Have you ever attempted to do a SWAT analysis of your site? We’re not talking about special weapons, but this is definitely entering the area of tactics: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. That same emotional excitement that drives us, can become a bias that blinds us to somewhat predictable challenges. In this post we cover this framework in context of real estate development, and suggest that the design team is an underutilized resource in early development stages.

We are not promising certainty, but do suggest a proactive future-aware approach in an industry that is burdened by artifacts of the past, including outdated planning ordinances, and appraisals based on historic valuations. Be innovative and reduce risk by turning a WAG into a SWAG:

WAG: Wild-Ass-Guess

SWAG: Scientific Wild-Ass-Guess.

Full disclosure, turning a WAG into a SWAG is your responsibility. What are all the factors impacting your success? Timing, Interest rates, and market likely come to mind right away. Don’t stop here! What else impacts the success of your project? Have some prior successes or failures have been “overdetermined”?

Your design and planning team impacts several pieces of your puzzle. Can you improve your odds by performing a SWAT Analysis in the area of their expertise? We witness design teams as an often overlooked resource. Traditionally a design firm might just execute your order, and be hesitant to share any doubts about your direction with you (their boss). Asking them for a SWAT Charrette or SWAT site study will encourage them to openly test assumptions, and contribute their full expertise.

Spark Architecture uses the SWAT framework to offer multi-angled site assessments. Our site reports include economic, design, environmental, and legal aspects. These investigations reveal often overlooked opportunities and threats, getting one step closer to turning a WAG into a SWAG.


Sophia Sparklin

Growing up in a family with generations in medical practice, Sophia discovered her passion for architecture during an internship 1996. Since then Sophia received formal and informal education in Germany and the US. At Arizona State University she was honored by the Henry Adams Certificate for graduating on top of her (Master of Architecture) class in 2005.