I recently made comment on the Spatial Roundtable website to a piece by Jack Dangermond (of ESRI fame).   The post on “Designing a more Sustainable future” end with a question:

“How can GeoDesign best be applied to climate adaptation in the next 15 years?”

I thought I’d post my response here as well, I hope it isn’t too much of a ramble.  I honestly think that the combination to GIS and tools like CityEngine are the future of planning as well as environmental analysis.   I hereby make the prediction as well that CityEngine will end up dropping the word “city” and just end up being part of the core ArcGIS package (whether it is bundled with 3D analyst or spatial analyst is open for debate!).

“Sensible, informed, timely design and planning of our environment should be the ultimate goal for most of us, especially within the spatial and environmental industries.
But until recently we have only been able to conceive of technologies able to do this, not necessarily implement them. With the relatively recent emergence of cloud computing (not just for storage but for processing) as well as fast communication infrastructure (mobile and fixed line), combined with GIS technologies are now allowing for some of these ideas to become a reality.

Not wishing to plug specific technologies, but the recent acquisition of CityEngine by ESRI, shows a new exciting path for GIS and the way forward for GeoDesign. Where design can be instantly (or near instantly) informed by not just rule sets but other underlying data, environmental or otherwise.

I’ve written before about “the Instant City” in regards to city master planning as a result of tools like CityEngine. Whereby many aspects of city design could now in theory take place all at the same time. Or you can work on detailed multiple designs of a city for a client and only at the end with all the information (BIM level information for cities, energy, cost, environment etc..) do they choose what they deem to be the most appropriate plan.

The application of tools like CityEngine does not need to be for cities or urban areas alone. You can use it for pretty much anything agriculture, rural areas, national parks, forestry, as long as you put the appropriate data in (still an area for debate amongst the experts!). It also doesn’t matter what level of detail or physical area you are working on as it works at all levels.

GeoDesign in this context is about making quicker informed design decisions and being able to formulate new plans quickly as new data arrives without having to rewrite all your work. Of course the speed of analysis comes down to how much cloud computing power do you want to buy?

The answer to the question about how GeoDesign can be applied to climate change adaptation in the next 15 years should be relatively straight forward and surely we already know the answer?

Our professional disciplines related to the environment and planning have been working on this in separate silos for many years, only bringing things together, often in an adhoc way, via GIS, to make decisions. Our problem has been in the timely analysis of data and making decisions before things change and we have to start again.

We’ve got the tools, and access to the computing power if we want and of course the experts! The application of GeoDesign in the next 15 years should be in part about getting the workflows right. As well as making sure that the process of GeoDesign by whichever technology you use is almost transparent so we can get on with the important business of design and decision making. ”



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