We had the good fortune of connecting with Jon Altschuld and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jon, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’d been practicing landscape architecture for a little over 10 years at companies of varying size-from as small as a few people, up to several thousand employees. I knew I liked the smaller companies more, but I wanted more control over the types of projects we worked on and who we worked with. Over my career I’d built a lot of good relationships with clients and colleagues, and I’d also built a reputation as a leader in 3D modeling, visual communication, and landscape architecture focused on environmental restoration. The timing seemed right, and I took the leap!

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Chinook Landscape Architecture differs from most landscape architecture firms. Most of our landscape architecture projects focus on either trail design and planning, riparian and ecological restoration, or a combination of the two. We have completed projects for local, state, regional, and federal agencies, as well as private landowners who want their own trail networks for friends and family. We have active projects from California to New York, although most of our work is in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

The other side of the business focuses on visual communication – we get hired to create graphics and visualizations that make very technical subjects easily understood by the masses. We accomplish this through a variety of technologies – drone data collection, 3D modeling, GIS software, CAD software, 3D rendering, 2D graphics and illustrations, interactive online platforms, and even physical models created with laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC routers. Most often, these projects relate to our expertise in trail planning/outdoor recreation, ecological restoration, and/or riparian systems. The exhibits are used for projects ranging from design and restoration projects, to flood recovery, to expert testimony on major natural disaster court cases.

Drone technology has become a major tool for us, and I co-authored a book titled Drone Technology in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction. Chinook uses drones on almost all of our projects, but they are used as a tool to support the larger project. Only ~15% of our projects are ‘drone only’ meaning Chinook is hired solely for drone services. We can use the drones to collect extremely detailed and accurate 3D models of project sites and then use this data for analysis, planning, and visualizations. Often we will model proposed project elements directly in these 3D datasets.

A unique niche that Chinook has created in the drone services industry is collecting 3D datasets of rockfaces along highways. This requires a very specialized skillset of manual flying that is rare in the industry. These models are used by geotechnical engineers to perform geohazard (rockfall and rock slide) analysis, and to develop mitigation measures for geohazards. Chinook wound up in this niche because we do a lot of landscape architecture work on Department of Transportation (DOT) projects where rivers are next to/crossing highways, such as mountain canyons. Working with geotechnical engineers on these projects led to a crossover and collaboration to develop unique workflows for geohazard analysis and mitigation with drones.

At this point, I have become a real leader for both drone technology and 3D modeling. I have partnerships with several software companies to teach their software at universities and schools, and I also work closely with the software companies to give input on what features are needed, etc. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and I get hired to teach 3D, graphics, and drone software to other companies in addition to giving workshops at schools across the country. I’ve had the opportunity to teach and present from Alaska to New York, most recently giving a lecture and workshop on 3D modeling at Columbia University in New York City.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I lived in Fort Collins for almost 10 years and still have fond memories of it. For food, we would have to get Los Tarascos mexican, the Pickle Barrel for sandwiches, and Pizza Casbah at least once. A visit to Odell’s Brewery is always a good time. For some hiking, I’d probably take them into the Poudre Canyon and Red Feather Lakes area. Beautiful scenery in that part of the state. Some of my other favorite destinations in Colorado are Glenwood Springs, Salida, and the Gunnison area.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Tony Boone and I work very closely together on a ton of projects. He has become not only a valued colleague, but also a close friend and mentor.

My wife Brittany has always been a huge support for me as I took the leap to start my own business.


Website: www.chinookLA.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chinook_landscape_architecture/?hl=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-altschuld/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.