57. Activate low detail mode for cleaner imagery.

Low detail mode

Have any other TestFit questions? Contact us at support @ testfit.io.