Richard Bourgault

Graduating from Georgia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Richard began his Cost Segregation career working for Ernst & Morris Consulting, one of the very first firms to specialize in Cost Segregation.

Much of your cost segregation study process is simply gathering information. You can do this the old-fashioned way, with site visits and a measuring wheel, or you can use free online tools to save yourself the hassle. 

One of the most useful tools for cost segregation studies is Google Earth Pro. In this blog post, I’ll teach you how to set up and use Google Earth Pro to take care of all the measurements you need to conduct cost segregation studies. This will save significant time and costs compared to taking these measurements yourself. 

Let’s start with setting the tool up. 

Tips and tricks: Setting up Google Earth Pro for Cost Segregation

Google Earth Pro for desktop is free to download and use for both Windows and Mac. You’ll want the desktop version so you can save data and easily share Google Earth files, but you can also try out the mobile and online versions for fun. 

Once you download the program and get it installed, you’ll want to make a few quick changes to make sure it’s properly set up for cost segregation study measurements:

  1. Go to ‘Options → Navigation → Slide Tool Speed’, and set it as fast as it goes. The slide tool defaults at a frustratingly slow speed, so you’ll want to change this before you get started with anything else. You’ll also want to update the ‘Mouse Wheel Speed’ to the fastest setting, as the same issue applies. 
  2. Turn off the ‘Automatically tilt and enter ground level view’ setting. This is great for looking at architecture, but it won’t help with measurements that need to be taken from directly above. 
  3. Check off unnecessary layers such as ‘roads’, which displays data from Google Maps traffic. You won’t need these layers for cost segregation purposes, and they just get in the way. Pretty much all layers can be turned off. 
  4. Make the ‘Places’ sidebar bigger, this will be important and you’ll need to see the data displayed here. 

Once you’ve changed these settings, you can start looking up properties you need to take cost segregation study measurements for. First, look up the property address in the search bar. When it comes up, right-click on the property and save it to ‘My Places’.  

Now, zoom into the property from a nice height where you can easily measure it, and ensure you’re looking at it from directly above (which is the 2D setting). Then, you can use the compass tool to square up the property with as close to straight lines and 90-degree angles as you can get. This makes it easier to measure using the ruler tool.

When you have this nice, map-like view of the property, right-click on the property and hit ‘snapshot view’. Now, whenever you double-click on the property from your places bar, you’ll come back to this nice, measurable view. 

The last thing we’ll do before taking measurements is to right-click, add a folder, and name the folder something related to the property, such as the address, client name, or however you want to identify it. You’ll save all the measurement data and markups here. 

Essential Google Earth Pro Tool #1: Ruler

Now, it’s time to start measuring. With the Ruler tool, you just need to click on a point to start a new measurement. As you click on more points, the ruler will automatically draw lines between points until your measurement is complete. If you make a mistake, then you can right-click and it will send you one point back so you can re-do your point measurement. 

After you’ve drawn a complete shape, you will get the area in square feet and the perimeter in linear feet. Once you have your complete property measured, save it as ‘site footprint’ in the folder you created for this property. Now, you have your site’s area and perimeter, plus you can show how you measured it in Google Earth if the question comes up in an audit. 

Essential Google Earth Pro Tool #2: Polygon

Now that you have your site footprint mapped out, you’ll want to measure elements within your property using the ‘Polygon’ tool. This tool is essentially an extension of the ruler but measures shapes within your footprint. You’ll use this to measure components like parking lots, curbs, skylights, grassy lawns, and anything else you’d want to separate as a component for your cost segregation studies. 

Let’s say you want to measure your parking lot. Using the Polygon tool, you can draw points to measure your parking lot within your site footprint. Then, you can save that shape as ‘parking lot’. Do this for all of the components you need to measure within your building’s footprint. 

Saving Google Earth Pro data for reference and sharing

Now that you’ve measured your entire footprint and each component within it, you should see the area and perimeter for each in the property folder. When saving these, it’s helpful to use abbreviations so you don’t take up too much text space with titles. That way it’s easier to see the area and perimeter data that you need for your study. 

At a glance, you can see the area and perimeter for all components of your property in your folder. When entering your property into SegStream Pro to conduct an automated cost segregation study, you can simply copy and paste the data from Google Earth into SegStream Pro. 

You can also share the property data with others who use Google Earth. If you want to share this information with your client, for example, you can download the folder by clicking ‘Save place as’, which saves the folder as a .knz file. If your client has Google Earth installed, they can open this file and automatically see the markups you made for the footprint and each component of the property, as well as the area and perimeter. All the shapes and measurements are there so that they can easily double-check it for accuracy. 

And that’s it! Google Earth Pro is a powerful free tool for making measurements for any property, anywhere, at any time. Not just for the site footprint, but for individual components too.

Next, we’ll talk about another popular tool that can save you time with photos and building information. 

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