Historic Swindon Carriage Works buildings undergo the 3D treatment

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The Carriage Works is situated at the heart of Swindon railway heritage area.

Swindon Railway Works opened in January 1843 as a repair and maintenance facility for the new Great Western Railway. By 1900 the works had expanded dramatically and employed over 12,000 people. At its peak in the 1930s, the works covered over 300 acres and was capable of producing three locomotives a week.

Fast forward a few decades, the Carriage Works is still a thriving economic industrial area, with a mix match of car garages and specialist workshops.

Swindon Borough Council are beginning a digital transformation journey, but to be able to do this effectively long term, they need a digitally enabled workforce, on tap. Companies and organisations that reside in the town also need a new digital workforce to meet today’s challenges, with less. Less people, and less capital.

The heritage of Swindon’s Carriage Works (once part of railway innovation) is being transformed. Large units have been emptied and digital SME’s are primed to move in. Its all started with WORKSHED. A tech and digital incubation centre, funded by Swindon Borough Council. A empty, dirty, rundown industrial unit has been transformed into high end, cost effective a flexible office space, something more likely to be seen in London and other large cities. Swindon’s digital revival has begun.

The Carto Group were one of the first in, even before the dust had settled. Our CEO and Founder, Tim Hughes (a Swindonian), has been bought into this vision before the architects had even started their designs.

Of course WORKSHED is just the start, and Swindon Borough Council have commissioned The Carto Group to undertake 3D building surveys of the ‘old bike sheds’ and the other empty units at the Carriage Works. Being unused for many years and the fact the buildings are listed, means there are many structural challenges for architects and engineers to come through, so a reliable high resolution 3D survey of the buildings was a must.

We are proud to be part of the transformation and revival of Swindon’s ‘heritage zone’ and also be residents within the buildings.

The future is bright for this once forgotten area, and with the amazing footfall from the Outlet Village and National Trust, the area is on the verge of becoming a bustling community, like it once was when it served the railway.

What is NDVI?

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Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) represents a spectral signature, that is, a measurement of photosynthetic capacity based on the relative absorption of different light wavelengths by a plant. In layman’s terms, it is a measure of vegetation “greenness”, and as such, represents a standardised way to measure a vegetations health. Healthier vegetation reflects more near infrared (NIR) and green light, but absorbs more red and blue light, meaning a plant with higher reflectance in the NIR and green wavelengths will yield a higher NDVI value. And vice versa. With this in mind, the consideration of NDVI can be useful across a range of environmental applications, and is currently utilised successfully in agricultural, forestry and invasive species surveys to name but a few. Here, its application is considered with regards to new land development and site appraisal practices, where the identification of areas of healthy vegetation combined with accurate assessments of its distribution may prove useful as a factor for assessing sites for potential development.

Pictured below is a side by side comparison of NDVI mapped from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite using Google Earth Engine’s (GEE) code editor (left) with google earth’s DigitalGlobe base layer imagery (right). The improved contrast between highly vegetated and non-vegetated to urban areas is immediately noticeable, with green areas representing high NDVI values and red areas representing low NDVI values. When zoomed in further, the NDVI layer allows for highly urbanised areas to be more easily identified, and highlights areas where vegetation is lacking, or is in poor health. As a tool for land assessments, its advantages are clear over that of standard satellite imagery and offers potential as a preliminary stage for site identification before more thorough ground level observations are made.

But NDVI’s potential doesn’t end there! Nasa’s MODIS sensor allows for long term mean vegetation changes to be acquired and manipulated in GEE to show temporal trends of increasing or decreasing NDVI. Shown below, areas in blue represent increasing NDVI values, green represents no change and red represents decreasing values over a 10-year period. However, MODIS datasets are only currently available at a coarse 500m spatial resolution, meaning its application for specific site appraisals is limited for now.