How virtual 3D modeling and simulation can help us create better cities

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New technologies offer new opportunities for urban planning and design. 3D city modeling and simulation can provide a real picture of the results of planning decisions. Incorporating this technology into planning practice has its challenges, however.

Virtual 3D city models are digital models of urban areas. It represents terrain areas, locations, buildings, vegetation, infrastructure and other landscape elements and related locations that are included in urban space.

3D modeling possibilities

How virtual 3D modeling and simulation can help us create better cities
How virtual 3D modeling and simulation can help us create better cities

This technique can be used for spatial design and visualization of development related to existing urban environments. It can also be used to compare different urban planning strategies. They can be assessed based on measures such as land use, population and housing density, building height, area ratio and construction cost.


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Planners can use 3D modeling to analyse and communicate the effects of existing and new (new) development plans. They can occur, for example, in shade, solar radiation, corridor views, compliance with zoning regulations, traffic gravity, and the sun’s potential on buildings.

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3D modeling also offers a new platform for engaging citizens in urb an planning. Public concerns, needs and values ​​are part of government decision making.

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How do cities use 3D models?

Local governments and the private sector are increasingly using 3D city models to aid planning. One example is Virtual Brisbane. Brisbane City Council uses these 3D computer-generated models for strategic planning, development assessments and community engagement.

Singapore launched Virtual Singapore, a 3D replica of the city-state, in July 2018. The platform offers new possibilities for city planners.

Both Detroit in the US and Munich in Germany see realistic 3D modeling as essential for planning for the future.

Companies like Dassault Systems are partnering with cities to use digital tools to build more responsive cities. With the 3DExperienceCity project, city planners can test ideas digitally and better account for the effects of urbanization.

These techniques also integrate people and allow more individualized planning approaches to be developed.

Integration into educational planning in 3D modeling

How virtual 3D modeling and simulation can help us create better cities
How virtual 3D modeling and simulation can help us create better cities

The industry’s growing demand for suitable space planners is helping to introduce new ways to teach and train professionals in the built environment.

The University of Queensland is leading a project in which researchers design and implement a coherent curriculum in their Urban and Urban Planning Bachelor program. By developing virtual 3D models, students develop their spatial skills.

Students learn to use ESRI City RIngine, the industry standard software for developing 3D city models. This enables them to visualize, plan, evaluate and communicate existing and new developments. Most of the students in our experiment liked this new learning opportunity to improve their spatial skills, especially at an early stage in the learning process.

However, you are limited by a limited amount of time to learn how to use the technology. The joy of learning and developing skills is also challenged by the need to go beyond their comfort zone to ensure good grades in the course. Nevertheless, students are fully aware of technology and realize the importance of spatial skills for their professional development.

The emergence of good design is at the interface of geography, urban planning and geotechnical engineering. It helps identify when, where, and how students develop spatial thinking skills and abilities.

These functions are essential for management, visualization, presentation and navigation in a data-driven world. In addition, students are particularly exposed to an innovative learning environment that enables them to visualize design scenarios and thus better cope with uncertainty.

The use of interactive digital mapping in higher education is an effective classroom strategy for teaching and practicing critical spatial thinking.

Augmented Reality technology offers students a new way to visualize cityscapes. Develop map reading skills and enable them to interpret landscape images. This increases their ability to understand the physical and digital aspects of urban areas.

The advent of geotechnology, sensor networks and the Internet of Things have transformed urban planning, design, and education. It provides students with new ways to develop critical spatial thinking skills and enhances learning about space planning tools to better equip them for an era of co-creation.


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In addition, increase their spatial competence for joint design of the built environment. This can help them become better designers, better conform to design practice, and improve their overall proficiency and employability in entering the workplace.

3D modeling and simulation definitely offers new possibilities when designing planning solutions. City dwellers need to be involved in this process to develop strategies that better address sustainability challenges such as urban population growth.