EEO-AGI Scotland Seminar Review : Elliot Hartley, Garsdale Design : 1st Feb

“Geodesign and Smarter Planning” – Elliot Hartley (Garsdale Design)

For a joint EEO-AGI and Hutton Club Seminar series we welcomed Elliot Hartley the Managing Director of Garsdale Design, an expert in 3D urban modelling and geodesign, to guide us through his personal journey and experiences in the need for implementation of geodesign for smarter planning.

Elliot Hartley eloquently set the scene  the scene, “humans are in a pickle”. According to recent UN reports, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. As urbanisation continues, sustainable development necessitates how do we successfully plan urban growth to ensure the benefits of urbanisation are fully shared and inclusive for all? The possible solution? Geodesign.

Geodesign utilises the geovisualisation and geoanalytical aspects of GIS and combines it with planning and design practices to  create design proposals set within a geographic context. At the foundation of geodesign is an iterative workflow that uses stakeholder input and collaboration, spatial modelling and analysis, and model simulations within a geographical context. This enables a comprehensive final design and is a useful tool for enabling effective decision making. Elliot Hartley describes it as, “ A holistic approach to the design process that includes responsive & iterative, analysis in real-time”.  This is a powerful tool that can evaluate the performance of a series of different designs to find the most optimal outcome (profit, environmental impact, social impact, etc.)  by evaluating and compromising with all stakeholders. This is due to its unique ability to  provide more informed design decisions based on geographic visualisation represented in a 3D model.

However, there are obstacles to adopting this holistic approach. Elliot Hartley outlined that most professionals at all stages of a typical design process, from the city surveyors to architects, are “trapped within their professional cell”. For example, architects and urban planners whilst understanding that it is vital to undertake research and incorporate geographic context  in their designs, still  do not typically use GIS. This is likely due to the number of GIS programmes and platforms to attempt to learn. Which are often not compatible with one another, making things appear overly complex and time consuming. Or vice-versa, with GIS users not understanding the design process.

The solution Elliot believes is a future that requires greater collaboration  between different organisations and listening to the needs across departments to erode the effects of this “professional cell” and promote learning from others. Only when we “Stop. Collaborate, and listen” will we find solutions that benefit greater society. This was demonstrated with Elliot’s playful nature from which he realised that using the pre-existing Unreal Engine, a suite of tools designed specifically for game developers to design and build games, could be incorporated into the geodesign workflow. Learning and utilising these pre-existing tools and incorporating the Unreal Engine into the workflow enabled the easier production of visually pleasing and accurate 3D models. It is this collaborative and playful practice that Elliot Hartley promotes that not only can be applied to the context of geodesign but any professional practice. Helping to find the solutions to societies  greatest challenges.

“We have the data and we have the methodology, lets begin to do things properly. “ – Elliot Hartley.

Jozef Rusin, MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management