GeoDesign Summit 2011 in Review

“I had a few people almost pleading with me to spend effort on our ability to bring building models into GIS for some scenarios so we will spend some more time talking with some of those folks, figuring out what their needs are and doing something,” he said. “We have it in our product already, so what I'm gathering from these people is it's something that is too hard to use, or if we only did this thing or that it would be better for them.”

“We've been working on this BIM to GIS product for at least three years now, and there are people doing some things with our stuff.”

Urban Form

Among the speakers and Lightning Talks were many presentations about “Urban Form.”

Vishal Bhargava, senior associate, Urban Designer for AECOM, said that Urban Form is the single largest determinant of GHG emissions.

Nicholas de Monchaux, assistant professor of Architecture and Urban Design UC Berkeley talked about “creating a robust nervous system for the cities of today.” The digital tools of today allow us to contemplate this new paradigm.

Constance Bodurow, Lawrence Technological Unviersity, Studio [Ci] a design lab in the College of Architecture, said we are urbanists, and interested in the future of urban form, and they believe cities should be the most desirable place for human habitation.

Carsten Roensdorf, Ordnance Survey, GB Chair CityGML SWG, OGC talked about “CityGML and Linked Data - An Integration Platform for GeoDesign.”

He said that the city of Berlin is an urban information system with a topo map and 3D model, based on CityGML - a standard and exchange format created by the OGC. “It allows you to exchange information,” said Roensdorf, “if you are an architect creating a BIM can export it in CityGML, you can integrate it into larger CityGML environment through levels of detail (LOD).”

CityGML is supported by about 30-35 software vendors. Most cities in Germany have a good CityGML model. The model also allows you to link land ownership and planning, etc. and accepts information from authoritative sources and the web.

Facilities Management

Many years ago I attended an International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) conference, my first introduction to the study of facilities management. The organization was then about three years old and the event was held in the conference center of a Scottsdale, Ariz. resort.

Today, the organization's members manage collectively more than 37 billion square feet of property and annually purchase more than US$100 billion in products and services.

Stu Rich CTO PenBay Solutions talked about “Taking GIS Inside Buildings -
Facilities Management and Analysis” at the Summit.

Rich asked the question, why GIS for facilities?

“We're seeing tremendous growth in urban environments, tremendous building boom, and witnessing the greatest migrations of humanity the world has ever seen,” said Rich. In 2000, we became a predominantly urban species, more people for the first time were living in urban environments than in rural. “It looks like we are going to be doing this for a longer time. This takes pressure off our agricultural lands, but the implications for urban infrastructure are profound.”

Rich pointed out that 48% of emissions are due to the consumption of raw materials for construction materials. ”The greenest building is the one we never build.”

“We need to think about how to address that existing building stock which is unlikely to have the BIM data sets we've been talking about,” said Rich. “How do we apply geodesign to that problem?”

In a nutshell, Rich said we need to extend our thinking to the interior environment - it's not just about buildings, it's about processes.
-We need to think of ways to not have to build a new building
-We need to extend geographic scale to interiors of buildings

Public safety committees need to understand the inside of buildings, said Rich. And they have spatial data infrastructure that needs to be repurposed.

Rich proposes taking the visualization and analysis tools that GIS gives us, the conceptual tools of geodesign and apply them across the facility lifecycle. Extending geography into the 3D environment of offices and space is the way to go.

He showed data of the Esri campus gathered with a mobile lidar unit, that gathers floor space as it goes. Harvesting from CAD and BIM is better, he said, if you have it.

BIM/GIS Idea Lab

In the BIM/GIS Idea Lab that I attended the discussion addressed an ongoing debate about Industry Foundation Classes (IFCs), an object oriented file format for interoperability between CAD and now Building information modeling (BIM) files. Now they are working on an interoperability platform between BIM and BIM, and want to use it to apply to the BIM/GIS conversation.

One participant suggested lobbying for more planning content added to BIM model.

Kimon Onuma suggested asking Esri to create an extraction engine, and to define geodesign levels of detail for extraction, doing away with divisions between BIM and GIS. Currently you have to build a lot of widgets to extract information from GIS. The data could be extracted and used in a GIS planning model and saved with ModelBuilder.

What if we could open the shell of a building in GIS? One participant asked, in order to be able to do another kind of related analysis. Places where this would be useful might also be in transportation and spaces. The infrastructure is compatible with coordinate systems.

In Europe there are micro-coordinate systems being created to marry data as the vendors aren't communicating with one another. According to Chris Andrews of Autodesk, this is “pure protectionism” and wouldn't be a problem if the vendor betters supported the LODs in CityGML. “Vendors don't want to support the standards first because of protectionism.”


The many questions asked were not all answered, but it did seem that there was a glimmer of understanding growing in the participants - of the breadth of the undertaking of GeoDesign, if nothing else. It is the start of a conversation. It was also heartening to see that a lot of GeoDesign work is already under way, so that the work itself can create a map of where we might need to go with the technology.

Perhaps Carl Steinitz sums it up best by saying, “Most of the work we're doing and demonstrating involves problems that are marginally understood and that we presume to understand in a framework with many actors and views. People need to understand the complexity, because we don't know everything.”

The brainstorming Idea Labs were definitely a place to pose questions and get a number of knowledgeable responses from professionals. The Lightning Talks could have been shorter and there could have been fewer of them. Some of them were very good, and others not as pertinent. I understand that the event may be held at a different venue next year.

But as Michael Goodchild said, GeoDesign is like an infant: it has survived its first year, is not quite weaned yet. I think it has teeth and is starting to talk.

Esri covered some travel expenses for this author for the GeoDesign Summit.

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Review Article
  • GeoDesign Identity January 19, 2011
    Reviewed by 'Philip Mielke'
    Great review of the GeoDesign summit, and I can understand how the identity of Geodesign gravitated more towards CAD & GIS Integration and also BIM. Based on the attendees and presenters, that seems to have been the point (or at least the market).
    From a GIS professional's point of view, GeoDesign isn't just the marriage of the city and building scales, but it's better thought of as the marriage of geoprocessing and design. As a GIS professional, you set up an iterative design environment complete with land-use type suitability and evaluation models, and you receive feedback on your design as you edit feature classes that represent land uses or buildings. The intent for a GIS professional would be to maintain this iterative design environment and allow non-GIS pro's the chance to design and receive statistical feedback on their designs. The point is that many stakeholders have the chance to design and review other stakeholders designs. You can measure agreement and disagreement spatially.

      2 of 3 found this review helpful.
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