Author Archives: Shannon McElvaney

Shannon McElvaney
Shannon McElvaney is the Community Development Manager at Esri and a geodesign evangelist working on developing tools, processes, and techniques that will enable people to design, build, and maintain livable, sustainable, healthy communities. He has more than 20 years applying geospatial technologies across a variety of industries. He writes a quarterly column and is on the Editorial Advisory Board at Informed Infrastructure. Most recently, he is the author of a new book of "Geodesign: Case Studies on Regional and Urban Planning."

Recent Posts

Denver Growing Smart with Spatial Technology

I’m here in Denver, Colorado for the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference (2/13-15/2014), a perfect location for an event that illustrates the importance of triple bottom line planning that addresses the environment, the economy, and the social sphere of culture, justice, and equity.

For more than ten years, Denver has been adding light rail and commuter rail to their transportation infrastructure to help reduce traffic and improve accessibility. In the last six years or so, a lot of work has been done to revitalize historic parts of downtown to increase its vibrancy and livability.  New shops and trendy restaurants have moved in; planters, trees, and artwork dot the streets; and in the summer, colorfully-painted upright pianos are randomly placed along the walking mall on 16th Street, with free bus rapid transit attracting the young and old to explore and maybe play a tune. Continue reading

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The Geodesign-Biomimicry Connection

Jack Dangermond studied under Ian McHarg and Carl Steinitz, the combination of which took the manual overlay method of designing with nature from paper to the digital world using computers in 1969. His hope was that GIS would become a framework for modeling earth’s systems so they could be managed more sustainably. In 1995, Jack called GIS “the nervous system of the planet,” foreshadowing what I think GIS is on its way to becoming. Geodesign–an iterative design method that uses stakeholder input, geospatial modeling, impact simulations, and real-time feedback to facilitate holistic designs and smart decisions–is the natural evolution of that vision.

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Urban Planning and the DNA of the City

A city looks and feels the way it does because of human intention. Early civilizations built their settlements next to waterways, designing them to accommodate this resource accessibility and their own survival. During the beginning of the industrial revolution, cities were planned with ever-evolving rules ensuring that city streets were wide enough to accommodate the full turn of a horse and carriage. In this way, the values of the people were encoded into the very DNA of the city.

A complex built environment can be reduced to three basic elements: links along which travel can occur, nodes representing the intersections where two or more paths cross and public spaces form, and buildings where most human activities take place. The functionalities of place are all defined by rules and procedures, which make up the core design vocabulary of a place.  Procedural design techniques automatically generate urban designs through predefined rules which you can change as much as needed, providing room for limitless new design possibilities. Continue reading

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Geodesign for a Sustainable Europe

With the rush to urbanize, how can historic landscapes and archaeological features be preserved to maintain a sense of place? How does society plan for an ever-increasing population while maintaining open space, rural character, and economic vitality? How do communities take full advantage of improvements in technology to design or retrofit spaces and create smart, sustainable cities of the future?

These are some of the questions that will be examined at Geodesign Summit Europe, which will be held in September on an ancient fortress island in the Netherlands.

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A 250-Year Plan for the Planet

Four years ago, designer and technologist Bran Ferren issued a challenge during the first Geodesign Summit: Become better storytellers using geodesign.

Ferren, the chief creative officer of Applied Minds LLC, returned to Esri in January to keynote at the fourth Geodesign Summit and reiterate his first call to action and deliver another: Develop a 250-year plan for the planet enabled by geodesign to create a vision of the future.

“Geodesign combines geography and data with modeling, simulation, and visualization to tell stories and (show) the consequences of your actions,” Ferren told more than 260 architects, urban and transportation planners, GIS and design professionals, educators, and others at the most well-attended Geodesign Summit to date. He sees great potential for geodesign to ultimately help find solutions to complex problems. “It is still in the shiny object stage but it will be very important,” he said.

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