ESRI buys Procedural City Engine

A very bold and exciting acquisition from GIS giant ESRI. They have bought Swiss firm, procedural, makers of Procedural City Engine.

This is a programme that generates a procedural city dynamically – it was used for example recently in the Movie Cars to create the fantasy versions of London, Paris and Monti Carlo.

CityEngine is a standalone software for 3D content creation, with rules-based tools for quick creation of 3D cities and buildings. With building footprints selected, you can apply a rule on how to extrude building heights. You can further improve the quality with further data on height and roof type of buildings. The addition of 3D streets is also automated based on street centerlines and street profile details.

Why would a GIS firm buy a product used in digital content creation. Esri has not been a company that has grown via acquisition in the past. The 3D space though has been one that they have wanted to improve upon for some time, it give them tools for 3D procedural planning.

With this acquisition, Esri enters the 3D design and city modeling space in force, further blurring the lines between what the CAD and GIS toolset are capable of in terms of city modelling, 3D creation, visualization, and 3D analysis.

One hopes that ESRI has big plans, making GIS a tool for procedural urban planning, like the interesting but ultimately flawed CityCAD. Im worried though that far too planners have the GIS and urban design skills to make full use of such a powerful addition to their toolkit.

ESRI as well will need a competitor to AutoCAD Civic 3D which is currently the dominant tool for road and platting/subdivision/utilities network design. It is really awkward switching between GIS/CAD and design software such as Illustrator. I hope ESRI realise the potential for an integrated urban toolkit that meets Jack Dangermont’s (the founder of ESRIs) vision of Geodesign.

Aerial Photography in a Suitcase

So cool, I want one, a personal UAV for aerial mapping, Gatewing it fits in a suitcase.

As it flies under 1000′ likely to be classed as a model aeroplane and so avoid many of the headaches of conventional aerial mapping, including cloud cover. Can cover about several sqkm on each flight so best for detailed imaging and DSM creation for major projects rather than surveying a whole district. watch the video its fascinating.  Especially the Fireball XL5 style launcher, the automated flightpath, and the automated stitching (could it remove the need for ERDAS imagine?).  5cm accuracy photos. 10c, accuracy in Z for DTM.  No uk dealers as yet though.  

Rem Koolhass Planning Application for Commonwealth Institute Revealed

By OMA (Rem’s practice) and West 8, Application submitted to K&C.

The scheme of ‘enabling development’ for the refurbishment of the original building – to become a new home for the Design Museum – seems to have been reduced by 2 storeys from before.

I have to be very restrained when talking about Rem, I have worked with home before and disagree about almost everything, his dislike of urbanism and urban design, his view that buildings should be designed to be seen when driving past by a car, and his idea of ‘generic cities’ that look the same everywhere.

This building though – the aesthetics of the mutli-storey car park.  Surely the organic form and lightness of constyruction and use of materials of the original Commonwealth centre are a clue, a building as a pavillion rising out of Holland Park not plonked on it.

As Stephen Baylay has said in the Observer ‘the cartoonishly hip, Prada-clad globaliser who… would like it very much if he could design the whole world. Then Balham could look exactly like Bahrain and his design project would be complete.’

Sarah Beeny – No Planning Permission for her House for 10 Years

Daily Mirror

The TV presenter forgot to apply for proper planning permission on her mansion she renovated for a TV programme – for TEN years.

Councillor Matthew Grove said: “The ordinary man in the street has to jump through hoops to get even the smallest extension approved.

“Yet here we have a listed building being changed, with no planning permission in place, and without anyone batting an eyelid.”

The couple bought Grade 2 listed Rise Hall near Hull for £441,101 in 2001 and the series last year showed part of the former convent being turned into a wedding venue.

On the venue’s website, Sarah says: “Rise Hall has been our family home for over 10 years and, hopefully, with money from wedding ceremonies, it can still be a family home.”

Mr Grove went on: “The programme showed the hall being used for weddings, yet we have yet to see a planning application to use it for that.

The couple – who had a run-in with the planning department last year over a new access road – said the hall had never had planning permission and had been a family home in the past.

They issued a statement saying: “When Graham Swift and Sarah Beeny bought Rise Hall it had stood empty for 10 years.

“It was originally a family home, then used as a convent and school and then once again became a home when Graham and Sarah bought it. In its 200-year history no planning permission for its use has ever been granted.

“Graham and Sarah are working with their local authority and the steps that they are taking together are entirely appropriate, considering the building’s past, present and potential future use.”

Ooh Sarah you will certainly have needed listed building consent, and planning consent for CoU to C3, as the previous house use would have been abandoned.  But you might now have lawful use, but you will need PP for the wedding venue almost certainly, but you should get it as enabling development for restoration.  You should apply and use it as an excuse to use a whole programme to have a go at ‘council bueraucrats’ Kevin McCloud style – why am I giving free advice!

Federation of Small Businesses on the NPPF

In Feb the Federation polled there members on issues to feed into the NPPF and they have just published their report. Planning Resource has caricatured the report as yet more planner bashing, which it is not, it is a call instead for better, faster more responsive planning, the kind of things that small businesses have always called for and rightly so. Most of their ideas make total sense.

The report is also critical of many of the pro-property developer bias’s in current government proposals. Ill pick out a few highlights.

Strategic Planning

The FSB believes that that there is still a need for sub-national strategic planning of infrastructure.

Development Plans

The FSB is concerned about the number of local authorities that currently don’t have an up-to-date Local Plan in place, and calls on the Government and local planning authorities to ensure that all Local Plans are put in place as quickly as practicable, so that sound planning decisions can be made, based on the genuine current and future needs of their communities. 

The Presumption in Favour of Growth

We are concerned to see that the presumption doesn’t favour big business at the expense of smaller businesses, and would like to see, for example, safeguards put in place to protect existing trading centres, such as the high street. A presumption in favour of growth should not mean an automatic concession for developers but a pragmatic and balanced approach set against the three pillars. 

Rural Small Businesses

We need to move away from the preconception that rural areas are suitable only for traditional rural business activity, such as farming, to a system in which all types of business are deemed suitable for rural areas, unless they are evidently unsuitable for local circumstances. We need to make it clear that our countryside is open for business and to get away from our out-of-date planning system, which has placed a stranglehold on the economic development of our rural towns and villages for so long. 

The Need for ‘Oven Ready’ Business Premises

The relaxation in planning rules for change of use will push commercial rents up in some areas, at a time when other costs, such as;energy and fuel prices, are already squeezing business margins and stifling growth.

We believe there needs to be safeguards in place to protect those commercial premises which, as the economic climate improves, will be hugely important to new enterprise and businesses wishing to grow. 

Allowing local planning authorities greater autonomy over the Use Classes system, it would enable them to shape local planning policy to support the economic, social and environmental requirements of the locality, therefore ensuring that decisions are based on local need and do not create unintended consequences, such as forcing up commercial rents.

A Planning Toolkit for Small Businesses 

The vast majority of FSB members  who have had direct experience of the current planning system believe it is utterly impenetrable.

Small businesses find it difficult to understand how the system works and are deeply frustrated by it. To address this, there needs to be a comprehensive tool, developed by Government and local practitioners, using businesses and other stakeholders as critical friends, which steers businesses through the planning system. Such a guide would not have the weight of Government policy, but would act as a useful, easy-to-use tool to assist businesses and thereby reduce the burden on them.

Development Management

What we need… is a step change in the processing of planning applications for minor building works and change of use,to allow small businesses to make quickly the changes that they need to diversify and grow. Th FSB believes this change can be achieved only by a commitment to continuous improvement in planning processes, involving attention to detail.


With regard to cost, it is of concern that local authorities are allowed to charge the full cost of planning applications, even though the service provided is often inefficient and subject to significant delays. 

Currently, there appears to be no incentive to process small applications quickly, and there are concerns that new initiatives such as the New Homes Bonus (which will provide local authorities with a bonus for each additional property built, paid for the following six years) will encourage local authorities to push through certain developments at the expense of minor applications. more quickly than others, potentially This could be addressed if the Government were to introduce a system that allows local planning authorities to charge only for applications that are processed within certain time limits.


Dalio – A decade of deleveraging

Ray Dalio is reputedly the worlds richest Hedge Fund Managers and like all rich hedge fund managers a complete nutcase; but he did call the 2007 downturn, and for the right reasons, and derves some respect. A New Yorker Profile gives some frightening insights into the way his form operates and some predictions.

“We are still in a deleveraging period,”… “We will be in a deleveraging period for ten years or more.”

Dalio believes that some heavily indebted countries, including the United States, will eventually opt for printing money as a way to deal with their debts, which will lead to a collapse in their currency and in their bond markets. “There hasn’t been a case in history where they haven’t eventually printed money and devalued their currency,” he said. Other developed countries, particularly those tied to the euro and thus to the European Central Bank, don’t have the option of printing money and are destined to undergo “classic depressions,” Dalio said. The recent deal to avoid an immediate debt default by Greece didn’t alter his pessimistic view. “People concentrate on the particular thing of the moment, and they forget the larger underlying forces,” he said. “That’s what got us into the debt crisis. It’s just today, today.”

Dalio’s assessment sounded alarmingly plausible. But when one plays the global financial markets a thorough economic analysis is only the first stage of the game. At least as important is getting the timing right. I asked Dalio when all this would start to come together. “I think late 2012 or early 2013 is going to be another very difficult period

Gold is not Money

From Martin Armstrong debunking the bad history and economics of the goldbugs.

There seems to be a deep misunderstanding about MONEY. The fact that gold has traded as a medium of exchange does not make it the EXCLUSIVE money. MONEY has been everything from sea shells to slave girls as noted by Saint Patrick when he arrived in Ireland…
To say that there always was a GOLD STANDARD is not true. There was no fixed value for gold and there was no period of such a standard except that of Napoleon and post-WWII. That is a different statement compared to: Was gold a generally accepted medium of exchange? The former is NOT true while the later WAS true. Just because gold was used as MONEY on a nonexclusive basis does not make it a “gold standard.” The gold standard setup at Bretton Woods in 1944 was that $35 equaled one ounce of gold. That made it a fixed standard. Wage and price controls have been attempted thereby FIXING values between MONEY and wages, commodities, and goods (e.g. Diocletion, Nixon). But these attempts have always failed.
Those who claim a return to a gold standard would somehow solve the problems of the world are mixing facts and fantasy. The Bretton Woods gold standard collapsed because (1) we printed dollars without limit, but (2) kept to the gold standard at $35 an ounce. The problem of using gold as a fixed standard and the exclusive form of MONEY is simple. If there is only 100 ounces of gold and 100 people, the value gold would have is clear. If the number of people increases to 1,000, but we still have only 100 ounces of gold, we get DEPRESSION. Assets would DEFLATE instead of INFLATE. The value of GOLD would rise and everything else including wages would decline against gold since everything would increase in supply against a fixed amount of gold. There has NEVER been a successful gold standard that ever lasted for
this very reason.