Import Topography Into Dynamo (or Grasshopper)

About four years back during my first stint here at HKS, A plugin was written by me for Grasshopper called Elk. The initial intention was to find a way to get a map into Rhino, not for use with architectural projects necessarily, but just to see how maybe it’s manipulated and make something out of it.

The first task I made was a laser etched acrylic map with some paint put into the etching to make it pop a little more and differentiate it. It was subtle but proved alright for what I was endeavoring to do. After this, a few of my colleagues prodded me to release it as a plugin on the Food4Rhino website.

To that impact, I began working on adding the ability to create topographies from Elk as well using Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data. This is the data resulting from a shuttle mission in 2000 that scanned the elevation of the majority of the earth and provided it in a 1°x1° tile. Once the topography element was added Elk was pretty much stable.

I made several updates, and rewrote it once, but the changes never made much deviation from the original plugin that I had written. I’m happy to say that most of the work is done finally. The other day I released a new version of Elk for Grasshopper which contains several improvements (and I’m sure a few bugs) over the last version that I released two years ago. It offers usage of most though definitely not all of the OSM data and also opens up the capability to use GeoTIFF and IMG files to generate topographies rather than simply the SRTM HGT files.

This gives not only better resolution data, with 1/3 arc second IMG files particularly, but alleviates issues with voids that appeared in the HGT files also. A note Just, the image I’m mapping to the surfaces show below are from Mapbox Studio, which seems to be in beta at the moment. You are allowed because of it to export a graphic from a specified longitude/latitude bounding box, making it line up pretty well with Elk’s generated topographies, and the grade of their images are excellent. This week I’m pleased to announce that I’m ready to release the Dynamo version of the plugin too. The Dynamo version of Elk is not as elegant as the Grasshopper version quite, at least not yet.

I’m still pretty not used to creating plugins for Dynamo and my early attempts at a fully custom node were pretty unsuccessful. I finished up using their Zero Touch plugin implementation, and while an individual experience is missing, the functionality is all there almost. The one bit of functionality that it’s lacking is the automatic 3d building generation that the Grasshopper version has, however every one of the information is open to generate those extruded buildings yourself. As well as the Elk for Dynamo and updated Elk for Grasshopper, I’ve also taken the time to make an updated plugin for generating topic directly in Revit using the same processes. Elk for Grasshopper is available from Food4Rhino, as well as for Dynamo via it’s Package Manager (seek out Elk).

And you’ll frequently have to deal with changing connections as the project advances (from sales to create to development to maintenance). If you work with a freelancer, your dangers are a little higher they’ll vanish someday. This means vetting them is more important than with an agency even. But they also tend to move and don’t juggle as many tasks at once quickly. You also have the benefit of dealing with (typically) one individual that knows everything about assembling your project, and you also don’t feel just like you’re getting bounced around contacts like can occur in some organizations constantly.

It’s possible to truly have a great romantic relationship with a freelancer or with an agency. I think it typically depends on the client’s requirements and mentality as to identifying which route is better. I don’t need to get into hourly versus project billing. But either real way for most projects the consultant must estimate enough time it’s going to take these to build, and charge at least that. So I’m heading to presume the specialist is not charging an amount enormously higher than their cost just because it’s worth it to the client. Whether the specialist is a company or a freelancer, I’m heading to assume 50% “billable” or effective time.

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In other words, Have anyone’s day is spent actually building what’s being covered I’m only figuring that fifty percent. I think this is an excellent goal for some and quite achievable with discipline. Also, I think that number is probably higher for your average web-worker in an agency but still works as an average because managers and PMs typically won’t hitting 50%, if their time is counted into direct costs whatsoever. I’m heading to suppose the freelancer is billing a finish client also, not subcontracting to an agency where their costs go considerably down due to less PM and consistent work.

Finally, I’m utilizing these hourly rates as though it’s for billable work and known costs. 12,500. Profits, overhead, and the rest are “built in” to the internal hourly rate – exactly like if someone were billing the client hourly for the work. When I say “best in industry”, I’m referring to a company that’s made a name for itself in regards to something specific – maybe high-end WordPress websites, or Ruby on Rails, or websites for papers, or eCommerce. Not detailed, but notable, are the mega-markets like New York and SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA types. I’m sure you can pay just as much as you desire for services in such places. Also, they are all guesses.