GeoPlan, the Geo-Facilities Planning and Information Research Center, was established in 1984 in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning within the University of Florida’s College of Architecture, now the College of Design, Construction and Planning. The Center was developed as a response to the need for a teaching and research environment in Geographic Information Systems, or GIS. Formerly directed by Dr. John Alexander, it is now directed by Dr. Paul Zwick. Dr. Zwick is joined by Professor Peggy Carr, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Affiliate Professor of Urban Planning (Co-Director), and Dr. Richard Schneider (Associate Director). Mr. Stanley Latimer is also a member of the GeoPlan center professional team. GeoPlan’s research areas include software development and application of GIS technology in urban and regional planning. GeoPlan’s diverse research draws students not only from the profession of planning, but from other academic disciplines such as civil and environmental engineering, computer sciences, building construction, real estate, landscape architecture, wildlife sciences, geography, ecology, and systems ecology.
GeoPlan offers graduate level courses that allow a master or doctoral student to specialize in GIS/PIAS (Planning Information and Analysis Systems). These courses provide students with the principles and theories of spatial systems through lectures and projects. Further study provides greater hands-on experience in studio classes involved with real-world situations, and with research assistantships. Undergraduate courses have been recently introduced and a departmental graduate GIS certificate program has been successfully developed. The breadth of the courses offered also allows a student who is less “computer literate” to get a professional introduction to GIS/PIAS as a planning tool. Courses are taught by Professors Zwick, Bejleri, Carr, and Mr. Latimer and Mr. Brown and are assisted by GeoPlan research staff and teaching assistants. An undergraduate course, URP-4273, is taught by Ph.D. students in the department.
The use of GIS is broad, embracing many disciplines and involving many types of technology; this is reflected in the diversity of the research projects and grants attracted by faculty and staff in the GeoPlan Center, and in the diverse interests of the faculty associated with GeoPlan. Research projects and community service grants, in-progress or completed within GeoPlan, range from the development of cutting edge software/hardware technology to innovative environmental analysis and urban design applications. Projects within GeoPlan also include the development of new software systems to use spatial analysis and web based services in “real-world” planning processes (i.e. the development of Florida’s ETDM process). ETDM or “Efficient Transportation Decision Making” has received wide acclaim for its innovative utilization of web-based service to assist in transportation decision-making.
With assistantships provide by GeoPlan projects, students obtain practical work experience using state-of-the-art computer technologies. Through these projects, the GeoPlan Center also reaches out beyond the university to provide service to a community of users that includes other universities, state, local, and regional governments, corporations such as IBM, planning and professional consulting firms, utility companies, the Environmental Systems Research Institute, and many non-profit organizations concerned with the environment and regional planning.
GeoPlan is located on the first floor of the architecture building. GeoPlan generally supports about twenty to thirty students at the masters or doctoral level with varying degrees of assistance, and it also has a professional staff of eleven employees.
Faculties are encouraged to integrate GeoPlan resources into their regular teaching duties and assignments, especially relative to studio coursework. A recent example of this is a 3D modeling Crime Prevention Planning studio conducted in the spring 2002 and an environmental design studio jointly taught by landscape architecture and planning faculties. The 3D modeling studio utilized spatial data, building design, and University Police Department information to investigate campus planning and crime prevention activities. The environmental design studio utilizes the Florida Geographic Data Library datasets and GIS technologies to support regional environmental and land use analysis projects.
The Center’s research activities are supported primarily through grants and contracts for GIS supported planning applications or software development. Funding from sources such as:
- Florida Department of Transportation
- Florida Department of Community Affairs
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection
- U.S. Department of Environmental Protection
- Florida Power & Light
- Duke Power
- Reedy Creek Improvement District
- Florida Office of Greenway and Trails
- Florida Defenders of Wildlife
- WRS Incorporated
- five Florida Water Management Districts
- U.S. Department of Commerce
- Department of Military Affairs
- Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- many of Florida’s cities and counties
The GeoPlan Center attracts approximately 1 to 1.5 million dollars annually and over 5 million dollars in the past 5 years.