Amber Griffiths and Dave Griffiths (FoAM Kernow), Karen Anderson and Stefano Casalegno (ESI, UoE),
16 Nov. 2016:

Playing with voxels: a 3D journey through urban greenspaces

When evaluating flows and functions of urban systems, scientists frequently utilise two dimensional maps of urban greenspace. But greenspace is not two dimensional…

Urban planners and architects have long made good use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and computing technology to visualise urban landscapes in various ways. However, very often the focus of these spatial studies has been towards built infrastructure, ignoring the complex 3D qualities of urban greenspace, or instead, simplifying those green structures in unrealistic ways. Urban greenspace research itself is also heavily reliant on non-volumetric representations with planning maps and GIS analyses replete with 2D models describing the spatial arrangements of urban vegetation primitives (e.g. classified areas of grass, shrubs or trees). Of course, humans instinctively understand that all greenspace is volumetric rather than two-dimensional. The volume is alive: urban birds hop from isolated trees to neighbouring bushes, residents watch birds flying down to feed in their gardens, children climb trees in parks, and bumblebees vault fences to forage amongst allotment plants. Alongside, a growing body of work points to the importance of urban vegetation for delivering multiple ecosystem services, but there remain considerable uncertainties in the quantification and functional relationships between greenspace ‘quality’ and delivery of most of these ecosystem services. In this seminar we’ll take a scientific and creative journey through a new way of measuring, visualising and engaging with the urban green volume. Using new waveform laser scanning technology that penetrates the vegetation canopy, allowing canopy structures and sub-canopy information to be retrieved, we’ll show how it is now possible to measure the complexity of the urban green volume in its full three-dimensional glory. During the seminar we will discuss some of the complexities of working with waveform laser scanning data whilst also showing you the ‘playful’ ways that we’ve been working with these new volumetric products (‘voxels’) to extract the useful, interactive spatial information that can be used by urban planners and city residents alike. There will be a chance at the end of the seminar to play with voxels in minecraft.