Category Archives: Case Study

#PlanTech and The Future of Planning

Last week was the inaugural PlanTech Week in London, hosted at the The Urban Innovation Centre, part of the Future Cities Catapult in Clerkenwell.

PlanTech

#PlanTech follows in the footsteps of #PropTech and #FinTech as the technology discussion arm of the planning & development community.  PlanTech, best described in the words of the FCC founders is “a showcase for the emerging technologies, innovations and visions that are transforming the way we plan our cities, towns and neighbourhoods“.

PlanTech_Week

As part of the PlanTech Future of Planning programme, Linknode were both at the Thursday evening Exhibition Launch and the Innovator Showcase.

What we Did

For those of you who have been following along, and a reminder for those new to the project, our work as part of the Future of Planning was in improving citizen and community engagement throughout the planning & development process.  We blogged about the project brief in March this year and delivered a

video from our ambitious working prototype as part of the project report.  A summary of our results is listed below.

  • Consumer mobile devices are capable of processing BIM data for on-street live visualisation using mixed-reality approaches
  • The highest quality videomontage production methods still require some offline processing and manual intervention
  • BIM integration provides rapid design review for professional assessment, but consumer access is more valuable when presented with rendered textured surfaces
  • The business models show space for commercial innovation in the sector
  • Our exciting next developments will take urban visualisation to a whole new level of engagement

Like our recent work in visual route assessment, the video is the most powerful form of delivery and communication.  The content below came from the application delivered for the project and shows BIM data for part of the Tottenham Court Road interchange redevelopment for The Elizabeth Line / Crossrail development in London.

(demonstration video, not to be utilised for Visual Impact Assessment)

Next Steps

For anyone interested in more detail relating to the results, to discuss opportunities for involvement and engagement in their own projects, or to work on future Future of Planning initiatives with us… please get in touch.

Conductor Line Sag in Grid Projects

One of the features we  added recently is drawing realistic looking Conductor lines between towers on our Grid projects.

Prior to VentusAR 5.4 we drew straight lines between the connector points on the tower models. This had the effect of fairly unrealistic looking conductor lines as even across the shortest distance the conductor lines sag slightly due to gravity.

This post shows some examples of the line sag development and adds some more detail on how the line sag is calculated.

Catenary Formula

The line sag formula we use when displaying the conductor lines on a transmission project is based on a generalisation of the catenary formula. To calculate the sag at a given point we use the following formula:

LineSag_Formula

Where:

  • a is half the distance between towers (in meters)
  • y is the drop at that point in the conductor (in meters)

Maths Example

Lets take a worked example, if the towers were 200m apart, then the variable a would be 100. We can calculate the value at three sample points:

  • at x = 0 the sag due is calculated as 0m – which would make sense – it is at the top of the tower
  • at x = 200 the sag is calculated as 0m – it also makes sense as it at the top of the other tower
  • at x= 100, the sag calculated is 10.033m – this is the bottom of the catenary curve

This is easiest shown with a graph. Below is a screenshot (with slight optical illusion):

LineSag_Graph

Visual Example

When drawing the line sag, we calculate thirty points along the wire and work out the sag between each of those points  – we then draw a series of straight lines between each point.  Our curve is actually a series straight lines between each of these points, but as you can see the visual impact is effective.

IMG_0172

IMG_0203

Line sag modelling has been added to all Grid projects that use conductor lines.

Limitations

This is only an approximation of how line sag works, I have asked an engineer how line sag is actually calculated and discovered it is far more complicated than I wanted to represent in a generic Visual Assessment tool like VentusAR.

This formula could cause conductor lines to be drawn underground – it is up to the person who set up the model to ensure that the span between towers is reasonable.  Custom modelling is, of course, available on any project where additional detail is required.

More Information

For more information about line sag and how we can help you visualise and assess your Grid projects, tower and conductor lines, give us a shout at hello@ventusar.com

New SNH Visualisation Guidance Published (Lighting)

We were reminded today that the latest version of the SNH “Visual Representation of Wind Farms” came out of draft and was published last month (February 2017).

Version 2.2 of the guidance is an iterative update following the major release update (v2.0) in summer 2014 and the v2.1 revisions in December the same year.

A summary document of changes has been published as a separate download and provides practitioners and interested parties a rapid insight into the changes without the need to compare paragraph by paragraph.  The major change, impacting visual assessment and output for new developments is in paragraphs 174-177:

Turbine Lighting

For turbines in excess of 150m, the need to consult on new lighting visuals is now required.  Although future technical mitigation may help here, there is currently the recommendation to capture images at dusk and create a photomontage based on existing lighting (static streets, moving vehicles, other aviation lighting).
The visualisation should use photographs taken in low light conditions, preferably when other artificial lighting (such as street lights and lights on buildings) are on, to show how the wind farm lighting will look compared to the existing baseline at night.

NOT the Way to Visualise Wind Turbine Lighting!

Specifically the guidance makes reference to innovation in that SNH “encourage applicants to explore new techniques to do this, and emphasise the importance of early dialogue

We are looking for someone who will be creating night light visualisations to ensure that our upcoming night light features being built into VentusAR will work. If you have a project at the right stage, get in touch!

Animation

As we have experienced with the difference between animated wind turbines when compared against static imagery, there is a big difference between views of lighting where all the turbines are at a “maximum visibility” (worst case scenario) visibility and a more normalised situation with different wind directions and rotation occluding lights at certain times.  The more realistic effect can create a fairy lights twinkling effect, but is more representative.

For any clients, landscape assessors, planners or developers interested in exploring new ways to communicate, please contact us at hello@ventusar.com

VentusAR included in 3D Technology in Planning Report

This week the research report “USE OF DIGITAL AND 3D VISUALISATION TECHNOLOGY IN PLANNING FOR NEW DEVELOPMENT” was published by the Scottish Government.Planning_Report

This independent report examines the role and potential of digital imagery and 3D visualisation in the planning process in Scotland. Produced by the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, it was commissioned to inform the review of the planning system.

The report makes reference to the work of Linknode in the use, acceptance and value of 3D visualisation in planning, especially for real-time, in-situ visualisations for better contextual understanding of change and development (George – our technical director – was especially pleased as the report includes a photo of him using VentusAR at Clyde Wind Farm).

GBIt details the importance of digital equivalence in planning and how future advances in 3D visualisations should be embraced by local authorities and developers at earlier stages in the planning process to improve engagement and understanding.

Linknode entirely support this direction and look forward to on-going participation in the development of 3D visualisation in planning & development in Scotland and beyond. To be involved further, review the “Places, People and Planning” consultation of the future of the Scottish Planning System with opportunities to respond.

Report History and Scottish Planning Review

As previously blogged, this is part of the Scottish Planning Review that started with a call for evidence in September 2015.  The response to this was published in July 2016 (our comments here), leading to the commissioning of a report in October 2016 into the use of 3D visualisation technology in planning for new development.  This was funded by the Planning & Architecture Division of the Scottish Government.

Case Study: VentusAR

Out of the 44 bits of technology mentioned in the the report, our VentusAR and UrbanPlanAR solutions for delivering visualisations is noted as the only mobile augmented reality tool (see Annex A for full list).  Of course, we are also based in Glasgow making our contributions innovative, relevant and local!

The report provides a case study on VentusAR for providing in-field Augmented Reality for Agri-Renewables. The key benefits highlighted in this case study are:

  • The use of real world imagery (still or animated) provides high levels of realism for use at early stages of a project.
  • A low cost and level of risk associated with the investment in the visual representations.
  • The incorporation of real-world video enables the representation of movement in the landscape (e.g. swaying trees, vehicles) […] and thus important in coherent representation of a scene of proposed change.
  • Coherence supports the impression of credibility of visualisations.

About VentusAR

We are already providing our clients with the tools to better visualise and communicate their developments. Our online case studies include:

Green Cat Renewables

Greencat Solar visualisationWhen using VentusAR, GreenCat Renewables estimate they save 30% of the time required to visualise and assess Solar and Wind projects. Read the full case study.

 

LDA Design

VentusAR - Wind Turbine Visualisation LDALDA Design benefits from being able to rapidly evaluate projects early on in the development lifecycle and being able to clearly communicate information to clients and consultees. Read the full case study.

Hoolan Energy

Aerial photography of the Hesta Project

Hoolan Energy used VentusAR to do better public engagement for the Costa and Hesta wind projects in Orkney.   Read the full case study or watch the videos: Costa and Hesta.

 

Find out More

You can read more about VentusAR (our product for delivering visualisations in a rural environment) and UrbanPlanAR (for creating visualisations in an urban environment).

If you would like to know more about our visualisation processes and how we can help you communicate your project to stakeholders and the public, drop us a line: hello@linknode.co.uk

Community Engagement for a Hoolan Energy Wind Development in Orkney

Last week we took part in our first full hands-on community engagement experience (although VentusAR has previously been used in many events by our clients themselves).

hoolan-logo-250px-v3

We were commissioned by Hoolan Energy to provide visualisations for pre planning consultations on two Wind Farms on the Orkney Islands – Costa Head and Hesta Head.

Aerial photography of the Hesta Project

Aerial Photography Overlaid on a DTM Showing the Hesta Head Site

The first event on Wednesday was for the Costa Head site. The development is for up to five turbines up to 125m to tip.  We used a model of Vestas V105 turbines, with 72.5m height to hub and 52.5m blade length for visualisations.  Costa Head is located on the north west of the Orkney mainland and the event itself took place in the Birsay Community Hall.

On Thursday we were showcasing the Hesta Head site. Once again the development was for five Vesta V105 turbines with the same vital statistics as the Costa site. These would be located on the south east of South Ronaldsay, with the event taking place at the Cromarty Hall in St Margaret’s Hope.

We arrived with two visualisation options for each event – the first being a video show reel consisting of animated turbines displayed on viewpoint photography to demonstrate the extent of the project. The other was a bespoke piece of development work to allow instant visuals from any given postcode. This latter approach then used aerial photography as an overlay to allow quick and personalised views for attendees, allowing them to visualise the developments from any location such as their own properties or views of particular interest.

A busy couple of days saw around 150 members of the local communities attend the events, eager to understand more about the developments.  We also had the opportunity to engage with local authority planning officers and members of the community council. They were impressed with the level of information available to hand and could identify how the turbines would look from locations that matter to them.

All in all, a successful trip with feedback from “that’s a nifty bit of software” to “I can give better feedback now I know how it affects me”.

Lizzie Foot, Director at Hoolan said:

“The visualisations provided gave members of the public great quality and interactive viewpoints – the instant visuals from any given postcode were particularly well received.  Neither the show reel nor the instant visuals required internet connection and having David on hand to instantly respond to residents’ queries was helpful.  Would highly recommend and can see the benefit for future site visits in the field.”

You can read more about this on the Hoolan Energy website – http://www.hoolanenergy.com/

Please feel free to download the Hoolan_VAR_CaseStudy

If you are interested in how we can enhance your public engagement events – please get in touch on 0141 559 6170 or email hello@ventusar.com

Data, Data, Everywhere…

… but what about spatial data security?

People expect instant access to location based data. That could be anything from a simple map to questions like, where is the nearest library? what is the current traffic? what does my holiday home look like?  In addition, initiatives like INSPIRE require data to be made available as download or services.

This push-pull for information has been simplified through the adoption of open standards, web mapping, cheap hardware, open source software and available skills coming out of universities.

Excellent… to a point.

When does open access and availability of spatial information become a risk to an organisation? Continue reading

VentusAR Customer Case-Study: LDA Design

LDA Design use VentusAR to rapidly evaluate and clearly communicate projects. 

LDA Design are an independent creative consultancy helping clients to deliver places which work well and provides design and landscape-led planning services to developers, landowners, communities, universities and government. As planners, LDA Design take a positive approach to securing consent, optimising the opportunity to win support and are proud of their work for renewable energy schemes: small or large, they are all part of a low carbon future.

LDA Design needed a cost effective solution for producing visualisations for rapid site appraisal and design testing of renewable energy projects. In particular at early stage landscape feasibility work and in small projects where limited budgets precluded the production of large numbers of verifiable visualisations.

The Solution

onshore150-e1438175454732Having seen the potential of the product in 2013, LDA Design have worked with Linknode to inform the development of VentusAR. Initial use focussed on landscape feasibility studies as VentusAR allowed rapid visualisation production from a variety of locations.
Since then, VentusAR has been used to efficiently locate LVIA viewpoints with clear lines of sight, and in assessment scoping discussions with a range of consultees. VentusAR has also proved valuable in assessing potential impacts on residential visual amenity and settlements and providing supplementary visualisations to illustrate assessments.

Product Development

solar150-e1438175420529LDA Design continue to be actively involved in the development of VentusAR. They contribute to the use of bespoke terrain data, the solar domain and performance and usability testing in the field.
LDA Design also collaborate with Linknode in the production of bespoke development models for other forms of development to be used within VentusAR. They have been actively involved with Linknode on academic research exploring trust in the visual representation of wind farms.

VentusAR helps the LDA Design team to deliver faster, better and more cost effective advice about wind farm design and visual impacts. Being able to ‘see’ a scheme from any location aids our feasibility studies. Mary Fisher, LDA Design

The Benefits

buildingLDA Design benefits from being able to rapidly evaluate projects early on in the development lifecycle and being able to clearly communicate information to clients and consultees.. Additionally, a close working relationship with an engaged and responsive team at Linknode has allowed continued development of the product and exploration & development of new, valuable uses.

Key Facts

Number of VentusAR licenses  5
Domain  Wind and Solar
Number of wind projects created  67
Number of solar projects created  7

You can view the full case study here

If you would like to chat about using VentusAR for your wind, solar or grid visualisations, please feel free to call us on 0141 559 6170 or drop us a line at hello@ventusar.com

 

 

AGI Scotland – 2016

Last week (16 March 2016) was the annual AGI Scotland event in Edinburgh.

Location is key to Linknode’s business – making information more relevant, accessible and understandable. The Association for Geographic Information is the profession for spatial scientists, geographers and GIS professionals and the Scottish program matched this variety. A couple of my highlights are below that resonated with our operations:

HES

Diana Murray spoke from the newly conglomerated Historic Scotland and the RCAHMS, forming Historic Environment Scotland in late 2015. HES have a vast array of georeferenced data exposed with services such as CANMORE. Digital provision has made the data more available – and hence more valuable. Diana explained how innovation in GIS and heritage is a key driver for the better understanding of data in order to make sense of the past. Linknode’s work in projects such as HistoryLens and with UPAR is 100% onboard with this vision.

Networks

Some great conference planning led to back-to-back presentations from the Canal & Rivers Trust and Network Rail. Both manage thousands of km of linear networks for leisure and transportation. 17th to 20th Century infrastructure is now managed by 21st Century mobile workforces, apps, 3D data and visualisation to increase efficiency and reduce downtime of complex services.
Some great examples of use of the data were given, but only scratching the surface of the big data being continually collected.

Google

Ed Parsons, who I worked with back in the last Millennium, is the Geospatial Technologist at Google and always hosts entertaining and thought provoking discussions.
With the interconnectedness of all things (IoT), and location, Ed asked what new services are we prepared to offer up our privacy for? As well as a suitably respectful discussion on philosophy of the late Douglas Adams.

And Finally

Rollo Home from the Ordnance Survey entertained with the observation that in space we struggle to orient well-defined frames of reference. In sci-fi the problem of “space and the y-axis” is always ignored as the very entertaining link explains!

212121-cartoon

For more information on the AGI, and the future of GIS and BIM, I recommend a review of the newly published Foresight Report.

I Love it When a Planning Application is Approved

Planning Application ApprovedWe noticed today that some of the solar projects we worked on in 2015 have now been approved!

You might remember, we added the solar domain to VentusAR during the summer of 2015. In the last 6 months VentusAR has been used in 24 solar planning applications. Our customers have been using VentusAR to assess and communicate the visual impact of the solar development in the following ways:

  • Landscape architects and developers are using it as a design tool to inform their design and layout process
  • Public engagement specialists are out and engaging the public by creating immediate and relevant photomontages
  • Local authorities are reviewing photomontages and wirelines to help decide if the visual impact of a project is acceptable or not

Approvals

Some successful applications we want to highlight have been submitted by Green Cat Renewables using visuals created with VentusAR. We worked closely with Green Cat to refine the solar domain (see the case study) and we are pleased that the tool has now been used to help their clients secure planning permission.

Brailsford Solar Farm

  • 1.21 MW covering 2.7 hectares in areaOutputImage_From_VentusAR
  • Reference 15/00526/FUL at Derbyshire Dales District Council
  • Application submitted: 23rd July 2015
  • Approval granted: 2nd December 2015
  • Two visualisations created using VentusAR submitted as part of the Landscape figures document
  • See full details here

Broxbournebury

  • 5 MW covering 9.06 hectaresBrailsford Solar Farm
  • Reference 07/15/0866/F at Broxbourne Borough Council
  • Application Submitted: 16th September 2015
  • Assessment done in VentusAR, but hidden on Broxbourne Borough Council planning system
  • Approval granted: 16th February 2016
  • Full details from here (search for 07/15/0866/F using Reference Search)

Planning applications

Out of those 24 projects: 15 we have no information on, 3 have been refused, 2 have been approved, 4 are still in planning. None have been refused on grounds of visual impact.[1]

planning statusVentusAR is successfully being used to communicate the impact and reduce cost and risk from the planning application process.

VentusAR for Solar

VentusAR is the only mobile tool for visualising what a ground mounted solar farm will look like before it is built. Solar farms can be setup in VentusAR from anywhere in the UK and then assessed quickly and easily using a tablet – the iPad Pro is our preferred device for community engagement. The iPad can be taken out with you on site to do assessment work, to engage with local residents and provide office or community based review and visualisation.

If you have not seen VentusAR for solar in action, give us a shout at hello@ventusar.com to hear more about it.

Notes

[1] None of the rejected applications mention visual impact as a reason for rejection. This is accurate at time of publication in February 2016.

VentusAR Customer Case Study: Green Cat Renewables

Green Cat Renewables improve quality and reduce time by assessing the visual impact of renewable projects using VentusAR

Green Cat Renewables have been developing and building renewable projects in Scotland since 2005. Based across Scotland with a 70 strong dedicated team providing a flexible range of support services to renewable energy developers throughout entire projects, from site selection through to commissioning.

Green Cat need to quickly produce visuals whilst on-site to inform site design and viewpoint selection for their projects.  In addition, high quality visuals are required for assessment in three areas: landscape and visual, cultural and heritage and residential amenity.  Many projects are in remote locations so return visits for new layouts can increase development time and budgets.

The Solution

onshore150-e1438175454732In July 2014, Green Cat integrated VentusAR into their business for landscape and visual assessment.  Green Cat need to ensure quality photography is captured first time at multiple viewpoints. VentusAR helps to ensure there is no foreground clutter in the images and automatically records required metadata.  Back in the office, VentusAR is used to recreate photomontages as design layouts evolve – without the need to revisit the site.  For the first time, they have an effective way to create high quality photomontages for Residential Amenity Assessment and Culture & Heritage viewpoints. At all stages of the assessment process VentusAR helps communicate design and inform decisions made by Green Cat Renewables, their clients and Local Authorities they interact with.

solar150-e1438175420529During summer 2015, Green Cat increased their solar assessment workload. Existing tools did not provide a high enough quality output for solar visualisation. VentusAR was identified as a production tool for their solar projects. Linknode worked closely with Green Cat in order to add new functions to VentusAR and tailored these to meet specific requirements.  Green Cat determined the model dimensions and textures required for their solar visuals.  Green Cat and their clients are some of the first beneficiaries of the new capabilities that have been added to VentusAR. The solar visuals created have been used within planning submissions during 2015.

GREENCAT

The solar domain has allowed us to produce visualisations from a single platform, instead of combining a number of graphics packages, significantly reducing the time taken to get the end product. The quality of the model has improved significantly following our input and fast follow-up from the Linknode team Rob Collin, Green Cat Renewables

The Benefits

VentusAR helps Green Cat to inform and communicate visual impact within their organisation and externally with clien­ts and Local Authorities.  The viability of Wind and Solar projects is assessed faster, enabling increased business. Accurate viewpoint selection lessens on-site time and removes the need for repeat site-visits. Furthermore, quality outputs from VentusAR can be used across the lifecycle of the planning process, including final submission.  Green Cat have also been able to go on-site and show planning committees exactly what the planned development will look like, from any location.

Green Cat Renewables have been integral to the design and growth of VentusAR, and have benefited by being able to assess projects faster.

Key Facts

Number of VentusAR licenses  2
Domain  Wind and Solar
Number of wind projects created  42
Number of solar projects created  18
Time saved during typical project  30%

You can view the full case study here

If you would like to chat about using VentusAR for your wind, solar or transmission visualisations, please feel free to call us on 0141 559 6170 or drop us a line at hello@ventusar.com