Using User-specified Coordinate Systems in ArcGIS GeoBIM Projects

Until the June 2023 release of ArcGIS GeoBIM, Web Mercator was the only supported coordinate system in ArcGIS GeoBIM that could be used to create feature layers, web maps, and issues. Now, you can select a basemap with a different coordinate system for your ArcGIS GeoBIM Projects.

You must have a custom basemap gallery in your ArcGIS Online organization that hosts your own basemaps in addition to Esri’s default basemaps in Web Mercator. For more information, see the create a custom basemap gallery for your organization blog article. To learn how to customize Esri vector basemaps with your own colors, patterns, icons, and labels, follow the personalize your maps with custom basemap styles tutorial.

Understand map projections and coordinate systems

Transforming any geometry from a curved surface to a flat one involves a mathematical formula called the map projection, since the earth is ellipsoid, and maps are flat. A map projection transforms latitude and longitude to x, and y coordinates (in feet or meters) in a projected coordinate system.

The process of flattening the earth causes distortions (see figure below) in several spatial properties, such as area and shape. There isn’t a perfect projection that can preserve all these spatial properties. As a result, all flat maps get distorted to some degree.


Geographic information systems (GIS) allow you to choose from many map projections to best represent your map. Esri’s ArcGIS technology now supports 6,114 projected coordinate systems that use 106 different map projections. Each projection system is optimized to offer suitability for representing a particular portion of the earth’s surface.

Projection systems, as a result, aim to preserve distance, area, shape, or direction as close as possible to the real world. Some map projections minimize distortion in one property at the cost of another, while other ones strive to balance the overall distortion. As a GIS user, you can decide which properties are most important for your work and choose a projection that suits your needs.

Selecting the right coordinate system with the right projection is critical if you are doing the following:

What’s new in ArcGIS GeoBIM

With the June 2023 release, ArcGIS GeoBIM adds the ability for you to select a coordinate system when creating ArcGIS GeoBIM Projects, along with adding any basemap available within your ArcGIS organization. Prior to this release, Web Mercator was the only supported coordinate system that ArcGIS GeoBIM allowed you to use to create feature layers, web maps, and issues. So, you can use any non-Web Mercator coordinate system in ArcGIS GeoBIM on your next project.  ArcGIS GeoBIM updates include the following when using user-specified coordinate systems:

Additionally, the default basemap and projected coordinate system in ArcGIS GeoBIM match the default for your organization.

User Specified Coordinate system in ArcGIS GeoBIM
User Specified Coordinate system in ArcGIS GeoBIM

What works as usual

The following have not changed:

User-specified coordinate system in an ArcGIS GeoBIM App
User-specified coordinate system in an ArcGIS GeoBIM App

Additional resources

Read more about What’s New in ArcGIS GeoBIM

The June 2023 release adds support for connecting 2D/3D geospatial and BIM data, as well as improvements to app usability and georeferencing performance. Read more in the What’s New in ArcGIS GeoBIM (June 2023 Release) blog article.

Discover tutorials, videos, and articles for ArcGIS GeoBIM

You can learn more about GIS and BIM collaboration in the cloud by visiting the ArcGIS GeoBIM resources page and video playlist. Upcoming webinars and past recordings presented by Esri and Autodesk can be found on the ArcGIS GeoBIM webinars page.

Join the Esri Community

Post questions and share your feedback on this release in the Esri Community for ArcGIS GeoBIM. Get solutions and advice from Esri experts, as well as others using ArcGIS GeoBIM on projects and workflows.

GIS and BIM Collaboration in the Cloud for AEC ebook

Download the ebook to read about how leading AEC firms are connecting GIS and BIM together on projects. You will also see examples of ArcGIS GeoBIM being put to work on infrastructure projects where geospatial context was key.

Acknowledgments: The Swiss topographic map was made available by the Federal Office of Topography (Swisstopo), Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), and the Swiss Parks Network.

About the authors

Ozgur Ertac is a Principal Product Engineer for ArcGIS GeoBIM. He works to improve overall quality of ArcGIS GeoBIM while collaborating with other stakeholders to turn concepts into reality. Before joining to Esri, he was with Esri Germany for more than 10 years where he held several technical roles, including 3D/BIM Product Specialist in the Product Management team. His focus areas are 3D GIS, BIM and GIS integration, QA/QC and agile product development. Ozgur is a certified Product Owner (PSPO-I) and holds a BS in Urban Planning from the Izmir institute of Technology, PhD & MSc in Geoinformatics from the Technical University of Munich.


Geoff is Senior Product Marketing Manager for ArcGIS GeoBIM and GIS/BIM interoperability at Esri. With 10+ years working in the technology and sustainability sectors, he has supported the go-to-market and growth efforts of several enterprise cloud solutions. First encountering GIS during his Environmental Management studies, Geoff has always had a passion for design, innovation, and sustainable practices.


Kachy Nwobi is a Product Engineer on the ArcGIS GeoBIM team. She joined Esri in 2020 and her primary roles are product documentation and testing. She has a Master's degree in Geospatial Technology for Geodesign from Thomas Jefferson University and a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering from Drexel University. She currently lives in Washington DC.

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