We can export a 3D web scene from CityEngine and publish it online so that it can be viewed by our clients and other stakeholders. This really helps support better communication and more informed decision-making.
3D GIS Supports Decision-Making for Smart Urban Planning and Design
Geographic information system (GIS) technology is a common tool in the urban planning and design process, most often used for site selection and analysis. This helps planners and designers understand such things as the topography, hydrology, demographics, and government regulations of an area, which informs the design of the project.
Gensler, the largest architecture, design, and planning firm in the world, designs unique, large-scale, mixed-use urban communities that are inviting places for people to live, work, and play. These communities are designed to create a synergy for the residents and provide economic activities to sustain them.
The City and Urban Design Team at Gensler has recently explored the capabilities of GIS technology to create plans, visualize scenarios, and support collaboration and decision-making.
The long-standing approach for architecture firms to present their design visualizations to clients has been through PowerPoint presentations or printed drawings. Unfortunately, all these methods provide only static illustrations. Gensler was interested in new ways to digitally transform its workflow with tools that could provide a more engaging and immersive experience for its clients.
"Urban planning and design is a complex process that involves considerable effort in data collection, analysis, and visualization, which is used to support decision-making," said Le An, senior urban planner and designer at Gensler's Washington, DC, office.
Gensler looked to 3D GIS technology to help simplify the design and construction process required for a master planned community.
"We use both speculative site study and real-world urban design projects to develop and test our development framework. This enables us to integrate real-world GIS data, quickly create plans and models for multiple scenarios, evaluate the metrics, and perform spatial analytics of potential impacts," said An. "ArcGIS CityEngine; Web Scene; and the ArcGIS Online tools, such as ArcGIS StoryMaps, allow us to communicate our ideas and designs to clients and stakeholders more effectively through the interactive 3D web applications."
In the initial stage of the design process, Gensler needs to gain a deep understanding of the site and its surrounding environment.
"We use ArcGIS Pro to collect data and perform various analyses. CityEngine and ArcGIS Pro allow us to quickly convert our 2D designs into detailed, large-scale 3D city models," said An. "These are smart models because they contain all of the attribute data we input with ArcGIS Pro. Within the CityEngine Web Viewer panes, we have special tools to interact with the various data layers within a 3D web scene. This allows us to present different design scenarios and project phases to our clients by turning different layers on and off in conjunction with the [slider, swipe], and side-by-side comparison tools. By moving between different preselected images, the viewer can create a little animation, which provides a more engaging and immersive experience for our clients. CityEngine also has shadow and visibility analysis tools that help us envision the real impact of our building designs on the surrounding areas. In addition, through ArcGIS Online, we can export a 3D web scene from CityEngine and publish it online so that it can be viewed by our clients and other stakeholders. This really helps support better communication and more informed decision-making."
Gensler has found that 3D GIS web applications provide a more engaging presentation that is interactive for the client. In addition, when client feedback includes new information or requests, 3D GIS makes design iterations and visualizations easier to create.
"Thanks to the rapid development of 3D and interactive GIS technology, urban planners can now adopt a more integrative and dynamic approach to manage and moderate planning and design tasks [that] better serve the communities where they are constructing these projects," said An.
3D GIS is also allowing users to view detailed information about the proposed design, as every element in the 3D web application is clickable. The approved 3D models and the related plans can be seamlessly handed off by the urban designers to the architects. This allows the design to be further developed in the building information modeling (BIM) environment.
BIM modeling is provided to a construction company to build the project. BIM can include extensive smart facilities data, which can be used for architectural design and engineering; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) applications; structural engineering; and building construction.
Because many municipalities and local governments maintain open GIS data portals, Gensler can obtain high-quality data about parcels, lots, land use, water bodies, and transportation data including the roads, transit lines, and bus stops. It can also collect environmental data, including contours, topography, hydrology, and fault lines. Additionally, building footprints are available from the open data portal, which include height attributes.
Using the CityEngine procedural modeling tools, thousands of 3D building models can be quickly generated from the building footprints for design concepts.
"I think design has the power to connect together the existing built and natural environments with technology to create a more livable space in our future communities," said An. "In our design department at Gensler, GIS has allowed us to better understand and See What Others Can't; that is, evaluate and analyze what is behind the physical appearance of communities. So GIS can give us a deeper understanding of how a community works by analyzing the data."