New study examines geographic information systems.

If placemaking ever becomes a competition, Prof. Karen Hanna, ASLA, believes landscape architects equipped with an understanding of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) will be in the lead. All the parts are there for enhanced decision-making: accessible data, user-friendly software, well-trained staff. It's time landscape architects become team leaders in a digital design world.

It is the dramatic amount of digital data that can be collected by GIS that prompted Hanna, a landscape architecture professor and department head at Utah State University, to author the latest addition to the Landscape Architecture Technical Information Series (LATIS), Geographic Information Systems: Using the Tools for Informed Growth. The study is available online at www.asla.org, with four other LATIS publications. LATIS studies are free of charge for ASLA members and can be downloaded by non-members for $50 each. LATIS - GIS can be purchased by visiting the ASLA Store in the For the Public section of www.asla.org . ASLA members can access the study for free by logging on to ASLA's Professional Practice Library.Each publication includes a self-study exam that can be turned into ASLA for grading. Successful test takers will earn 3.5 professional development hours (.35 continuing education units).

The GIS program allows users to combine numerous layers of information about a place to give a better understanding of an area and to facilitate better decision-making in its development. The layers of information combined depends on the purpose - whether to find the best location for a new store, analyze environmental damage, view similar crimes in a city to detect a pattern, and so on. Hanna's LATIS release consists of case studies highlighting different GIS applications. The first case study is fairly traditional - using GIS to make a site analysis, come up with concepts, and develop a master plan. Another case study uses GIS in a community workshop context. The final study is a scientific modeling approach. All three are state-of-the-art GIS works.

According to Hanna, the informed growth of communities requires good information and can include data collected by GIS. The LATIS reveals ways GIS can: Find and use existing datasets in place of or in addition to field-collected data; Use existing datasets as a baseline on which to record additional, existing conditions; Use the results of GIS models for site planning, growth planning, and implementation phasing.

Hanna's GIS study marks the first time the Landscape Architecture Technical Information Series (LATIS) have been made available to the public for a nominal fee. LATIS - GIS can be purchased by visiting the ASLA Store in the For the Public section of www.asla.org . ASLA members can access the study for free by logging on to ASLA's Professional Practice Library.

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