Accelerating 3D modelling for urban planning
From a converted barn in Cumbria, a small family-run design business is producing highly professional 3D urban models for the redevelopment of war-torn Iraqi cities. Thanks to the use of Esri’s CityEngine solution, Garsdale Design can quickly produce and amend 3D plans, delivering an efficient, top-quality service for its Middle Eastern clients.
Garsdale Design is an architecture, urban design and planning firm, operating from offices in a converted barn in Cumbria. While its location may be rural, its business is undeniably global. The firm has extensive experience of undertaking urban design and city master planning assignments in the Gulf Arab states and Middle East.
The time required to produce a 3D model of a new building has been cut from four days to just half a day
The business can make last minute changes to models, very quickly, thereby meeting deadlines without having to pay outside contractors for help
The 3D models help the firm’s clients to understand what cities may look like in the future, to help make more informed planning decisions
Along with its Iraqi partners, Garsdale Design has been contracted by the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works in Iraq to create urban plans for the reconstruction of several key cities in the country. This long-term project involves planning for new homes, infrastructure, transport, sewerage, water and electric systems in areas that have been seriously damaged by many years of war and neglect.
Garsdale Design recognised the importance of 3D modelling in urban planning and aspired to provide 3D visualisations of its plans to help its Iraqi clients and partners understand proposed developments. However, creating these 3D models was very time-consuming. The firm used to sketch proposed new buildings, streets and squares by hand and then digitise the pictures to create 3D images. Unsurprisingly, it used to take around four days to produce a 3D model of a single building, such as a new neighbourhood centre.
As is common in large urban redevelopments, unexpected changes were a regular occurrence. On one occasion, the location of a bridge was altered without warning, which had obvious ramifications for the planned road network and neighbouring buildings. When changes like this occurred, the firm had to throw away its out-of-date 3D models and start again from scratch – and if deadlines were tight, the firm had to make a difficult choice between not providing 3D visualisations or paying for someone else to create them.
CityEngine has expanded what we can achieve and deliver to our clients in short timescales. It helps us to keep up with bigger design companies and provide a professional service for our clients
Elliot Hartley – Director, Garsdale Design
The discovery of Esri’s CityEngine solution has had a profound impact on the way that Garsdale Design works. 3D models have been transformed from a peripheral offering for clients into a core part of the company’s master planning process.
CityEngine is fully integrated with Esri’s ArcGIS platform and converts two-dimensional geographic information system (GIS) data into 3D models in a series of simple steps. It includes a 3D editor tool for creating realistic facades and adding vegetation and street furniture, all of which enables users to produce clear and realistic models. Despite the word ‘city’ in its name, CityEngine can be equally valuable in developing 3D models of rural landscapes, small developments and wind farms, for example.
Models or ‘scenes’ created in CityEngine can be easily published on the Internet and shared with colleagues, clients and partners. Esri’s Web Scenes viewer allows users to develop two models side by side and then employ a swipe tool to see what a development might look like, before and after.
CityEngine is transformational. It has enabled us to make dramatic time savings and, for our business, raised our ambitions so we are inspired to re-evaluate processes we took for granted
Elliot Hartley – Director, Garsdale Design
Through the use of CityEngine, Garsdale Design is now able to produce accurate 3D visualisations of how cities might look in the future, far more easily. These models help its clients to understand the available planning options and make better decisions to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of city residents.
Whereas it used to take Garsdale Design around four days to create a model of just one building, the firm can now create 3D visualisations of entire city quarters in just half a day. Furthermore, when last minute changes occur or new information is received from Iraq, Garsdale Design can update its existing 3D visualisations quickly, without having to start again from scratch.
These time savings mean that Garsdale Design can now deliver a larger number of top quality, up-to-date 3D visualisations for its clients. The firm saves money by not having to pay for outside help to meet project deadlines and delivers a higher standard of service for its clients.
Elliot Hartley, director of Garsdale Design, says: “We’re a small family firm and don’t have lots of people and departments that we can draw upon when we have tight deadlines. CityEngine has expanded what we can achieve and deliver to our clients in short timescales. It helps us to keep up with bigger design companies and provide a professional service for our clients.”
In the future, Garsdale Design intends to embed rules into its 3D models, so that when data layers are added or changed, the master plan automatically updates the area. For example, if solar data is added, CityEngine could remodel a planned housing development to orientate roofs to the best angle to optimise solar energy generation.
Summing up, Hartley says: “CityEngine is transformational. It has enabled us to make dramatic time savings and, for our business, raised our ambitions so we are inspired to re-evaluate processes we took for granted. We are doing things now that we didn’t think possible before.”