Not everything about London is doom and gloom in winter. Sometimes the grey overcast skies let a slim crevice of light to spill across Londons skyline. Old brick buildings are set aglow whilst shiny new skyscrapers become beacons in the afternoon sun. Regardless of whether we have a white Christmas or a grey one, we wish all of our clients, colleagues and co-collaborators the very best for the holiday season and we look forward to another successful year in 2018.
Our rising star Valya was recently recognised at the Pro Landscaper 30 Under 30 awards held at Futurescape on the 14th November. The scheme recognises rising stars in organisations and promotes the training of the next generation of landscape professionals. In addition to her 30 Under 30 success Valya was also successful in passing her pathway to chartership exam and from January next year she will become a Chartered member of the Landscape Institute (CMLI).
Risk is one of the key issues that effects all clients and project team are continually striving to ensure that risk is minimised wherever possible. The biggest unknowns occur at the site acquisition stage, where hidden problems such as flooding, contamination, land ownership, sensitive ecology, visual impact and access and egress can make the difference between a viable site for development or a liability. Traditional surveys can be very expensive and take many weeks or months to complete. Drone technology is helping to accelerate the process of site assessment. Since 2015 Wilder Associates have been developing new applications for drone technology in site assessment, from site hydrology to ecology and site access. The ability to map large tracts of land quickly and accurately has led to a new workflow that accelerates the collection of critical site information and the creation of a new platform that enables the developer and the design team to collaborate in a virtual environment in real time and in a 3D representation of the site.
This approach was tested recently on a site in South East London with a creek wall where little was know about the condition of the structure. Flying over the riverside, we were able to capture high-resolution images that enabled us to reconstruct a 3D model of the creek wall. This provided invaluable data on the condition and the geometry of the wall, even enabling the team to understand how the drainage outlets were working. This is something that would have been difficult to capture using traditional techniques due to the tidal conditions and the thick mud at the base of the wall.
Further examples of such applications include residential masterplans with dense woodland where we are able to gain an understanding of the heights and spread of trees and even identify species. We have also used the technology to assess sites within floodplains and were able to survey a 14-hectare site in just 14 minutes. More recently we have been using the technology for carrying out roof condition surveys, even picking up an award for the use of technology to improve health and safety in facilities management.
Below is an interactive model of the creek wall which gives an indication of the speed and accuracy of the information produced. It took just over 20 minutes to produce this model. To get the best representation don't forget to expand it to full screen.
Speaking at the recent ECLAS (European Council of Landscape Architecture Schools) held at the University of Greenwich in London, Peter Wilder presented on the arrival of new technology and its implications for the land planning sector. The convergence of Big Data, Cloud Processing, Global Information and Positioning Systems and smartphone technology have put unprecedented power in the hands of designers, engineers, architects and planners. The technology is so powerful that it will render some parts of the profession redundant whilst revolutionising others. Alarmingly we may find ourselves saturated in data and have to rely on intelligent filtering networks or interfaces that enable us to select the most relevant information. It is this requirement that will usher in the age of artificial intelligence where computer algorithms decide what is relevant to us. To a certain extent, this is already happening, as our search engines tailor their results to our search history and recommend purchases to us based on our shopping habits.
"Whilst we might not see designers easily replaced in the next generation" Wilder concludes, "the environment in which they work will alter radically".
For the last week, Pavla Galbava has been working with Wilder Associates as a work experience student from Slovakia. Her week of work experience, that included technical details for a scheme in Dubai and drawings for the Natural History Museum, culminated in a visit to the scheme now under construction. We were happy to be able to show Pavla some of the huge diversity of the landscape industry and we hope that she will come back to London soon to see Phase 1 of the museum completed in December.
The Grenfell Tower Fire is one of the worst building disasters to strike London in many years, but was it an accident waiting to happen? Rumours have surfaced about the poor management of the building and this will almost certainly be the subject of a public inquiry into the fire that has so far claimed 17 victims. The question on many peoples minds is 'How could a building that had recently received a £10million refurbishment be engulfed so quickly by fire'.
The answer may lie in the retrofit of a high thermal performance outer cladding where a lower standard of fire protection was used. There is also speculation that fire stopping may have been breached during of after the retrofit to accommodate new heating pipes. Source Guardian 15.6.17. Whatever the outcome of the public inquiry, questions will certainly be asked of the UK Planning System and the construction sector. As with all major disasters, it is likely that a catalogue of errors led to the events that unfolded on the 14th June 2017. The questions will undoubtedly look at whether the refurbishment of the building increased the potential for the fire to spread, whether the standards allowed for the use of a material banned in the US for buildings over 15m tall and whether some of the refurbishment works created a route for the fire to spread as they by-passed fire stops.
The incident is one that should prompt all designers to consider the impact of their specifications and the cumulative effect of risk. Whilst cost is always on our mind, we should never compromise qualty or safety in achieving the client brief. The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation will almost certainly not be thinking about the £5,000 that it is estimated it would have cost to use the more fire retardant version of the Reynobond panels used in the refurbishment project. Instead, they will be counting the human cost and the damage that this incident has caused to the UK property sector.
On a hot and cloudless London day, we escaped the city to visit Betteshanger Country Park in Kent. Completed in 2003 our single objective was clear, to map the 99Ha park in order to produce a 3D model with our Inspire 1 Drone. Under testing conditions, we completed the site mapping in 3 hours, capturing over 1400 high-resolution images that stitched together create a detailed 3D map of the site. You can choose to fly through the model in orbit mode or switch to first person view using the settings on the lower right-hand corner to feel like you are walking through the park. If you have a fast computer, switch to HD resolution to experience even greater detail. A link to the 3D Model can be found on the Betteshanger page here.
Valya and Peter discuss the joy of setts whilst strolling through the streets of Vilnius. Yes, we have been working on the Natural History Museum for too long and now we just can't get bogan laid patterns of stone setts out of our heads.
After speaking on Sponge Cities and the Future of Flood Resilient Cities we took a chance to get up close and personal with the River Neris and enjoy the culinary delights of Lithuania's capital. A great chance to unwind and have a little lighthearted banter about Europe and its people.