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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Geodesign Summit 2013 Summary

January 29th, 2013 by Susan Smith

Geodesign is a set of techniques and enabling technologies for planning built and natural environments in an integrated process, including project conceptualization, analysis, design specification, stakeholder participation and collaboration, design creation, simulation, and evaluation (among other stages). “Geodesign is a design and planning method which tightly couples the creation of design proposals with impact simulations informed by geographic contexts.”[1]Wikipedia

Geodesign is yet in its infancy and as the conference made clear, many are just on the dawn of using it while others might be exploring its inner workings. The focus on the first day did seem very geo-centric, as of course the event was hosted by a GIS company. Ideally, Geodesign will pull datasets from geographic information systems as well as computer aided design and BIM software and other datasets to tackle big world problems such as sustainability, ecology and building tomorrow’s cities.

Bran Ferren, co-founder of Applied Minds LLC and keynote speaker for the opening session at the Geodesign Summit held at Esri’s Redlands, Calif. Campus, set the tone for the Summit that commenced Thursday, January 24th, 2013.

The Geodesign Summit, introduced by Esri in 2009, explores the concept of merging geography and design, and being able to access various datasets through the “CloudGIS,” Esri’s version of the Cloud. According to Ferren, it is a way to begin to build the cities of the future, using technologies such as geographic information, planning, building information modeling and much more.

The big issues facing urbanization are our finite resources such as oil and water, plus global warming, climate change and energy.

Some interesting ideas are at play here. Ferren suggests that in building tomorrow’s cities, people should think about building “cities that feel good about themselves as they will perform better than cities that don’t feel good about themselves.”

“Geodesign matters for this reason – it gives us the ability to look into the future, show people the future, changes the way you design and execute the design,” said Ferren. “Modeling and simulation are shared across all your Geodesign platforms. A network of shared intelligence is the foundation to build upon.”

Ferren said that the way we look at infrastructure projects today is as short term. He proposes a 250-year plan similar to the Bill of Rights, rather than the shorter term plans that are usually in place for infrastructure and other so-called long range planning.

Esri CEO and founder Jack Dangermond spoke on day two about geographic information systems (GIS) as a platform on the Cloud that can make the concepts of analytics available to everyone through data sharing. He talked about the Apple model of having multiple devices all sharing the same data, as the model for Esri’s CloudGIS.

Several examples were given of the use of CityEngine, Esri’s 3D modeling software for urban environments which may be of interest to AEC professionals. An example was given using  CityEngine to model the impacts of transit-oriented development in 3D for the City of Honolulu. Planners were able to create an urban expansion model to show stakeholders density and different scenarios to address expansion.

CityEngine can also be used to create a 3D urban information model including detailed information of buildings, parking structures and other features of a city. Data can be brought in from digital surface models, elevations, renderings and aerial imagery, shadow, building information models and other types of analysis.

3D cities beta program

Elliot Hartley, director of Garsdale Design Limited, a planning & architectural firm in the UK, is working on massing plans for four new cities in southern Iraq.  He spoke about “The Instant City – Geodesign and Urban Planning,” using CityEngine.

Hartley outlined the two different workflows employed in their office:

-Main project workflow – linear with start and end points

-Process workflows – small iterative evaluations, associated with particular tasks, spreadsheets

The teams have to finish one phase so outputs can be used in next phase, and smooth flow of data is critical.

In order to plan the cities in Iraq design, the firm had to take into consideration the following:

  1. Regional & enviromental study
  2. Background study/existing conditions survey
  3. Analysis and forecasting
  4. Planning alternatives and options
  5. Final master plan

Hartley said ArcGIS is used to managed their GIS data in a variety of inputs. “We must translate work into English too,” he said. “Managing the changing nature of some of our data is one of the key factors we face.”

Cities don’t stand still, said Hartley, especially in Iraq where infrastructure is desperately needed.  They are training Iraqi managers to manage the projects.

Some of the issues they face is that the people are educated in hostile environments which means the people are very dynamic and accustomed to dealing with change.

“The nature of development evolved to be flexible, with changes close to the end of the project,” said Hartley. “Thus, we have looked to ways to speed up our visualization presentation.”

They use a lot of 3D imagery as their clients expect them and demand a wide variety toward the end of the projects. Clients want to see walkthroughs, and the master plan. These clients are going to the general public who aren’t used to reading maps.

Tools used in the past include scanning and georeferencing, digitizing in AutoCAD and ArcGIS, import into SketchUp, rendering software, including hand drawn sketches.

CityEngine is valuable because it works with a variety of formats. “We used real data from a project, but this procedural modeler could save us time and change the way we think about our own workflows,” Hartley said.

“Now we are combining 3D work in SketchUp with models in CityEngine. It can take 4 days in SketchUp for a neighbourhood centre or 1/2 a day in CityEngine to do a whole city quarter!  A lot of work is done in rule files, the more rule files you have the quicker it goes. We’re looking to combine the models we’ve made in previous formats in CityEngine.”

Hartley said their next job is an urban renewal project. CityEngine is facile in that it can model at a micro and macro level. “I’ve been working with rules data creating rather than just taking data into City Engine,” said Hartley. “Not just 3D models. CityEngine may have other potential – forests, height of trees and ages of trees, etc.”

Hartley said that the sketch is really to key to Geodesign, so a lot of their work has been about the sketch. These sketches are then scanned and georeferenced and placed in models. This has cut the time creating a model in half and allowed the firm to keep their design work in house.

The model instantly adapts as each dataset/rule is added, according to Hartley. The Instant City relies on a cloud server to make it work.

He can imagine a time when GIS would update in real time in CityEngine. Other future thoughts include the access to OpenData, easier and cheaper software, ideas from the gaming industry (“gamification”), large rollable displays for people to draw on, and fiber optic internet connections on the premises is essential. Garsdale works in areas that are not connected well.

For many years, CAD professionals have worked to get GIS data into their workflows, and CAD companies answered that call by developing products to provide analytics and simplify the process of integrating GIS into CAD and BIM. Although this conference was very geo-centric, it represents an effort in the direction of collaboration and data sharing from the GIS side. Now the Cloud and supporting technologies may spur an opportunity for the data to go the other way – GIS benefitting from CAD and BIM data.

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Categories: AEC, architecture, AutoCAD, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, BIM, building information modeling, Cloud

3 Responses to “Geodesign Summit 2013 Summary”

  1. Elliot Hartley says:

    Thanks for the great write-up! You did misquote me slightly, it wasn’t that “It takes 4 days in SketchUp and another ½ day in CityEngine” I said that we can take 4 days in SketchUp for a neighbourhood centre or 1/2 a day in CityEngine to do a whole city quarter! Obviously the time savings are massive and have given us a real edge against our much larger competitors.

  2. Guenter Doerffel says:

    Great Video from Elliots Presentation – another proof of british humor and CityEngine capabiities! I liked it and regret I wasnt there live!

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