A case study in GIS and Geodesign: the College campus as a training ground for sustainability modeling, education and community engagement

Friday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms


Christine Smith Siddoway, Colorado College
Geodesign, an emerging realm in academic Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based, offers a framework for multiple place-based perspectives that are integral to sustainability across the curriculum. Our immersive undergraduate course provides training in GIS software and applies skills to in-depth study of the College campus, leading to collaborative design involving multiple community stakeholders. Over four weeks, students learn Esri ArcGIS™ basics, create and use on-line collection apps to acquire data, then develop 3D landscape designs using CityEngine™ software. Using these GIS tools to manage a spectrum of place-based information, students compare existing educational and facilities infrastructure against desired sustainability outcomes.
At Colorado College, students identified four sectors of the campus as targets for sustainable designs addressing energy and/or water efficiency, climate-appropriate vegetation, or education about the College's Place within and impact upon the Rocky Mountain region. Working as teams, students used CityEngine modeling software and iterative methods to create evocative 3D digital models that provided a basis for dialog and exchange that is at the heart of Geodesign. In formulating the models initially, students acted as stakeholders representing multiple standpoints from their own disciplinary specializations (academic majors). Eventually, they assumed the role of facilitators in participatory workshops involving campus members, facilities management, administration and local nonprofits. Four powerful geodesign concepts emerged: a) a transparent (visible) renewable energy grid that opens up a view corridor to the mountains, b) experiential- and activity-based education about Place, c) realization of a "campus Center" that exemplifies the aims of liberal learning and is in harmony with 21st century water and climate constraints, and d) wetlands restoration and education of the alpine stream that borders the campus. Based on this case study, Geodesign holds great potential for campus sustainability education and infrastructure transformation, insofar as it equips students to initiate dialog and enact change.