img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2939831959404383&ev=PageView&noscript=1")

Wealth of geospatial data has huge benefits for architecture

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Satellite data on everything from flood-prone areas to night-time use of cities is about to transform the building process says an Australian academic

Satellites will provide crucial environmental information to building designers and engineers before they start to plan the development of sites says Davina Jackson, author of Data Cities.
Satellites will provide crucial environmental information to building designers and engineers before they start to plan the development of sites says Davina Jackson, author of Data Cities. Credit: Lund Humphries (2018).

Satellites that circle the globe observing a range of environmental conditions are set to transform the building design process, the author of a new book on the subject has claimed.

More than 650 Earth observation satellites fitted with advanced sensors and photographic equipment currently orbit the planet, recording data and time-sequenced visual maps of things like soils, vegetation and water, pollution characteristics, air temperatures, weather patterns, the position of underground infrastructure, the footprint, height and materials of buildings, and the movement patterns of traffic and people.

This detailed site-specific information can be supplied to architects at a much earlier stage than usual, enhancing the accuracy and relevance of concept designs and potentially reducing the need for environmental impact reports (EIRs) at a later stage.

Davina Jackson, author of Data Cities: How Satellites are Transforming Architecture and Design, published by Lund Humphries, told RIBAJ: 'Satellites will provide crucial environmental information to building designers and engineers before they start to plan the development of sites. It is a transformation from the current bureaucratic system of assessing project proposals via "a posteriori" EIRs to a more robust "a priori" evidence-based method.'

This new data paradigm would also exploit imagery gathered by drones and light aircraft, 3D lidar scanners and other terrestrial sensor monitoring and imaging equipment and could benefit other building professionals such as land surveyors, landscape designers, property developers, builders and urban planners.

'Government planning and development regulations also could become more flexible and responsive to real-world circumstances, with decisions more consistently evidence-based and less obviously reactive to local politics,' said Jackson, who is honorary academic at the School of Architecture at the University of Kent.

Digital Earth initiatives worldwide are making geospatial data from satellites easier for businesses to access. Global tech corporations, such as Esri, are also gathering large geo-datasets that users can access via online modelling platforms.

BIM projects could benefit from early access to site-specific information and Esri is working with Autodesk to integrate its tools with BIM to realise the concept of geodesign (design in geographic space). According to Jackson, some governments are also collaborating with major private satellite operators, such as DigitalGlobe, to integrate satellite imagery with their vast libraries of non-pictorial data.

Earth observation satellites are not new – a camera onboard the V-2 (aka A-4) missile launched from New Mexico took the first picture of Earth from space in 1946. But 21st century innovations have boosted their data harvesting potential: sensors can detect patterns of street lighting to reliably map the nighttime use of cities; infrared thermo-imaging can record surface temperatures and energy loss from buildings; and high-res overviews can identify areas affected by events such as drought, flooding, fires, and chemical spills.


 

Latest

How is the construction industry, and architecture in particular, responding to the ever-changing impacts of Covid-19 and the upcoming Brexit deadline? Adrian Malleson, head of economic research at RIBA, provides an overview

How is architecture responding to Covid-19 and Brexit?

Monica Pidgeon’s 1961 photograph of Palazzo del Lavoro by Pier Luigi Nervi and Gio Ponti shows the remarkable exhibition space in its prime

Palazzo del Lavoro in Turin by Pier Luigi Nervi, 1961

On 20 October 2020 RIBAJ and PiP were joined by a group of experts and architects to discuss innovative infrastructure projects that are improving the lives of communities

Catch up with the latest in a series of RIBAJ and PiP online discussions

A cosy insulated coat now wraps around Piers Taylor’s 16 year old timber and glass home extension, muffling up inner warmth and reorganising the marvellous views

Home’s insulating over-layer improves comfort and reframes views

MHCLG’s Christopher Pincher calls on architects to join planning consultation as part of government’s strategy to build homes with ‘beauty, quality and environment’ at their core

Architects key to our better plans says housing minister Pincher