Spaces, Places and Possibilities

Spaces, Places and Possibilities is a research project that explores ways of integrating urban systems modelling with visualization techniques to better capture and convey potential outcomes of social and physical infrastructure decisions to local government and stakeholders. The research will first involve modelling different community development scenarios in order to examine possible outcomes of taking a particular development direction and implementing certain community policies and programs. The research will then use the output from the modelling work to build interactive, useful and beautiful visualizations, which will be used to gain a more salient understanding of the potential outcomes and impacts associated with the scenarios. The objective of the research is to investigate the challenges and opportunities of using urban systems models as a basis for building visualizations that can effectively engage and clearly communicate to users the benefits and trade-offs of different development paths.

This project is being conducted in the community of Squamish, BC, and it is being done in collaboration with Quest University Canada. 

About this photo: Image of downtown Squamish at the intersection of Victoria Street and Cleveland Street (photo taken by Robert Newell)



Approaches to scenario modelling in Spaces, Places and Possibilities will draw on previous work that has been done through the Community Research Connections program, such as the Places + Spaces reseach projectPlaces + Spaces aimed to develop a tool for Canadian communities to explore and assess different development paths. The 'engine' of this tool was an integrated systems simulation model of a community, which incorporated community-specific data and reflected community-specific policies and scenarios. A presentation on the model and results can be accessed by clicking the image below, and more information on Places + Spaces can be found on the project website.



Scenario modelling in this project will also draw on work done through the Co-benefits of Climate Action research project. Climate action co-benefits refer to benefits experienced from climate action strategies that are not directly related to mitigation or adaptation, for example, increasing community walkability both decreases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to health of local residents. 'Mapping' co-benefits can illuminate relationships between climate action and other aspects of community development, and such a map subsequently can be used to inform which variables and relationships should be included within a scenario model. The Co-benefits of Climate Action project is in progress; however, the map below illustrates this approach and the types of relationships that can be elucidated through a co-benefits study.  

About this map: Green nodes represent climate action strategies, and orange nodes represent co-benefits of climate action. Clicking on a node brings up a description of how it is connected to other nodes. Use the '+' and '-' buttons or the mouse scroll wheel to zoom, and click and drag to move around the map.



The visualization will be developed as a realistic, dynamic virtual environment that can be navigated from the first-person perspective. Methods for building the visualization will draw from the Sidney Spit Visualization project, involving a combination of mapping technology and video game development software. More information on how these visualizations are built can be found in Newell et al. (2017), and the video below provides a demonstration of this particular type of visualization.

About this video: Demonstration of a user interacting with and 'walking' through the Sidney Spit Visualization


Newell, R., Canessa, R., and Sharma, T. (2017). Modelling both the space and place of coastal environments: Exploring an approach for developing realistic geovisualizations of coastal places.Frontiers in Marine Science, 4, 87.