Pi Makes the World Go Round

In celebration of Pi Day (3-14, the first three digits of pi) we’ve asked a few of our professionals how they use pi in their day-to-day work. (And here’s an easy refresher on what pi is.) Turns out it’s more common than you’d think!

Jason Ingram, PLS, land survey, Green Bay


Typically we do not calculate pi by hand, but it is used in equations to solve the following:

  • Areas of circular objects (cul du sac area or circular piece of property)
  • Diameter of circular features being measured (bridge piers)
  • Determine the center point coordinate of an object where that center point cannot be physically measured (center of water tower or center of power pole)
Jacob Blue, PLA, landscape architecture, Madison

Landscape architects aren’t ashamed for others to know we frequently use pie as a primary fuel source for creative activities, not the least of which is preparation of new designs. In fact, my family and I have declared this the year of the pie, which is a thinly veiled excuse to try a new kind of pie every month. (See how much pie inspires us?!)

In more serious terms, we use pi often to calculate the area of circular spaces. For example, as almost every tree has a mulch ring, we use pi to calculate the area of the ring every time we develop an opinion of probable cost.

We also use pi as an inspirational model for how the world works. Pi is what is known as a transcendental number, because we know it exists, we know what it has to do because it describes a perfect circle, but we can’t measure it accurately. Sustainability is the same thing: It’s transcendental, we know what it is, we know what it describes, but we can’t accurately measure 100% sustainability.

So we use pi to help us calculate areas, but we also use pi to help us think about theoretical obscurities, like sustainability. Lastly, we use pie to make us smarter.

One More Use for Pi(e)

And finally, there’s one more great use for pi(e): Raising money for a good cause. Our Waukesha office used a pie-in-the-face challenge (and our executive team) to raise more than $500 for the United Way last year.

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