Designing Habitats with Technology – Part II

Grading checking and as-built documentation conducted with handheld and 4-wheeler attached RTK gear image: Wildlands, Inc.

Grading checking and as-built documentation conducted with handheld and 4-wheeler attached RTK gear
image: Wildlands, Inc.

A collaborative effort between the Digital Technology PPN and Ecology and Restoration PPN.

Ecological restoration and habitat creation are benefiting tremendously from the variety of software available to help analyze, design, visualize and construct complex systems and subtle topographies. While landscape architecture is embracing 3D drafting and illustrative modeling, habitat restoration can especially benefit from the use of many of these software options.

In Denver, Mark, Dave, and Allegra presented an overview of a variety of software that are used in this facet of landscape architecture. In Part I, published on July 14, 2015, we summarized our presentation by including how technology is used in Site Analysis and Design Development within restoration design. Below, in Part II, we will summarize technology used for visualization, construction documentation, and construction.

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Designing Habitats with Technology – Part I

Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Construction Equipment to validate elevation during construction. image: Wildlands

Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Construction Equipment to validate elevation during construction.
image: Wildlands

A collaborative effort between the Digital Technology PPN and Ecology and Restoration PPN.

Ecological restoration and habitat creation are benefiting tremendously from the variety of software available to help analyze, design, visualize and construct complex systems and subtle topographies. While landscape architecture is embracing 3D drafting and illustrative modeling, habitat restoration can especially benefit from the use of many of these software options. In Denver, Mark, Dave, and Allegra presented an overview of a variety of software that are used in this facet of landscape architecture.

Why is this integration and diversity of software especially important for restoration design and construction? Many restoration sites have and need subtle topography and soil conditions to successfully understand and restore the habitats in a timely manner. For instance, many plant species associated with wetlands have very specific inundation limits, resulting in certain plants growing within limited elevation ranges – sometimes as narrow as centimeters or inches.  Therefore, having or creating adequate expanses of these elevations can be critical in the success of a wetland.

Throw sea level rise in the mix and the elevations for potential wetland migration or loss becomes critical. Being able to easily and accurately document and share existing conditions, concepts and alternatives, construction documentation, and construction precision is leading to a better understanding and success of ecological restoration projects.

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Design Software Costs: The Price of Doing Business?

image: Digital Production Middle East

image:  Digital Production Middle East

In an era where computers were created to make our daily tasks more efficient and improve our quality of life, the constant increase in software costs are starting to add back to that once relieved stress. After my previous blog, “The Emerging Role of Millennials,” many of the responses I received were riddled with commentary on the cost of software and how not every firm can afford the luxury of having a multitude of drafting or visualization suites at their disposal. While it’s obvious that it is a necessity in 2015 to have software capable of documentation to successfully deliver a project, the cost of such software is becoming a point of contention with design fees going down and the cost of doing business going up.

OUR DEPENDENCY ON SOFTWARE: Who owns who?
The inspiration to write this article came from a conversation I had on a return flight from a business trip a little over a year ago.  Serendipitous as it may be, I was seated next to a representative of a very large architectural software company. After telling him that I was a landscape architect and fairly technologically savvy, he proceeded to show me some of his company’s new software that was still in development on his tablet. He stated that the company was suffering, having “the most pirated software in the world,” and that everything they were working toward would be subscription and cloud based. This was the first time I had thought about the concept, but it all made sense, until I realized recently what the cost ramifications would be. Knowing that their product is a necessity to the success of so many firms, they can do what they want at nearly any cost. Of course software companies are businesses too and need to make their money, but the line between a healthy profit and greed may becoming blurred.

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The Emerging Role of Millennials

image: Ryan Deane

image: Ryan Deane

If your firm looks anything like mine it won’t be hard for you to paint this picture for yourself. A bustling open-office floor plan with large semi-private work stations for senior associates and principals along the windowed perimeter (usually vacant). Cookie cutter cubicles with low walls filled with a production army of 20-30 year olds, rocking headphones while heating up their keyboards, and an inner core of collaboration spaces filled with a mix of employees laboring over the latest design ideas – it won’t be long before these headphones (and their millennial owners) move towards those window seats.

Millennials Can “Just Play”

Back in the 80’s while many of our bosses were likely out at a Journey concert, we started training. Okay okay, at the time we didn’t know it was training, but opening an Atari, Nintendo, or Sega on your birthday was like getting your first PC. Then in the 90’s we sat down for hours on end to the ‘cutting edge’ graphics of “SimCity 2000,” with only a keyboard and mouse to sculpt the landscape before planning a city… On second thought, it really was training! Between hours of playing “Oregon Trail” we wrote our first email from our 4th grade classroom on an Apple IIe. We typed our first book reports and inserted clip art in middle school, and by the time college rolled around we had early versions of AutoCAD, Photoshop, and GIS as part of our daily vocabulary.

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Digital Technology in Denver

Plant Factory Vegetation Rendered in Vue image: Matt Wilkens, KTU+A

Plant Factory Vegetation Rendered in Vue
image: Matt Wilkens, KTU+A

We are all very excited for the upcoming ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver! This past year, digital technologies have greatly modified the way we do business, and many of these new technologies will be featured at this year’s Annual Meeting. Outlined below are a few of our favorite picks for education sessions and vendor booths to stop by and learn a thing or two. The education offerings span the spectrum from hand-drawn graphic integration, to CAD, to 3D technologies, to Geodesign.

I hope that everyone attending the Annual Meeting will also join us at the PPN Networking Reception on Friday, November 21 from 5:15-7:15 pm in Room 201, Colorado Convention Center, and the Digital Technology PPN Meeting on Saturday, November 22 from 9:15-10:45 am in PPN Room 2 on the EXPO floor near ASLA Central.

At the Digital Technology PPN Meeting on Saturday morning, we will discuss our PPN’s goals for the upcoming year, have a new technologies roundtable, I will give a quick demonstration of this year’s 3D improvements, and then I will turn it over to our new PPN Chair, Ryan Deane, for a quick demonstration of some other digital technology improvements for productivity.

Below are sessions and meetings for those interested in maximizing their digital technology learning experience at the Annual Meeting.

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Bike to Work Day / Bike to Fun Day!

image: KTU+A

image: KTU+A

Using digital technologies to promote our ideals can be fun and easy—this ranges from infographics to timelapse photography. Check out the following use as documented by San Diego firm KTU+A in their blog. Hopefully this will inspire you to use technology to promote your next professional message!

On May 30, 2014, KTU+A hosted its annual Bike to Work Day Pit Stop on the corner of Normal Street and University Avenue in the San Diego neighborhood of Hillcrest. Over 230 bike commuters stopped by for snacks and giveaways, the largest turnout in the past five years. In addition to the Pit Stop, KTU+A conducted a tactical urbanism display on Normal Street by taking over five parking spaces for a parklet with tables, chairs, bean bag toss games, and a yoga session. The large paved median on Normal Street was used to showcase the size of the underutilized space by laying out sports fields as examples of its sheer size.

For more on KTU+A’s involvement in Bike to Work Day, see the post published on the KTU+A blog, and check out the infographic and video re-posted below.

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Digital Technology at ASLA 2013

3DS Max and Vue Animation image: David Leonard and Matt Wilkens, KTU+A

3DS Max and Vue Animation
image: David Leonard and Matt Wilkens, KTU+A

We are all very excited for the upcoming ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston! This past year, digital technologies have greatly modified the way we do business, and many of these new technologies will be featured at this year’s Annual Meeting. Outlined below are a few of our favorite picks for educational sessions and vendor booths to stop by and learn a thing or two. The education offerings span the spectrum from hand-drawn graphic integration, to CAD, to 3D technologies, to Geodesign—a hot topic for this year.

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