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share

Participant of Peerby, and the new sharing economy, in the Netherlands / Consumentenbond

“We are still making and selling too much stuff,” said James Slezak, the founder of Peers, a sharing economy advocacy organization, at the EcoDistricts Summit in Washington, D.C. This is a “waste of wealth” because more people could simply rent or borrow what they need in our burgeoning “sharing economy.” Why buy a car when you can simply order up a ride on an app? Why book a hotel room when you can stay in someone’s spare bedroom for much less? And why buy something when someone next door has what you need and will lend it to you for free? According to the proponents of the sharing economy, there are so many untapped opportunities to both make money and help other people. This new sharing economy then has huge implications for cities.

Slezak said the average car spends 90 percent of its engine switched off. And then, even when it’s in use, a big percentage of the time the car is idle, stuck in traffic or circling for parking. Why not share a car so it’s used more efficiently? Firms like Uber and Lyft enable this through a “less centralized model of ownership.” The same can be said for places to stay. Some people only use their apartments — or rooms in their apartments — some of the time. On Airbnb, users can rent out that extra space and make some money, while providing someone with a low-cost place to stay. “Instead of saying we have 600,000 hotel rooms, cities should say they have 600,000 apartments available.”

Still, many cities are only tip-toeing into the sharing economy, as there are many issues to work out. For one, how should sharers be regulated, given they are providing a form of service? The companies themselves still seem to be wading through these issues, too. Slezak said some questions still need to be answered, like: “What’s the impact on local communities? What’s the impact on people with jobs in the old model economy? Will the new sharing economy be equitable? What if someone has nothing to share?”

As Sharon Feigon, head of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, explained, at its best, sharing “increases options and helps us do things in a more efficient way.” But, there are definitely winners and losers. NYC taxi drivers, who can spend up to $1 million for a medallion, are fending off unregulated drivers taking their business. In San Francisco, the city is having a hard time finding cab drivers because drivers see Uber or Lyft as better opportunities.

She is focused on ensuring all ages — not just Millennials — benefit from sharing. This may be getting harder as the sharing economy is increasingly driven by a new set of corporations, whereas in the past sharing was a mostly non-profit endeavor. The private company Uber, with 1.2 million car sharers, is now worth $18 billion. Many other car sharing services have been purchased by established car rental companies (Avis, Hertz, etc).

For Daan Weddephol, founder of Peerby, sharing has great social value, but it won’t be lucrative for him unless he can convince everyone to do it. Peerby enables users of their web site to share “power tools, camping gear, things you only use once in a while.” Weddepohl said “80 percent of things we own could be shared. We have all this overcapacity that we can put into a system.”

Peerby matches those who need something with someone close by willing to lend it. “We fulfill 85 percent of requests in 30 minutes.” The web site makes money by offering optional insurance for damage or loss.

In Amsterdam, where the service started, there are already 60,000 users sharing one million objects. The service has spread throughout Europe and is now being piloted in multiple major U.S. cities. The goal is to launch the service in 50 U.S. cities by 2015.

Weddepohl seems the growing sharing economy as a return to the spirit of Medieval times, when communities were strong and sharing was done as a matter of practice. In that spirit, Peerby enables urbanites to “meet new people and connect.” The service improves sustainability because it means reduced greenhouse gas emissions from product consumption. The challenge, he said, is to create enough scale. With margins so small on the high-social value, but low-monetary value transactions, “we need many transactions to make money.”

Airbnb, if you haven’t heard, is a “platform for renting space in your home,” said Anita Roth, Airbnb. Already more than half a million worldwide have provided rooms for 11 million visitors. Roth said “the services allows people to move to a new city more easily and cheaply and enjoy new experiences.” It’s changing the “nature of hosting.”

To convince cities to create supportive regulations for Airbnb, the company has undertaken a series of economic impact studies. The company has found that 75 percent of Airbnb rooms are outside the main urban center. As a result, “tourism dollars are spread through the city.” Visitors spend about “50 percent of their total budget in the neighborhood” they are staying in.

The social benefits — amorphous yet valuable things like “cross cultural connections” or “increased neighborhood engagement” — are proving more difficult to measure, but Roth said they exist. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Airbnb played a role in helping people find new temporary housing. She said these kinds of social services only improve the resilience of a community.

While Airbnb ran right into New York City’s tough hotel laws, Roth said other cities are more open to letting people rent their apartments. Amsterdam, which was “skeptical at first,” has since “realized all the benefits and become a sharing city.” The city has changed its laws so people can legally rent our their apartment for up to two months a year. They have created regulations to address concerns and have done a lot to educate locals about how to rent out their apartment correctly, with fliers that have info about who to call if there’s a problem.

And there are so many more companies entering the sharing marketplace, with different degrees of success. Weddepohl thinks there is ultimately a limit to this new sharing economy — “you can’t share paper clips” — and the balance of what you can share or not share is coming near. These new services will need to partner with city governments to scale up these services in a way that also addresses cities’ concerns. Services offered by sharing companies need to be regulated, but they should also widely available — if only for the potentially positive economic and social impacts on all those neighborhoods beyond downtown.

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Mia Lehrer / Metropolis

Mia Lehrer & the L.A. River – Metropolis, August 2014
“Defining large swaths of the city, it is perhaps the best lens through which to understand how Lehrer works … Her version of landscape architecture is more like alchemy, addressing landscape in a deeper, social sense.”

Will Toronto’s Ambitious Push to Grow its Urban Canopy Pay Off? – The Globe and Mail, 8/8/14
“The urban forest is an important part of the city’s identity, and city hall has made a formal commitment to increasing the number of trees – citing their environmental benefits as well as their positive impact on the city’s streetscapes.”

Do Evolving Neighborhoods Mean Dissolving Communities? Planetizen, 8/11/14
“As societal mores have loosened up and people become more willing to live next door to those who are different from them, these neighborhoods have come to seem less exotic and more desirable. In a certain way, places like Capitol Hill have become victims of their own success.”

New Queens Public Plaza Shows Public Space Doesn’t Take All That Much – The Architect’s Newspaper, 8/13/14
“Frankly, there’s not all that much to it – save for a new sidewalk, some planters, and a handful of bright bistro tables and chairs. But here’s what Bliss Plaza does have: People. And that’s the key.”

Geograph’s Quixotic Effort To Get Photos Of Every Square Kilometer Of Great Britain And Ireland FiveThirtyEight, 8/15/14
“Smartphone and digital-camera owners are collectively carrying out a worldwide data-collection task: photographing every nook and cranny of the world.”

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ozone

Danica Lombardozzi / National Center for Atmospheric Research

Community Radio of Northern California asks: “What if you could look at the plants in your garden in order to learn if the air around you is clean or dirty?” Turns out the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, enables us to do just that with their new ozone garden. There, the plants show a visible reaction when ozone reaches a certain level.

Ozone is an oxidant in our atmosphere that can be harmful to both people and plants. NASA, which also has an ozone garden for research, further explains: “One of the primary components of air quality is the amount of ozone found in the air we breathe (troposphere). While ozone in the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) protects life from harmful ultraviolet radiation, ozone in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is a pollutant that damages plants and human lung tissue.” Surface-level ozone can reach dangerously high levels on hot, sunny days, causing create breathing problems, especially for children.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the limit for humans at 75 parts per billion, but Community Radio writes that it’s considering lowering that level. Some plants start showing effects at 40 parts per billion.

NCAR’s test garden has four types of plants, which have been selected for their “sensitivity to ozone.” These include “milkweed, snap bean, potato and cutleaf coneflower.” When ozone begins to take its toll, Danica Lombardozzi, a postdoctoral researcher at NCAR, told Community Radio: “You start to see damage on the leaves. A bunch of little black spots.”

These plants are “like a canary in the coal mine,” said Lombardozzi. When the plants react to the ozone, some of the chlorophyll cells in the plant’s leaves die. “The effect isn’t instant, though – the leaf blackening depends on how long the ozone is in the air and how long the plants are exposed.” Typically, the worst ozone comes in later July and August.

As NASA explains in a comprehensive report about their bioindicator ozone garden, ozone could also be very bad news for the plant world, and, in turn, us. During high periods of ozone, there have been known negative impacts: “Ozone air pollution has been known since the late 1950s to cause significant injury and economic losses to many agricultural crops, herbaceous ornamentals, and native plants.” Forests could also be affected.

Here’s a guide on how to set up an ozone garden as a monitoring station. NASA also created a toolkit that explains how educators and middle school students can create their own ozone garden as a scientific learning exercise.

If you have kids or existing breathing problems and are concerned about ozone, you can also check out OzoneMatters.

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things
“My success is built on a mountain of failure.” This bit of wisdom among others is from Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter, who shared stories from his new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind, at an event organized by the Greater Washington Board of Trade in Washington, D.C.

Stone, who is regularly cited as one of the most influential people of the information age, believes failure is inevitable, at least before stumbling upon success. “With each failure, you learn something new. You cross off the list all of the things you shouldn’t do.” Now aged 40, Stone is certainly a success. He has earned hundreds of millions from his share of Twitter, the now-ubiquitous micro-blogging services that attracts 240 million visitors each month. Twitterers send out 500 million tweets each day.

Some of Stone’s lessons learned will be useful for all design professionals:

On being entrepreneurial: “Most people think opportunity is defined. But no one takes a step back and looks at the circumstances. I made the circumstances and then took the opportunity.”

On your designer ego: “Don’t love ideas so much that other people can’t participate. Take your ego out of it.”

On creativity: “Creativity is an endlessly renewable resource.” As a part of this, Stone talked about his time designing book covers. He said he learned that “there is no one perfect book cover. There are infinite perfect covers.” If your client doesn’t like one book cover — or landscape or building design, for that matter — simply create another.

On being vulnerable: “There is value in vulnerability. We put a human face on our early failures at Twitter. Twitter wasn’t built for success. We had to do that. Our underdog image helped us.”

On leadership: “Always be positive, the north star. You have to keep your employees happy, laughing. You can’t yell at people when they are stressed out.”

On profit: “If you love what you are doing and believe that a company or product will do better by aligning with a meaningful cause, then passion will be aligned with profit. Find value and then amplify that value through a business model.”

On creating value: “You will always win if you are doing right by your users.”

On major credit card debt: “I had faith my future self would be smart enough to solve this.”

On great wealth: “It amplifies who you are. If you are a jerk, you will become the biggest jerk. If you are a thoughtful, empathetic person, you will go into philanthropy.”

On philanthropy: “You don’t need to be rich to start giving. You should give early on. In fact, giving has compound impact.”

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ecovative

Ecovative natural Styrofoam / Greener Package

The Buckminster Fuller Institute is looking for solutions to the world’s toughest problems. They just released the call for entries for their 2014 Fuller Challenge, “socially-responsible design’s highest award.” Landscape architects, architects, planners, artists, entrepreneurs, and students from everywhere are invited to go for the $100,000 prize for most outstanding strategy.

Buckminster Fuller, who died in 1983, was way ahead of his time. While he is famous for his geodesic dome, which took form in Disney’s “Spaceship Earth” Epcot Center and other buildings, as well as his innovative maps, Fuller’s deeper impact may be on our thinking. He was one of the first modern Western thinkers to connect architecture to ecology and the environment.

According to the institute that bears his name, Fuller called for a “design revolution to make the world work for 100 percent of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

This worthy goal is now being pursued through the Fuller challenge, which seeks to identify global change-makers. Winners haven’t just taken on a building or landscape but a whole broken system.

Last year, an amazing group of materials innovators at Ecovative took home the prize for their game-changing Styrofoam made of mycelium and agricultural waste. The year before, the Living Building Challenge won for showing the world how a green building could become a self-sustaining system.

Submit your concept by April 11, 2014.

Another competition is a bit of good news for Ukraine, which faces challenges on so many fronts at the moment. A new ideas competition from the Can-action 2014 festival will award 5,000 EU for the best user-generated public space concept. Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei is one of the judges. Submit ideas by April 17.

 

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Global Forest Watch

Global Forest Watch, a new $25 million dollar, web-based tool — which was created through a partnership of the World Resources Institute (WRI), ESRI, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Google, and a slew of other environmental groups — aims to provide a “near-real time” view of deforestation (and reforestation) around the world. According to data from Google and the University of Maryland, the world has lost 2.3 million square kilometers of trees from 2000 to 2012 from logging, diseases, and storms. BBC News tells us this is the equivalent to 50 football fields of trees being lost “every minute of every day over the past 12 years.” But during the same time frame, about 800,000 square kilometers of new forest were also planted. Still, this means the world has lost forest cover equal to the size of Mongolia in little more than a decade. The world can’t keep going at this rate given only about 15 percent of the planet’s original forest cover now remains.

Since the late 1990s, WRI has led the development of the forest watch service, which “unites satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information about forests.” The program uses more than half a billion high-res images from NASA’s Landsat program, which are organized with new algorithms created by the University of Maryland, and then made available for easy online access thanks to the cloud computing power of Google’s Earth and Maps engines. BBC News writes that high-res images of global tree loss and gain are updated annually while data on tropical forests is updated monthly.

The program’s ability to crowdsource information is particularly interesting. Campaigners and local communities can also submit data, pictures, and video on the ground. This picks up on an existing trend: “In Brazil, the Paiter Surui people are already using smart phones and GPS software to monitor illegal logging.”

The watch service will visualize protected areas, as well as concessions for logging, mining, and palm oil. For example, any user can look up whether a given area is protected or whether a company has the right to take down the trees there. Policymakers and regulators can now point to the map to see if laws are being followed on logging in vulnerable areas. Multinational companies like Nestle say it will enable them to better track where they supply palm oil and other ingredients. And sustainable forestry companies can better prove their products are coming from sanctioned places. Dr. Andrew Steer at WRI said: “Global Forest Watch is a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests. From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”

The world no longer has to rely on guesstimates. As Rebecca Moore, engineering manager with Google Earth, explained to Reuters: “With the exception of Brazil, none of the tropical forest countries have been able to report the state of their forests. Now it will be possible to have near real-time updates of the state of the world’s forests, open to anyone to use.”

The trick will be getting out some final kinks, writes The Christian Science Monitor. Critics of the program say it currently can’t distinguish between forests and industrial plantations, a major problem given rows of palm trees shouldn’t really be counted as a forest, given these mono-cultures provide very few ecosystem services.

Also worth reading is “Networking Nature: How Technology Is Transforming Conservation,” a phenomenal article in the past issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Conservation scientist Jon Hoekstra gives us many reasons to be optimistic about the power of new technologies. “Conservation is for the first time beginning to operate at the pace and on the scale necessary to keep up with, and even get ahead of, the planet’s most intractable environmental challenges. New technologies have given conservationists abilities that would have seemed like super powers just a few years ago.”

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worldman
Buckminster Fuller was way ahead of his time. While he is famous for his geodesic dome, which took form in Disney’s “Spaceship Earth” Epcot Center and other buildings, as well as his innovative maps, Fuller’s deeper impact may be on our thinking. He was one of the first modern Western thinkers to connect architecture to ecology and the environment. In a fascinating new book edited by Daniel Lopez-Perez called R. Buckminster Fuller: World Man, Alejandro Zaerao-Polo writes that he was one of the first to describe “the modern world as an ecosystem to be reconciled with nature.” Back in the mid-60s, way before the sustainable design movement took root, he was talking about “energy, fossil fuels, food, and pollution.” He was one of the first systems-thinkers, serving as one of the intellectual godfathers of today’s integrated approach to sustainable design.

His geodesic dome, which was featured at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), brought him fame, but he was perhaps more interested in using these large-scale illustrations to promote the “concepts or operative principles” behind these works, writes Lopez-Perez. In the late 1920s, Fuller wrote, “I made a bargain with myself that I’d discover the principles operative in the universe and turn them over to my fellow man.” Arguably, Lopez-Perez says, Fuller’s conception of these operating principles became more widely known than his inventions.

When invited to give a major lecture at Princeton University by Princeton School of Architecture dean Robert Geddes in the nascent field of environmental design in 1966, Fuller outlined his unique approach, which cut across disciplines. As Geddes describes, Fuller was “hard to classify … either [an] engineer or architect or inventor or geographer or mathematician or all of these.” Early on, Fuller was promoting the spaces in between disciplines, saying they were the places where true innovation happens.

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For a “globe map,” a project with Princeton architectural students created in conjunction with his lecture, he demonstrated some of his discipline-breaking ideas about the universe and architecture. The model was described in the Princeton Alumni Weekly as a nothing less than “the characteristic structural principle of the universe.” It’s no accident that the “sphere is 400 feet in diameter. Mr. Fuller believes that the discontinuous compression principle is the characteristic structural principle of the universe. And with a 40-foot diameter, his sphere becomes a sort of scale model of the world, at 1:1,000,000.” He was using the globe map as a sort of experiment. While the globe map was useful for cartographers — it apparently was more accurate in its depiction of the planet than the conventional map at the time — it was meant for architects and other designers. His goal was to “provide a better comprehension of world geography to help architects plan their work in a larger perspective.”

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In his lecture, which is republished in full in World Man, we get insights into his thinking. He speaks in non-disciplinary terms, as he says designers must also act like entrepreneurs and inventors. He elevated the role of the inventor, saying, “If his invention works, it is a facility for man. It will very probably decrease the frustrations of man’s realization of his highest potential.”

He believes we must design — and create inventions — with a clear understanding of the systems in which we work. “The earth can be a system, because clearly there is that which is interior and that which is exterior to it. Some part of the universe has to be invested in the system to differentiate what is in or outside at a given moment. That is what I mean by a system.”

By more fully understanding the Earth system, humans can participate more “consciously” in its “evolutionary transformation and success.” Just as his globe map enabled visitors to both view it as an object — and then also stand within it and look out of it — people can place locate themselves in the broader system. If they do that, “I think all of humanity is about to be born into a new kind of relationship to the universe.” Fuller was articulating a concept we all now know: local actions have global effects.

He goes on to make the case for sustainability within the Earth system, calling for increased use of wind power, arguing that “the burning up of fossil fuels” is an error. He also foresaw the need for a way to capture and store wind power, which is what many wind power manufacturers are working on right now. He called for capturing power from tides. He saw the need for more energy-efficient fuels.

He put a lot of faith in the young — future generations — to do better than the ones before, finally arguing that “the best I can prophesy to myself is the young world is about to take the initiative as inventor-scientist, and in the employing of principles which are operative in universities immediately make available to them and will succeed in converting the resources available to us to such high order of effectiveness as to care of 100 percent of humanity.”

Read the book and explore the work of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, which promotes his ideas through their annual design competition.

Image credits: Princeton Architectural Press

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Microalgae
In a session at the 2013 Greenbuild in Philadelphia, Taimur Burki, Global Green Building Program Manager for Intel Corporation, and Joshua Wray, Graduate Research Assistant (PhD) at Arizona State University, discussed the possibility of using algae as an industrial emissions control strategy.

The session picked apart the results of an experiment between ASU and Intel to analyze algae’s impact on the industrial sector. Wray, a self-professed algae farmer, has been involved in many bioremediation projects in the past that involved capturing nutrients from waste streams, but, in this case, the algae was intended to draw carbon and nitrogen from flue gases.

After identifying the many alternate uses of algae—biofuels, pharmaceuticals, even cookies—researchers found that some strains are very adaptable. Picking and choosing the best strains for this was incredibly important. Essentially, only specific strands of algae will feed on carbon dioxide and help reduce emissions.

fluegas
The desert is used as a perfect test site for many reasons. These dry places offer a lot of sun (which is key to photosynthesis), heat, access to wastewater and non-arable land. Not to mention, many world-renowned algae scientists live there.

ASU worked with Intel to erect flat panel bioreactors on the roof of one of their fabrication buildings to capture boiler emissions and convert them into biofuel. These reactors were filled with algae grown from ponds or other bioreactors.

Researchers studied the bioreactors to see if they could grow algae, whether the CO2 was filtered out and if this process could be used to create clean-burning fuel. There is still much research to be done and many follow-up experiments on the docket, but they had great success in growing algae and filtering carbon and nitrogen oxides out of the flue gas.

[See what the bioreactors look like; learn more from Intel’s Brad Biddle in this video].

Though the desert light and heat are desirable to the algae farmers, this process happening all over the country. In a similar partnership, Duke Energy and University of Kentucky will soon start using algae to convert flue gas emissions into biofuel.

It doesn’t just stop in America. In a recent article in The Times of India, the country’s largest generation utility has launched a project to use algae to minimize CO2 from their power projects.

It’s still a process that researchers are learning about every day, but its potential is outstanding. A key to sustainable building is to reduce carbon emissions, and if something as small and plentiful as microalgae can help bring plants to near-zero emissions, it means exciting possibilities for the future.

This guest post is by Phil Stamper, ASLA PR and Communications Coordinator.

Image credit: (1) Microalgae / Spirulina Info, (2) Flue Gas / Think Progress

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The Art of Rendering

rendering
Rendering in SketchUp: From Modeling to Presentation for Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Interior Design
is a comprehensive manual designed to teach SketchUp users how to generate photo-realistic images using integrated rendering programs (IRPs). The author, Daniel Tal, ASLA, is a licensed landscape architect who has been working in the architecture and site design industry for over fifteen years. Tal has tailored the book to suit the needs of a wide range of professionals who want to digitally render models and produce inspired images. They include architects, landscape architects, interior designers, set and stage designers, and product engineers. The book is useful for students of those professions who are new to the rendering techniques that are increasingly becoming a standard in many design programs.

Several levels of SketchUp users can benefit from the book, but it’s not appropriate for absolute beginners. The book doesn’t offer basic instruction, so users need to know the essentials of modeling in SketchUp before getting started. The book also focuses on three IRPs, third-party plug-ins that are installed and work within SketchUp. They are Shaderlight by ArtVPS, which the book references most often, and SU Podium and Twilight Render, which Tal covers in the accompanying online chapters. These companion chapters are a useful resource. They review settings and tools for the IRPs, which are constantly changing.

The manual consists of ten parts ordered in linear progression. Part one gives an overview of the general concepts, including the order and objectives of each step in the rendering process. The book explains how rendering actually works and provides computer specifications and requirements for optimum performance. Parts two through seven cover the three-part process for rendering. This process includes preparing models for rendering in SketchUp, using IRPs to create graphic images, and enhancing final images in post-production. Part eight demonstrates the entire modeling and rendering process with a step-by-step example that uses the various programs’ tools and settings. The last two parts are the companion chapters for IRPs available online.

The first part of the rendering process covers preparing a model in SketchUp. The manual describes how to create and edit textured surfaces, insert, and adjust details that provide context and scale, and add appropriate lighting. The book also explains how to use the camera tools to compose and adjust different views. In addition to technical advice, Tal shares helpful tips for organizing and expediting this process. He shows users how to build an external texture library and link it to SketchUp. Tal also tells them where to find details like pre-made models of elements like furniture and vegetation.

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The second part covers using the IRPs to provide render values to a model. The book demonstrates the various settings of the IRP Material Editor, which accentuates textures so they take on realistic qualities when rendered. These settings affect elements like an object’s surface condition and reflectivity. Here, Tal describes the IRPs’ various light settings, as well as how to insert and adjust the different types of light sources. This portion of the process requires extensive trial and error. The manual offers helpful suggestions for optimizing it, such as how to determine the resolution for draft versus final renders to save time when working through multiple iterations. It also offers a method for saving and organizing draft renderings, and a criteria by which to evaluate them for final output.

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For the third part, Tal demonstrates how to use external photo-editing software to enhance the generated images. He mainly refers to Adobe Photoshop for CS 5.5 for the post-production process. He explains how to make light and color adjustments and how to add atmospheric effects such as haze, blurred objects, and light lens flares. The book also demonstrates how to make entourage modifications by  placing realistic vegetation, enhancing water, and including backgrounds, skies, and objects in the images. These tips are merely a starting point for finalizing a rendering. The guide suggests a couple comprehensive post-production guides for further information.

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Overall, the book delivers a clear and thorough explanation of the rendering process. Tal covers the technical aspects in detail, guiding users through complete step-by-step examples. He also instructs users to approach rendering as an art form to create hyper-realistic images. The book provides numerous examples of rendered images, most in various stages of completion to highlight the effect of different techniques. It also suggests several outside references to aid in developing graphic image making ability. With its thorough approach, Rendering in SketchUp is an ideal guide for those who want to refine their digital design process.

Explore the book and the sustainable design SketchUp animations Tal created for ASLA.

This guest post is by Shannon Leahy, former ASLA summer intern and recent Master’s of Landscape Architecture graduate, University of Pennsylvania.

Image credits: (1) Wiley, (2) Daniel Tal, ASLA

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boston
“My whole life has been leading up this presentation,” said Jack Dangermond, ASLA, founder and president of ESRI, to an audience of thousands of landscape architects at the opening session of the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston. He was trained as a landscape architect, but couldn’t find a job when he graduated, so he started his own firm focused on digitizing geography. That small firm grew into ESRI, which now has 9,000 employees across the globe. Dangermond said his life has been focused on creating accessible geographic information systems (GIS) that can help us reach a “better, more sustainable future.” But to achieve this, Dangermond said we must also “apply the logic of landscape architects,” merging design and technology into “geo-design.”

“The world is facing incredible challenges,” including climate change, population growth, and urbanization. “Sometimes I feel like things are not going to work out for humanity.” When Dangermond gets down though, he starts thinking about a 50-100 year plan for the planet, which involves harnessing the “best design talent and science and technology.” He believes the framework for this effort is really the “landscape architect’s methodology,” boosted with the power of the Web.

Landscape architecture provides a systematic approach for creating a more sustainable future. He said Ian McHarg, who wrote the seminal book, Design with Nature, was right, “landscape architects have the skills to deal with our common problems.” GIS is then how we can “bring science to that design process.” Dangermond’s goal is to “geo-empower landscape planning and architecture through a set of applications.”

He said GIS tools are central to efforts in public health, agriculture, forestry, resource exploration, urban and transportation planning and design. They are now being used to monitor climate and other planetary changes, and respond to natural disasters. Furthermore, conservation organizations are using GIS to “analyze and design strategies to protect our landscapes.”

GIS technologies are becoming more pervasive. Dangermond said a few million people now use these systems. To further expand the reach of these tools, the new approach is to put “geo information into the cloud, like Steve Jobs did with music.” With geo data in the cloud, “we can better mash-up and analyze.” There’s now no “need to download software, we can just use our browsers.” Dangermond called Web GIS a “transformation.”

With faster machines and web-based services, landscape architects can “analyze changes in real time,” and also make changes instantly, creating a “living atlas.” Furthermore, designers can “integrated tweets, spreadsheets, enterprise data, and sensor from infrastructure to interpret data dynamically.”

As with open-source GIS systems like Harvard’s World Map and others, the Web now allows ESRI to more easily share data and designs, “further breaking down barriers between professional design disciplines.” Today, “more than a million maps are now shared via the cloud.”

In the new iteration of Web GIS, ESRI GIS specialist Suzanne Foss said there’s a “suite of base maps,” which include “authoritative sources, not just commercial sources – but the owners of the data.” She said “these are intelligent maps about people – including demography, health, and even behaviors.” Income is provided down to the census area.

Designers can then use ESRI’s GIS systems to overlay data, which can be weighted to create different “suitability maps.” This will enable users to “determine how well we are achieving goals, and use analysis to inform design.” As an example, she demo-ed how to find the most biodiversity-rich and endangered areas to protect from sprawl in Santa Cruz, California.

Another ESRI expert, Eric Wittner, introduced ESRI’s “procedural modeling” technology, which can be used to create 3D designs on top of existing maps. “These maps are data-driven and rules-driven. It’s not like Sketchup; it’s more intelligent.” In a preview, he showed how an entire urban design can be created on the fly, and even show how much sunlight would hit the community at different times of the day. Once these dynamic 3D designs are created, they can then be saved and shared as PDF files so clients and community groups can fly-through them, too.

esri
Dangermond believes these technologies will “transform landscape architecture,” as they will scale-up the ability of landscape architects to affect change. But for them to work, landscape architects need to actually use these GIS tools, not just “pass off the work to the CAD guy.” Geo-design represents a more “rational-based design” approach that will ultimately help the planet.

Image credits:ESRI

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