Design with nature, design with data

Scottish company RaeburnFarquharBowen relies on the georeferencing power of Vectorworks Landmark to produce durable and resilient site designs.

Scottish landscape architecture company RaeburnFarquharBowen are experts in producing sustainable solutions. To do this, they rely on data as the driver of the design process.

But they don’t just rely on data for fun. They believe that site analysis should be properly integrated into computer-aided design processes; Site analysis should not be a snapshot, said senior landscape architect Lisa McRavey, but rather should continuously inform design iterations and continue to be an integral part of project development. “Data is power,” she stressed.

The company praises the power of geographic information systems (GIS) as a source of truth in their design and analysis.

Rather than importing a PDF of site conditions, McRavey explained that it’s best to reference geometry or GIS imagery directly into Vectorworks Landmark through its access to Esri’s ArcGIS Online feature services. Indeed, it’s not just a snapshot in time, but rather a live overlay of real-world terrain. It’s much more precise and flexible than the guesswork that comes with positioning and scaling a PDF, McRavey said.

Map site for Vectorworks import

McRavey and Senior Landscape Architect Iain Lyon generously shared some examples of their work during Vectorworks Design Day 2021.

One project involved 200 square kilometers of nature with bike paths and walking paths that run alongside nature hotspots, cultural sites and plenty of green escapes from city life. Company members cycled the 200 square kilometers and placed survey discs to map unmapped trails with the Strava app. They were then able to import the GPS-mapped trails into Vectorworks and convert them to shapefiles, allowing them to continue to benefit from accurate geospatial geometry. McRavey said it was a lot faster than having to draw the terrain manually, and all that time saved was relegated to analysis.

Cataloging of existing trees with relevant data

One of the company’s projects involved a site with over 600 existing trees that needed to be cataloged before analysis could begin. A seemingly daunting task, but RaeburnFarquharBowen was able to directly import an arborist’s tree survey, after which Vectorworks Landmark generated 2D and 3D canopy representations in the correct geographic locations. These representations contained ancillary data such as maintenance needs and species. With all of this information quickly in place, the company could start querying each tree by different criteria and then quickly demonstrate the scale of these mature trees so that the client and consultants could easily visualize them for themselves.

“Traditionally, the tree survey geometry is referenced in the design, but the meat of the data is in a separate report,” Lyon said. “It can get very complicated with so many trees there. With Vectorworks, the ability to mine technical data and display it visually allowed us to make a case for our design team, the client, and especially local people for consultation. »

The two project examples mentioned so far demonstrate the company’s commitment to performing site analysis across the entirety of their projects rather than a snapshot analysis that is left in the doldrums of the initial phases.

The unlimited potential of design technology

Continuing their expertise in design technology to manage the project process, RaeburnFarquharBowen team members are constantly evolving the way they use Vectorworks Landmark.

They made the journey to 3D modeling, which they demonstrated through a residential project with hundreds of homes. Their job was to design the important central pond and its surrounding park. They modeled the area in 3D with Vectorworks and their model was used by a contractor to dig the pond and create the rest of the park. The company again emphasized how important it was that geo-referenced data for this project was supported by Vectorworks so that the project was accurately linked to the real world.

The company’s use of technology for intelligent landscape analysis goes one step further.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they committed to work on a major urban landscape project in Scotland. The project was to include dozens of walkways and green spaces intertwined with the urban scheme. RaeburnFarquharBowen aimed to involve the local community in the project until the pandemic hit, making in-person collaboration impossible.

The designers had the perfect solution: After their initial exploration of the design, they exported the geo-referenced Vectorworks file into a cloud-based collaboration program that allowed the community to comment on different areas of the design.

Although McRavey and Lyon would have preferred the frankness of an in-person collaboration, their method of gathering community feedback on this project shows the characteristic power of integrated planning technology to create adaptable solutions.

RaeburnFarquharBowen’s commitment to a data-driven process has led him to a repeatable model of successful projects, a model backed by Vectorworks Landmark and its purpose-built site planning and design tools.

Learn more about RaeburnFarquharBowen.

Learn more about Vectorworks Landmark.

Alex Altieri is an editorial specialist for Vectorworks, Inc. He has degrees in digital/print journalism and philosophy from Pennsylvania State University, and while not a designer by trade, Alex remains inspired by how Vectorworks software helps spark creativity.

Abdul J. Gaspar