Geodesign and the Future of Planning

PAS Memo — March-April 2015

By Shannon McElvaney, David Rouse, FAICP


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This PAS Memo article introduces the concept of geodesign and its recent history, provides examples of how it is being used in practice, and explores how it can enrich the future practice of planning.


Page Count
Date Published
March 1, 2015
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American Planning Association

About the Authors

Shannon McElvaney
Shannon McElvaney is the Community Development Manager at Esri and a geodesign advocate who helps create GIS software that enables people to plan and design livable, sustainable, and resilient communities. Mr. McElvaney has more than 20 years of experience applying a broad range of geospatial technologies across numerous industries. He has written many articles on the use of geospatial technology and is the author of the book called Geodesign: Case Studies in Regional and Urban Planning. In addition to writing, Mr. McElvaney is a regular speaker at conferences and workshops around the world. Before joining Esri, Mr. McElvaney worked as a Solutions Consultant for CH2M HILL, a large civil engineering firm. His last assignment was as the GIS and Site Control Manager for the $22B Masdar City Development Program in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. where they are building one of the world’s first carbon neutral, zero waste cities. In addition, he has worked as a project manager and consultant for a number of GIS technology firms. Prior to that, Mr. McElvaney (B.A. in Geography) was the Director of the Hawai’i Natural Heritage Program at the University of Hawai’i where he oversaw the mapping and tracking of rare and endangered species to support preserve design and resource management.

David Rouse, FAICP
David Rouse, FAICP, ASLA is a consultant, educator, and author with over 40 years of experience in urban and regional planning and design. From 2013 to 2019, he served as Managing Director of Research and Advisory Services for APA, where he supervised programs and initiatives such as Green Communities, Planning and Community Health, the Sustaining Places Comprehensive Plan Standards, and Planning for Autonomous Vehicles. Prior to joining APA David was a principal at the planning and design firm Wallace Roberts & Todd in Philadelphia, where many of his projects received professional awards for excellence. David's areas of expertise include comprehensive planning, green infrastructure, and planning for emerging technologies. With Rocky Piro, he co-authored The Comprehensive Plan: Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Communities for the 21st Century, published in 2022 by Routledge Press.