What's New in GeoDesign?

Esri recently created a new group called GeoDesign Services. Under the Professional Services umbrella, the GeoDesign Services group—headed by long-time Esri employee Bill Miller—is tasked with exploring and extending the capabilities of GIS technology as related to GeoDesign and applying that technology to a variety of GeoDesign projects. I recently spoke with Shannon McElvaney, a Project Manager in the GeoDesign Services group, to get an update on what’s currently happening in the GeoDesign realm.

Shannon McElvaney
Shannon McElvaney
Shannon has nearly 20 years of experience in applying a broad range of geospatial technologies including remote sensing, GIS data collection, and spatial analysis with emphasis on sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. Prior to joining the GeoDesign Services group, he was the Site Control & GIS Manager on the $22B MASDAR City Development Program, the first carbon neutral, zero waste city for the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company.
Of course, Esri’s recent acquisition of Procedural’s CityEngine technology was the first topic of discussion (and one that Bern Szukalski blogged about recently). From a GeoDesign perspective, integration of CityEngine with ArcGIS provides crucial enabling technology to support full 3D design in geographic space and accelerated use of inference engines.
CityEngine will bring easy 3D content creation and design to ArcGIS users
CityEngine will bring easy 3D content creation and design to ArcGIS users

“What we envision is the integration of GIS geoprocessing and spatial analytics with the powerful inference engine supplied by CityEngine,” Shannon said. “Imagine the power this gives designers or planners. This will increase the ability of designers to visualize constraints, opportunities, and impact while working in 3D space. Imagine if land use codes, zoning rules, and engineering parameters were built into your pencil before you began to draw.” This could include things such as road widths, building floor heights, sidewalk widths, curb heights, turning radii, building setbacks or utility easements to guide or inform you as you work allowing you to design alternatives, again and again, for rendering, visualization, and comparison.
2012 GeoDesign Summit
Planning is currently underway for the 2012 GeoDesign Summit, which will be held at Esri headquarters in Redlands, California on January 5-6, 2012. The number one request in the evaluations from last year’s GeoDesign Summit was to see more examples of GeoDesign in practice—actual case studies. “Our hope is to do just that,” he said. “We are looking for innovative solutions, creative applications, provocative ideas, and solid case examples of applied GeoDesign across four topical areas: education, application, technology, and theory.”
The 2012 Summit promises to be both exciting and thought provoking. If you would like to attend or present, you can find more information here.
Braden Allenby will keynote the 2012 GeoDesign Summit
Braden Allenby will keynote the 2012 GeoDesign Summit

And what about the keynote speaker? “I can confirm that Braden Allenby has agreed to keynote the 2012 GeoDesign Summit,” Shannon was happy to report. Allenby is an environmental scientist, environmental attorney, and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Law at Arizona State University. He is a co-founder of the earth systems engineering and management (ESEM) discipline, which looks to “rationally design and manage coupled human-natural systems in a highly integrated and ethical fashion.” His 2005 book Reconstructing Earth: Technology and Environment in the Age of Humans explores development of a new, more sophisticated approach to the environment that considers the power of the human species over earth systems. Allenby’s latest book (with co-author Daniel Sarewitz), The Techno-Human Condition, was published in April of this year and explores what it means to be human in an era of incomprehensible technological complexity and change. “The GeoDesign Summit is always stimulating and thought provoking, and Allenby is the perfect match,” Shannon added. “He is provocative and bit of a futurist. He will definitely fan the creative fires we have come to expect at the Summit.”
Planning is also underway for the first GeoDesign Summit in China. “Details are being worked out, but it looks like it will take place in 2013,” he said.
Book of GeoDesign Case Studies
Shannon is also writing a book of GeoDesign Case Studies. The book will briefly introduce GeoDesign in the context of Carl Steinitz’s GeoDesign Framework and then show how the essence of that framework has been applied using real case studies. “Current cases cover a wide spectrum from city, to neighborhood, to ecosystem but we need more. If you have a real project you feel exemplifies GeoDesign, we’re still looking for more case studies to include in the book.” Shannon can be reached at

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