I’m a fairly chronic reader of GOOD’s blogs, and I think most of their content is insightful, educational, and even a little enlightened.
that being said, I was a little skeptical when I saw their post on google’s new android app, open spot. open spot uses google maps technology interactively, in a somewhat similar way to latitude, except instead of getting realtime info on where your friends are, you get info on what parking spaces are available. open spot relies on users to mark a parking spot that’s open, either when they leave it or if they see one available. for every spot a user marks, they get one “karma point”, so they can keep track of how many spots they’ve marked.
at this point I have a mighty “2” karma points.
typically I loathe anything that makes driving easier or more convenient. but I was still curious about this software- I was interested to see how the hive mind would utilize it and how well it would work. plus, driving is a reality in most places in the country, so if there’s an app that can help minimize unnecessary exhaust from searching for a parking spot, wouldn’t that be a good thing? the people at planet green would say so- they ran an article on how to parallel park, with the intent to make parking more efficient and cut down on emissions. if the seconds saved parking more quickly are a benefit, so are the minutes spent looking for a spot.
so open spot could help with emissions reductions… if people were actually using it. I live in LA which, along with houston, is probably the city in most dire need of open spot- and I still haven’t seen an available parking spot posted by someone else. I’m not sure how many people in LA are on android phones (open spot was created by google labs, and isn’t available for any other platform yet), and the first blog post I saw about it was only three weeks ago, but I wonder if there are other factors at work.
having worked in santa monica for almost 5 years, close to 2 of which I was without company parking, my experience was that your regular parking spots were a coveted, closely guarded secret. the days I did have to drive (most of the time I would ride my bike), I would find myself seeing the same cars cruising around the same areas looking for an empty spot. if I was approaching one of my regular parking zones, I would look around to see if there was anyone around, and wait before actually parking.
the problem with swarm intelligence, is that the swarm needs to want to share that information. in the early days of limewire, you could opt not to share any of your files. people uploading your files would effect your download speeds, so many people chose not to share anything. at one point, there was literally nothing being shared except for viruses- which almost created a collapse of the system.
this phenomenon is similar to something I was talking to my brother rob about last weekend. creating user incentives is something that he’s written about in the past, and is an issue he’s involved with gearburger. gearburger is working really well for the people who use it- too well, so that people don’t want to share the source of their time-sensitive gear deals and increase competition. user incentives work best is situations where popularity is an unequivocal benefit- and where the users don’t feel like their secret stashes, whether they’re deals on equipment, bandwidth, or parking spots, are being compromised.
so, assuming that people using open spot is a good thing, what are ways to incentivize users sharing their parking spots in traffic heavy locations like LA? leave suggestions in the comments.
local code’s entry for the WPA 2.0 competition is an incredible use of grasshopper and ArcGIS to locate publicly owned abandoned sites in major cities across the US and design a landscape intervention that responds to solar, thermal, and water issues that’s specific to each site.
it’s an incredible use of grasshopper as an analysis tool and seems to pose the question- if grasshopper can create a design response for environmental data for multiple sites, could it also create a design response for environmental, programmatic, code, structural, and any other data for one site? could this be the dawn of an MVRDV-esq software that actually works?
more specific analysis:
I was lucky enough to attend my first autodesk university this year, and I am completely hooked. I haven’t been this inspired since I was in school- I took copious amounts of notes, and only about half of them were about the actual presentations. the others were ideas for building systems, performative organizations, and green designs. I feel both better educated and reinvigorated- if you ever have the opportunity to attend, you really should.
while I was at AU I was able to sit in on many tutorials and demos of various sustainable analysis software. while there were many programs with interesting sustainable implications for enhanced paper-less communication, many of these I’ll describe in greater detail in future posts, the environmental analysis programs are worth mentioning themselves.
the basic landscape for energy analysis programs for architects using revit can be reduced down to three software packages: ecotect, IES VE, and green building studio. each of these programs can interface directly with revit files or standard BIM exports (.gbxml or .dxf). they all provide a range of data based off of design decisions made in a revit model to be used to inform the design during variety of design phases.
of the three, ecotect is clearly the most impressive- both the range of analysis and the graphical output (both IES VE and GBS only produce text based information) is far superior and could also inform the largest range of design phases. but it is also the most buggy- I saw two presentations by dr. andrew marsh where 10 – 20% of the commands and scripts did not work. unfortunately, it was a different 10 – 20% each time. with autodesk’s recent acquisition of ecotect, and with robert aish in the attendance for both sessions, hopefully some progress will be made on that front.
while the analysis dr. marsh was doing was extremely impressive and wide ranging (everything from right to light analysis to component form generation), it was difficult to tell how easily accomplished the analysis was. he was running a list of custom scripts within the program itself, so I wasn’t able to tell how much of the power of ecotect was accessible through simple native commands or how much scripting was necessary to achieve his results. ecotect is that it is a free standing program that uses .gbxml or .dfx file formats- both of which are exportable from revit.
IES VE is an integrated toolbar that operates within the revit environment. the standalone version of IES is notoriously difficult for non-engineers to use, and IES VE is an attempt to remedy that. while IES VE is simple and doesn’t require exporting files, it produces a large amount of specific data that architects are typically not trained to understand. in this regard, IES VE is a fairly useful tool for evaluating multiple designs, and not as much as a generative tool like ecotect can be.
green building studio is by far the easiest of the three to use, but also produces the most limited range of data. GBS is a web-based application that only requires the upload of a .gbxml model in order to evaluate the design’s performance. it does fall into a similar category as IES VE, in that it seems to be a very good tool for evaluating various schemes in comparison to each other, but it is not as good at informing a design as it is being generated.
green building studio does have a unique advantage over ecotect and IES VE- the weather information ecotect and IES VE base their calculations on is typically taken from the nearest airport, while GBS’ weather stations are on a roughly 12 mile by 12 mile grid across the country. you can even verify where your weather information is coming from in a google maps app. this probably wouldn’t effect all projects, but it certainly would effect a project in downtown san francisco which has a dramatically different climate than SFO.
so there isn’t exactly one program that does everything, but ecotect seemed to be the most impressive. coming up- digital communication software and other programs that could help minimize the use of paper within a practice.