5 Ways 3D City Models Plan a Better Tomorrow for Urban Communities

By Brandon Santos

As the AEC industry continues to embrace digital and 3D platforms, three-dimensional city modeling is a burgeoning trend within the urban AEC community. 3D city models are virtual representations of urban environments, including buildings, terrain, landmarks, infrastructure landscapes, and vegetation. They integrate geospatial data that culminates into a real-world, three-dimensional visualization of the city. 3D city models positively influence urban planning, offer environmental analyses through various application-based uses, and encourage public participation in urban development.

The most apparent benefit of 3D city models is their ability to simplify visualization, mapping, and urban planning. The visualizations can help manage risk, and advocate collaboration among AEC workers, which facilitates resolution and leads to better decision-making. They offer insight to urban planners on how new buildings and developments will change the visibility and landscape of tourist attractions, community facilities, and landmarks. 3D city models are extremely accurate to the point of allowing suburb level, precinct level, and individual site level review of property development and strategy. The detailed visualization reduces errors in planning, resulting in streamlined monitoring of the environment and reduced monetary loss.

Here are five significant advantages of 3D city models:

1. Improve traffic and disaster management

3D city models can also vastly improve transportation and utility networks. Emergency response routes can be mapped out more effectively, and spatial analyses of these models can optimize delivery routes to customers as well. Furthermore, they are helpful for disaster management; these 3D models can simulate realistic effects caused by a natural disaster. Such simulations include fires, floods, and bomb explosions. They exhibit accurate effects of these disasters on urban infrastructure and allow planners to better prepare and manage rescue operations and resource mobilization. Utilizing technology like AutoCAD Civil 3D allows assessment of surface watersheds and floodplain mapping. AutoCAD Map 3D can be used to create contour maps for evaluation of 3D terrain, too. Entire cities that are modeled in three dimensions enable superior urban planning, mapping, and overall detailed visualization.

2. Optimize building temperatures

Another niche application of 3D city models is insolation estimation, which is critical to estimate thermal comfort in buildings; observing such data identifies which buildings are exposed to too much sunlight and are prone to overheating in high temperatures. According to research, insolation data can assist in developing house price models as well: “information about insolation can be used as one of the factors for estimating property prices, under the assumption that solar radiation is capitalized in the value of a property”.

3. Decrease pollution

 3D city models also estimate noise and traffic pollution. A 3D model effectively measures noise because sound spreads through the air in every direction. Noise varies by distance, but also by elevation, which isn’t possible to analyze on a 2D model. Likewise, the model analyzes traffic pollutant distribution by assessing multiple emission sources based off volumes of different pollution density levels generated by 3D zoning of voxel data. While these are some of the more prominent applications of 3D city models, there are plenty more being researched and tested, potentially demonstrating an endless amount of benefits to supplement urban infrastructure.

4. Involve the community

Public participation and potential for democratic purposes is another advantage of 3D city modeling. It is widely recognized that public involvement in the design of urban development is very important. Detailed 3D city models can be accessed via the internet, empowering local governments to communicate their urban design plans effectively to the public; residents can keep up-to-date on proposed developments and gauge a better understanding of the visual representation. Furthermore, people can also provide feedback on design ideas to local governing bodies, leading to the implementation of urban development that is optimized to suit the needs and lifestyles of its citizens.All in all, making 3D city models available to the public and encouraging participation in city development is a healthy and productive way to exchange alternative viewpoints among stakeholders.

5. Benefit local governments

3D city models can provide a wide variety of benefits to local governments. Their detailed visualizations allow urban planners a more effective and efficient way to analyze proposed developments. Urban mapping and the comprehensive range of applications improve city environments and leave a tremendous impact. Public participation in urban design decisions can enrich cities to enable more livable and desired developments that residents influence individually. As time moves on, further research will undoubtedly unveil even more applications and uses 3D city models contribute to the local governments willing to improve their city for leadership and residents.


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