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Using Drones as a Landscape Performance Assessment Tool

By Rachael Shields, MLA Candidate, University of Georgia

Our University of Georgia (UGA) team is participating in the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Case Study Investigation (CSI) program and includes professors Alfie Vick, Brian Orland, and Jon Calabria and me. We are studying Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta and the University of Georgia’s Science Learning Center. The landscape architect for both projects was HDR’s Atlanta office.

Drones are currently a hot commodity in the world of package delivery or air strikes, but they are just beginning to take off in the design field (pun intended). Drones became part of our CSI research process when the need arose for high quality post-construction aerial images because online map imagery sources were not up-to-date. Collecting aerial imagery and video are increasingly common uses for drone technology in the design and planning professions. During the process of acquiring imagery, our team realized there were many fascinating advantages in using a drone — beyond the conventional uses.

uga-drone-530wThe drone our UGA research team used, prior to flight

The drone we used allowed us to collect data we never would have been able to otherwise. For this portion of the project we brought in Roger Lowe, a professor in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, who is a specialist in spatial information technology and has a remote pilot certificate, also known as a “drone license.” In order to fly over UGA’s Science Learning Center, we first had to get flight clearance. Before flying, Roger made sure to check the weather and to become aware of any hazards that might affect the flight like powerlines, trees, and structures. He also knew to keep the craft at a maximum of two hundred feet above ground level. While imagery with a lot of people using the landscape would be great, drone flights over people are not permitted.

After flying, the imagery data were transferred to Agisoft PhotoScan, software that processes the images and produces data that can be opened in ArcGIS. For our research purposes, we captured a terrain file to show the topography of the site. PhotoScan also produced an orthomosaic, a seamless aerial formed from a group of orthoimages. Third, through the use of laser light reflected from terrain, structures, and vegetation, the drone is able to capture lidar data in the form of x,y,z measurements. This produces a point cloud that allows 3D analysis.

uga-sciencelearningcenter-dem-530wDrone-captured digital elevation model of the Science Learning Center

 

uga-sciencelearningcenter-aerial-530wDrone-captured aerial image of the Science Learning Center

The exciting potential we began to notice with this kind of technology is longitudinal monitoring. Future classes at UGA could track changes in the Science Learning Center’s landscape over time. For example, imagery can track the change in the area of shade cover, the effectiveness of the stormwater management methods on site, or even map changes due to erosion. Additional analyses with ArcMap, Grass GIS, and HydroCAD would provide cutting-edge landscape performance evaluation tools not seen in traditional methods.

In conclusion, drones have the capacity to provide a whole new landscape performance toolset. Drone technology is new to us, and we hope to include some of the unique aspects of drone data analysis as we continue to document our projects as Landscape Performance Series Case Study Briefs. So far, we have learned that drones have great possibilities, the extent of which, we are still trying to understand.

Research Assistant Rachael Shields and Research Fellows Jon Calabria, Brian Orland, and Alfred Vick are participating in LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program, which supports academic research teams to study the environmental, social, and economic performance of exemplary landscape projects. 

LAF Receives NEA Art Works Grant for 2018 CSI Program

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced today that the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) is one of 52 national, regional, state, and local nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Art Works grant in the Design category.

artworkslogo-f3kLAF is approved for a $25,000 grant to support the 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches LAF-funded faculty-student research teams with design firms to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. This year, 5 teams will study 8 projects, and the NEA grant will help fund the stipends paid to the student Research Assistant on each team.

Through Art Works grants, the NEA has supported the CSI program for 6 of the last 7 years. “We are so appreciative of the NEA’s ongoing investment in this transformative program,” said LAF CEO Barbara Deutsch, FASLA. “Past participants have said that CSI changes the way they think about both design and how to represent their work. The resulting case studies elevate perceptions about landscape by showing the environmental, economic, and social value of great design.”

Art Works is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts. The 936 Art Works grants awarded in this round total over $24 million. Visit the NEA website for a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support.

2018 CSI Teams and Projects Announced

thesandlotMahan Rykiel Associates' The Sand Lot in Baltimore, Maryland

Seven faculty Research Fellows and eight high-performing landscape projects have been selected for LAF’s 2018 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches faculty-student research teams with design firms to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Teams develop methods to quantify environmental, economic and social benefits and produce Case Study Briefs that are published in LAF’s award-winning Landscape Performance Series.

Research Fellows lead the CSI collaboration and receive funding to support a student Research Assistant. Participants from each firm serve as liaisons and work with the academic team. This year, each of the five teams will study one to two projects (instead of three, as in past years) in order to increase the breadth and depth of the research.

The selected projects include waterfront sites, brownfield reclamations, and — a CSI first — a pop-up park and restaurant. The diverse public spaces include a SITES-certified heritage site and a SEED-certified park designed to promote social equity.

The 2018 CSI program kicks off in February and runs through early August. We look forward to working with this impressive group and to learning more about these outstanding projects and their impacts!


CSI Research Fellow:
Catherine De Almeida, University of Nebraska
Student Research Assistants: Hannah LoPresto and Brandon Zambrano

  • Design Workshop - P Street Corridor, Lincoln, NE
  • Sasaki - Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, Council Bluffs, IA


CSI Research Fellow:
Lisa DuRussel, RLA, LEED AP, Pennsylvania State University
Student Research Assistant: Aastha Singh

  • Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects - West Point Foundry Preserve, Cold Spring, NY
  • SWA - Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, Queens, NY


CSI Research Fellows:
Jon Calabria, Alfred Vick, and Brian Orland, University of Georgia
Student Research Assistant: Rachael Shields

  • HDR, Inc - Historic Fourth Ward Park Phase 1, Atlanta, GA
  • HDR, Inc - University of Georgia Science Learning Center, Atlanta, GA


CSI Research Fellow:
George Bradley Guy, Assoc AIA, LEED AP BD+C, SEED, Catholic University of America
Student Research Assistant: Jazzmin Reid

  • Depot Park, Gainesville, FL


CSI Research Fellow:
Pavlina Ilieva, AIA, Morgan State University
Student Research Assistant: Naomi Wong Hemme

  • Mahan Rykiel Associates - The Sandlot, Baltimore, MD

Projects, Firms Announced for 2017 CSI Program

barangarooreserve-530wPWP Landscape Architects' Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney, Australia

LAF has selected 13 high-performing landscape projects for the 2017 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches LAF-funded faculty-student research teams with design practitioners to document the benefits of exemplary landscape projects.

Participants from each firm will serve as liaisons and work with the 2017 CSI Research Fellows to evaluate and quantify the environmental, social, and economic performance of the selected projects. The resulting Case Study Briefs are published in LAF’s award-winning Landscape Performance Series database of over 100 projects.

With projects spanning three continents, 2017 CSI promises to be an engaging experience with marked additions to the Landscape Performance Series. Projects this year include a pedestrian trail that connects two oceanside cities, a former ballast quarry, three healthcare facilities, a master planned community, two reclaimed elevated rail lines, and more.

The 2017 CSI program kicks off in February and runs through early August. The resulting Case Study Briefs from these participating firms and projects will be published in the fall: 

  • ASPECT Studios
    The Goods Line, Redfern, New South Wales, Australia
  • Design Workshop
    Wayne Ferguson Plaza, Lewisville, TX
  • HGA Architects and Engineers
    Hennepin County Medical Center Whittier Clinic, Minneapolis, MN
    Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, Owensboro, KY
    Virtua Voorhees Hospital, Voorhees, NJ
  • James Corner Field Operations + Friends of the High Line
    The High Line, New York, NY
  • McGregor Coxall
    Ballast Point Park Birchgrove, Sydney, Australia                        
  • PWP Landscape Architecture
    Barangaroo Reserve, Sydney, Australia
  • TBG Partners
    The Shops at Park Lane, Dallas, TX
    Harvest, Argyle, TX
  • Tsinghua Tongheng Urban Planning and Design Institute
    Yanxiu Park, Liaoyang City, Liaoning Province, China
    Huludao-Xingcheng Coastal Trail, Huludao and Xingcheng, Liaoning Province, China
  • Wenk Associates
    TAXI II, Denver, CO     

We appreciate these firms’ interest in the landscape performance of this impressive list of projects, and we look forward to working with each of them.

2017 CSI Research Fellows Announced

LAF’s 2017 Case Study Investigation (CSI) program kicks off next week with six faculty CSI Research Fellows. CSI is a unique research collaboration that matches faculty-student research teams with design firms to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Teams develop methods to quantify environmental, economic, and social benefits and produce Case Study Briefs for LAF’s Landscape Performance Series.

csi-graphic-v2CSI Research Fellows lead the CSI collaboration, work with firms to identify measurable impacts of select projects, develop evaluation methods, and oversee the case study production process. These select faculty members receive an honorarium and funding to support a student research assistant.

The following LAF CSI Research Fellows will lead the five 2017 Case Study Investigation teams:

  • Richard Plunz, Columbia University
  • Hong Wu, PhD, Pennsylvania State University
  • Simon Kilbane and Andrew Toland, University of Technology Sydney
  • Taner Ozdil, PhD, ASLA, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Shan Jiang, PhD, West Virginia University

We look forward to working with this distinguished group! From February through early August, the CSI research teams will work to document the performance of 13 exemplary projects. Stay tuned — next week, we’ll announce the projects and firms selected for participation.