Saturday, July 31, 2010

So helpful. And not that helpful in the end.

Satellite maps give us instant access to a level of realism that is unimaginable for those of us who grew up on dad's manky old copy of Gregory's or UBD (or Melways for you strange southern people).

Satellite mapping can be really useful for helping you identify the exact location you're trying to get to. I use it a lot - normally either Google Maps or NearMap (if you want extra detail in suburban areas).

Satellite maps are also useful work tools. If you're an urban planner or an engineer or an architect (or, presumably, a Feng Shui consultant), you're going to find satellite maps a real asset.

Except when they become a liability. This seems to happen when people become overly dependent on them for information, and discard other useful, more traditional, resources.

Like topographical maps, or site visits.

We are working with some clients on tree planting work in greater Sydney area. I was onsite with the contractor last week. From above, the site looks like this:

The problem occurs at point 'X'. This is where several axes converge. There is a lot of grade across this site, and it all slopes down to this spot.

On a heavy clay site, you suddenly have planting holes that fill with water. Not so good for most trees (some will cope with it, but the species planted only has moderate tolerance for this).

The designer of the planting is friendly and accessible, which is a plus. Unfortunately, they didn't get out on site much. I asked the site supervisor on what basis they had planned out the streets. His answer: they used satellite maps. (I can only take his word for it.)

Perhaps even using a feature like 'Street View' (Google Maps) would have helped here, and given an appreciation of the slope on the street.

Sadly, an above view did not tell the whole story in this case, or even enough of it to be truly helpful.

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