News May 17, 2022

Creating a Safer, More Resilient Future for 1 of the Fastest Growing Retirement Communities in the US

Utilizing innovative technology to enhance safety, sustainability and livability for the largest 55-plus community in the world

The Villages retirement community aerial view

Walt Disney World® attracts over 58 million visitors annually to Orlando, Florida. But travel an hour northwest of Orlando and you’ll arrive at what has been likened to an adult Disney World, The Villages.

The Villages is the largest 55-plus community in the world. Spread over 82 square miles and home to more than 138,000 residents, The Villages continues to grow in population and square mileage. In fact, it was the fastest-growing metro area from 2010 to 2020 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But with rapid and extensive growth comes challenges.

With 54 golf courses, 807 miles of roadway, water distribution and collection pipes that connect more than 55,000 homes to water facilities and still growing, hundreds of thousands of built assets are being installed at lightning speed. To accommodate the growth, The Villages had to rethink how they manage such assets. As their long-term operations and maintenance and public works partner, Jacobs proposed utilizing Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to capture and manage these assets in a digital database and ultimately enhance safety, sustainability and livability within the community.


Utilizing technology to approach things differently

Water valves, fire hydrants, sprinkler heads, sidewalks, street signs and more require substantial staff resources to install and operate. And with the speed of the community’s development, doing so by hand is not an option.

In 2019, we proposed a multi-phase approach to complete data capture of highly accurate and attributed GIS data using survey, aerial photogrammetry, aerial LiDAR and mobile LiDAR. LiDAR, a surveying technology that digitizes everything within view, would allow us to compile a comprehensive asset catalog for The Villages quickly, accurately and at a lower cost.

“With a digital asset catalog, we can keep up with the assets being added daily, enhance our asset management decisions, manage projects more effectively, and therefore provide higher quality service to residents,” says Jacobs Program Director in The Villages Rock Raiford. “We’re also excited to be able to use the data for other efforts, such as designing efficient routes in the new developments.”

Phase one was complete within a year and included capturing 328,000 water infrastructure assets like manholes, hydrants, water mains and valves. Phase two will be completed this summer and includes identifying remaining critical above ground assets like pavement, streetlights and signs, sidewalks and curbs, with 600,000 assets captured thus far.

“Even though the project is not complete, we’ve seen increased efficiencies now that we have accurate, credible data available,” says Jacobs Geospatial Project Manager Kristopher Andersen. “We’re integrating our asset data in a meaningful way and have one database for information that can be accessed and utilized by our staff, developers, contractors and The Villages.”

In the end, this data will help key stakeholders and us make potentially lifesaving decisions — from responding to water main breaks and preventing sewer overflows to maintaining sidewalks and installing traffic signs so residents can safely operate their golf carts and vehicles.


“Finding innovative solutions for our clients is a testament to our mission of challenging today to reinvent a better tomorrow for our communities.”

Rock Raiford

Rock Raiford

Jacobs Program Director

Reinventing a better tomorrow

Upon completion of phase two, 1 million assets will have been captured in the database, thousands more than the previous data available. With The Villages' rapid expansion, a third phase is planned for 2023 and will include the newest communities that were still under construction when phase one began.

While the final phase of the asset inventory project will be completed in 2025, asset management and GIS are never complete. This approach to data collection and management has set The Villages up for efficient, accurate and safe ongoing asset management and operation. 

“Finding innovative solutions like this for our clients is a testament to our mission of challenging today to reinvent a better tomorrow for our communities,” adds Rock.