As cities around the world confront the combined effects of urban islands and climate change, city trees are a crucial layer of distributed urban infrastructure. The aggregate impact of street trees will be necessary to intercept the run-off of increasingly powerful storms and deflect increasingly intense UV radiation from the heat absorbing materials that constitute the built environment.
The use of trees as distributed urban infrastructure is not new. Trees were used to strengthen medieval fortifications in European cities, to stabilize the banks of Dutch canal towns, as amenities for health and activities, and deployed to catalyze urban development in America. Street trees are a layer of designed infrastructure and their modern use is embedded with historical forms and priorities.
Modern data analytics are exposing the ineffectiveness and inequities that these historical priorities perpetuate. The tree lined street, the highly individualized planter, and the commodification of shading for affluent neighborhoods have disproportionally exposed underinvested neighborhoods to the effects of climate change.
Tree Folio is the development of a high fidelity understanding and modeling of each individual street tree in New York City. This includes the trees physical dimensions, species information, and its interactions with surrounding environments and infrastructures. Folio is comprised of a new database that draws from the NYC 2015 tree census survey and the 2017 NYC LIDAR survey. These datasets are combined and processed to produce a 3-D model that can be used to represent the highly localized impacts of street trees and develop strategies for more effective tree placement and maintenance.
Alexander Kobald (project lead)
Joe Ferdinando (research assistant, developer)
Anthony Townsend (advising)
J. Meejin Yoon