These tools are now central to planning and development in most communities. Communities are being greatly influenced by policy decisions surrounding issues of climate change, environment and desire to achieve sustainable living principles. Recent proposals from the European Union (EU) aim to achieve a 20% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020. This is no small task. It will demand nothing less than whole new approaches involving spatial tools at the core. Buildings, railways, parks, waterways and all other infrastructure will be subject to more innovation and change. Security issues are not on the back burner, instead, they will increasingly be viewed through a wider perspective, one that takes infrastructure design and sustainable planning into decision making as well.
During the past week I sat before the German Minister for Traffic Construction and Urban Development, Wolfgang Tiefensee while at the International Trade Fair for Building and Construction Technology in Berlin. “Our goal for the country is a 20% reduction of greenhouse emissions by 2020. We are investing Euro 15 billion annually into construction and urban development and aiming at the 40% emissions contributed as a result of poor building design. Further, we are aiming to improve upon the 30% emission level originating from transport,” he said. Tiefsensee estimates Euro 50 billion in savings to reach these goals.
Looking around the trade fair to some of the 800 exhibitors at the Berlin Messe, it was hard not to notice that CAD, GPS and GIS were all present. They are represented by applications, products and services like the management of hard surfaces for run-off, energy monitoring and emissions, solar and wind statistics and positioning, water quality and network distribution, land use planning, flood control and monitoring, building design and efficiency, thermal monitoring and measurement etc.. This list goes on and is large. This is not just a whim, one can see and buy many of these products now.
For member states in the European Union, the topics of security, transportation and environment are inter-connected and priorities. Each is directly related to infrastructure and planning. The GALILEO GPS program emanates from an understanding of the importance of positioning to the functioning of each of these priorities. While we are all aware of the debates and controversy surrounding GALILEO, the hard fact remains: GPS supports infrastructure development and operation, and in Europe that relationship is strategic. The monitoring of infrastructure means it must be located and often includes resources moving around it and through it – highlighting the need for accurate and continuous navigation.
The Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe (INSPIRE) program is aimed to harmonize data between Member States. Although the Directive will take many years before evolving into its own, in concept it recognizes that security, transport and environment issues cross boundary’s necessitating spatial data harmonization between countries and administrative units. The U.S. National Map by comparision seeks to achieve a similar goal. All of this data is acquired and developed using CAD, GIS and GPS technologies.
We have turned a corner in the geospatial marketplace from focusing solely on geotechnologies, to open discussions about their contributions for society – security, infrastructure, environment, planning, health etc. In fact, in the V1 Magazine pages these days, you will notice a myriad of news items and topics. That is because we recognize that GIS, CAD and GPS have a strategic role in society: arising in design of buildings, to run railroads, provide water, secure borders, provide clean air , monitor thermal emissions, perform demographic analysis and on and on. We have simply chosen to deliver the message about that important role.
Sustainable communities is a popular topic, no doubt about that. In fact, it is so popular, that it is blurring in some instances. Our profession needs to keep this in mind – we might consider ourselves as the ‘guardians to sustainability.’
At the end of the day, people will want to know: what level of emissions did you save? How much clean water is there? How much CO2? Where are the transport problems? Why are the utilities leaking? Where should we grow more wheat? How long are the roads lasting? How efficient is that building? And, the geospatial community had better get prepared to answer all these questions – in a quantifiable, accurate way.
CAD, GIS and GPS are strategic tools for building, operating and maintaining sustainable cities and rural areas and quantifying the many sustainable and operating processes in them. They support our decision making needs, guide our policy development and assist to identify and calculate what we understand and how we understand it. But most of all, they take the fuzziness, wildness and erratic concepts out of what ‘green’ means in terms of sustainability and add value, identity, trueness and assurance. Our industry depends on realizing that.
Sustainable communities strive to balance the social, ecological and economic pillars of society. The social components of a sustainable community include civic involvement, cultural diversity, public health, access to knowledge, security and a strong sense of place. An ecological balance involves open space preservation, connected wildlife corridors, sustainable agriculture, forests and fisheries, green buildings, access to transit, measured growth, and conscious management of biodiversity, watersheds, soils and climate impacts. An economy that fits with this thinking would take into account local production, renewable energy, energy efficiency, recycling of materials, the use of waste as a resource, community benefits of businesses, fair trade, economic justice and green business practices.
There’s not one single model for a sustainable community. They exist in the developing world as well as the developed world. A sustainable community could be a village, a neighborhood, a town or a city. And sustainable communities are both new development and the retrofit of older communities with a new mindset.
There are as many measures and metrics to gauge success toward the goal of sustainability as there are components to balance. There is no specific formula toward accomplishing sustainability, and no end point. Given the myriad elements to balance, there will always be room for improvement. A conscious effort toward sustainability requires a good deal of planning, execution on many fronts, ongoing measurement and extended fine tuning.
Planning for Action
The decision to achieve sustainability practices can start with a motivated land developer, a corporation, local government or individuals. In some parts of the world there’s a larger top-down government involvement, where federal mandates spur local innovation. In the United States, local and regional action lead the way toward sustainability.
In all scales of action, whether it’s an individual community or an entire city, there’s a need for in-depth planning. This measured approach toward actions and goals requires the input of business interests, professional planners, the scientific community and sociologists. A wide number of inputs with deep domain knowledge are needed to get the right balance.
Collaborative workflows and exchange of knowledge are vital for planning a sustainable development.
Tools for the Task
Design, location and analysis tools are all necessary along the many different stages of sustainable development. CAD is the typical design tool for building design and construction. CAD is also used at somewhat larger scales to show relationships between buildings and align separate design drawings.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is gaining ground to create an intelligent model of a building that can be used throughout the entire building’s lifecycle. The BIM model starts with a design that is vetted through analysis engines to ensure that it meets LEED efficiency requirements. The model gets inputs from designer, structural engineer, plumbing, heating, electrical trades and others before its handed to construction. The construction manager utilizes the model throughout the building process, and then the model is passed to the owner/operator for ongoing maintenance.
GPS ties action to location. GPS is used throughout the process. It starts with site-related planning and staking with survey-grade GPS. GPS is used in machine control to speed earth moving on the site and reduce continued staking of the site. Measurements at the site are constantly taken to assure positional accuracy of all elements. GPS will begin to be used for the connected construction site where the location of work teams and supplies will be centralized for better construction management.
GIS is a critical tool for the integration of multidisciplinary inputs to facilitate collaboration for the larger geography. It ties together individual inputs for a holistic view of a site or development. GIS combines the data around common reference points to provide in-depth analysis capability, visualization and simulation. GIS has a large role to play in the model-based future where individual BIM building models will be cataloged together for a larger intelligence through integrated intelligent models.
A number of emerging technologies will have a role to play within the larger intelligent model-based future. The sensor web will provide important real-time data that can be monitored and analyzed to provide important feedback on sustainability goals. Sensors attuned to CO2 emissions and air quality, weather, wind, water quality, etc. will provide important safeguards to ensure that progress is made toward sustainability.
Repositories for large integration of models will come into being. Think of Google Earth or Virtual Earth with engineering-grade accuracy throughout. Inputs to this sophisticated model will be all manner of geospatial information, but at a scale that closely models the accuracy, physics and temporal components of reality.
With an ever-increasing globalization of the economy, the choice of where to live and work will be colored by the vibrancy, efficiency and livability of a community. The communities that take a sustainable development approach will have the leg up on this global competition.
Community Indicators from Redefining Progress