Futurity is a landscape architecture firm based out of Chicago, Illinois that designs creative landscapes for residential, corporate, and civic clients. Many of Futurity’s projects involve working with very large sites; this process typically includes a survey plan that contains a great amount of data. Anna Arbetter, licensed landscape architect at Futurity, shared how the firm contends with these challenges to their already complex workflow and how she recently found success using Vectorworks' built-in algorithmic modeling tool, Marionette, to streamline the design process.
Residential tree survey plan. Image courtesy of Anna Arbetter.
“For the past two years or so, we have been considering the way we get survey data, particularly tree data, into our projects,” said Arbetter. One recent project had 3,110 existing trees and shrubs, another had 1,430 existing trees, and a current project has about 400 existing trees.
In the team’s most recent project, the data they received was daunting at best.
“For this project, we received a survey that included circles as tree location symbols and text boxes with each tree’s ID number as assigned by the arborist,” said Arbetter. “We were working with the arborist company, the surveyor, and our own team. Not every project has all of these consultants, but for this one we needed to pull a lot of information together.”
She tried using the Existing Tree tool in Vectorworks Landmark, but it wouldn’t automatically accept the data in its textual form, making it difficult to auto-populate the large amount of tree information Arbetter needed to enter. Because she had to import tree data from the arborist and then copy and paste that data into Futurity’s own worksheets to populate customized data fields of Existing Tree objects, a lot of time was expended while increasing the likelihood for human error. She knew she needed to figure out a better way.
“I had learned about Marionette when it was first released, and our company even did the four-part webinar training,” Arbetter explained. “At the time, we didn’t know how to apply this to what we do.” When she mentioned to her boss that Marionette could potentially help with this tree data problem, Arbetter was advised to reach out to Vectorworks directly to get more information. With the guidance of Vectorworks Marionette expert and Architect Product Specialist Sarah Barrett, the Futurity team came up with a smooth solution to their automation problem.
“We were able to use three sequential Marionette scripts that did a number of important things,” said Arbetter. “The first script would review ‘dumb’ survey data (circles and text boxes) to associate a text box containing a pre-assigned tree ID number with a generic tree symbol. If the script reveals it cannot pair them one-to-one, I can adjust the location of text boxes and rerun the script until each generic tree circle has one text box associated with it by proximity”
Existing tree plug-in objects. Image courtesy of Anna Arbetter.
The other Marionette scripts, according to Arbetter, form the “workhorse” of the project. The second script places an Existing Tree symbol at the center of each generic tree circle and automatically applies the pre-assigned tree ID number. The additional worksheet data gathered by the third Marionette script is automatically sent to the Object Info palette in Vectorworks, removing the need to type this information over and over again or copy and paste by hand.
Transferring of spreadsheet data. Image courtesy of Anna Arbetter.
Using these Marionette scripts was a gamechanger for Arbetter and Futurity’s workflow.
“The most valuable, most important aspect of these scripts is removing the possibility for human error,” said Arbetter. “Any way we can automate this process, particularly the parts that involve data, helps eliminate a step — while eliminating worry. We now have the confidence that we have the correct data in everything we do.”
With this successful experience, Arbetter can turn to Marionette in the future to customize Vectorworks in a way that will optimize her work — a benefit she previously didn’t realize could be possible for landscape architects.
“I definitely learned a lot from this experience,” said Arbetter. “I look forward to conversations with other Landmark users about Marionette.”