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January 7th, 2011
GeoDesign Ushers in a Whole New Modality for the Design Professional

The move toward real-time information and distributed services is fostering this change. Much in the way our ability to navigate in a car has changed to  include real-time traffic information that allows us to understand alternatives based on traffic flow, designers will have the ability to adjust work based on real-time inputs.

The world is becoming digital, with geographic information becoming pervasive. This data and the fact that we work exclusively digitaly will enable us to design and sketch and understand the consequences to inform the design as we’re designing. Gone will be the current frustration that currently we spend half of the time in the design process collecting information. When all data comes together, we will do our work leveraging information and creating collaboratively, ushering a whole new modality of design.

Esri’s Vision

A good portion of the morning opening to the GeoDesign Summit was devoted to new functionality within the ArcGIS toolset, and Esri’s approach to GeoDesign. Multiple scenarios were presented, with a predominant focus on redevelopment for greater livability, with new density, walkability, public transit, and the economic impacts.

Scenarios for both Redlands and Philadelphia were presented that showed sketching and analyzing with inputs that are now accommodated in ArcMap with geoprocessing on the fly. Designers can analyze and design right in the tools to test different design scenarios.

The project to get rid of a vacant mall right in the middle of town to make a
commercial area was presented, with the ability to set default attributes of environmental indicators. A pulldown for a choice of different parameters was presented, such as jobs, land-use types (such as impervious surfaces), density, parking, population, vehicle miles traveled per person, schools, etc.

As the map is altered, the tools summarize all the attributes within a one-acre scale, with graphs showing instantly how choices effect the parameters. The designer brought in different streets and building types within the map design space – a pedestrian only street, mixed with commercial and multi-use, with a park – all over the old mall.

At the next level of design, a detailed drawing was created to scale in ArcMap – with building footprints, and park design. Cartographic representations matched the base map that was being drawn, with snapping and symbols drawn to scale.

In the Philadelphia model, the design took the next step, with a detailed land use plan and light rail in a denser urban core. Here, there was 3D design, export to SketchUp, and more detailed visualization than I’ve seen previously.

Clearly, Esri has been focused on supporting the idea of GeoDesign with an evolution of capabilities that bridge the CAD and GIS divide. Much progress has been made since the first GeoDesign Summit a year ago, and we can expect further focus in the future with more products and functionality that address this important shift.

See the Video