A software rendering of Sidney Spit Park, located on the northern part of Sidney Island. (Contributed)

Royal Roads researcher builds virtual environments to study real-world effects of development

Video game software provides dynamic management tools for community planning

A research project underway at Royal Roads University adds a new dimension to observing the consequences of development proposals before they happen.

It became “pretty” clear that creating a 3D visualization of a community that people can “walk through” and hear sounds from the environment would “be useful for a variety of contexts,” Rob Newell said.

The post-doctoral researcher was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to create a tool to virtually manage and strategize urban planning.

ALSO READ: Memories of war put together as vignettes by RRU professor

As a doctoral researcher at University of Victoria in 2017, Newell used a video game creation platform called Unity to create a 3D representation of Sidney Spit Park. Users can observe the area virtually, from land to coast, and assess it from different angles through a first-person perspective.

For his latest research, Newell is creating a virtual model of Squamish, a growing mountainside town that is a popular tourist destination for adventurers and nature lovers alike. Newell used public records data and observations to create a customizable 3D map of the town.

Newell said he has consulted the local government and community to come up with different scenarios, or “development directions,” adjusting his models based on their feedback.

“So we’re saying, in 20 years, if we develop just all low-density residential, this is what we might come up with. Or if we do more mixed-use density nodes in different neighbourhoods, this is what we might come up with.”

ALSO READ: Royal Roads spearheads $2 million climate change resilience

If a certain development style is favoured, he added, the software can show a “whole variety of environmental, social and economic” factors that would be affected.

“These are things like access to manage encroachment on habitat, employment, local employment, business viability, and walkability.”

Because the quantitative insights can get “quite abstract,” people can use the mapping program to “see and react” in terms of their sense of place.

The research aims to show that various environmental effects “complement each other,” Newell said. The value of the software as a “complementary” planning tool will be to look at a scenario on the spot, he noted.

ALSO READ: Royal Roads University resources help prevent sexual assault on campus

Newell said he is currently in the final stages of “prototyping,” which will be followed by modelling the physical environments.

A town like Squamish, with the potential for major growth and a variety of terrain, gave Newell the opportunity to project growth’s effect on viewsheds. The final product will give other communities a tool for “better inclusive community planning,” he said.

“It could be adapted anywhere, the West Shore included,” he noted.



swikar.oli@goldstreamgazette.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

A party for 11 pups and their adoptive families in Beckwith Park in Saanich

The coonhound siblings reunited at a barbeque on Saturday

HarbourCats bats hot in home return

Victoria squad downs Yakima Valley Pippins 17-2

Victoria veteran receives French Legion of Honour, becoming knight of France

Ted Vaughan was a pilot in the 408 “Goose” Squadron in WW2

Witness the passion and fire of flamenco in Victoria this July

Seventh annual Victoria Flamenco Festival features free and ticketed performances downtown

Sidney youth bowl over the competition, head for nationals

Youngsters take Mens and Womens Singles Championships at recent tournament

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Most Read