Skip to main content

Managing sustainable growth in seven cities with ArcGIS Urban

Learn how planners in seven cities, big and small, are using ArcGIS Urban to create digital twins, improve engagement with stakeholders, incorporate indicators and explore scenarios in order to manage growth more effectively.

1. Uppsala creates a detailed digital twin to enhance sustainability

Uppsala is Sweden’s fourth-largest city with a population of 230,000. With that population expected to rise to 350,000 by 2050, the city needs new housing. City planners are designing a new district that will provide new housing, incorporate new transit infrastructure and keep in line with sustainable and green growth commitments.

How Uppsala planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • Faithfully reflect reality by incorporating features such as trees and topography to design in context
  • Explore different scenarios and enable engagement with stakeholders
  • Create detailed and quantified plans that provide sustainable housing and transportation development
“After we built the model, we realized that it provided a way to study and share scenarios in a simple way that makes urban planning much more understandable,”
— Svante Guterstam, Strategic Community Planner, City of Uppsala

Uppsala interactive 3D model

Interactive 3D model

Learn more here.
 

2. Seattle examines buildable lands ensuring long-term growth

With a 23 percent growth rate over the past ten years spurred on by employment opportunities in large tech firms, Seattle, Washington is the fastest growing city in the United States. However, given the city’s constrained topography and a need to balance growth with its potential impacts, such as housing affordability, this growth needs to be managed carefully.

How Seattle planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • Create an inventory of employment and housing capacity.
  • Incorporate demographic data and compare this data to development scenarios in different areas at both a high and granular level; for example, the city is using a Development Suitability tool to view entire neighborhoods and drill down to the building level.
  • Visualize plans in 3D to help inform decision-making and understand the impacts of different scenarios.
“We’re going to use ArcGIS Urban to really understand where we’re at now according to the latest forecast. It will help us see what we can do and to try different scenarios of what we can consider,”
— Jennifer Pettyjohn, Senior Planner, Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development

The Development Suitability tool allows planners to view whole neighborhoods then drill down to the building level.

The Development Suitability tool allows planners to view whole neighborhoods then drill down to the building level.

Learn more here.
 

3. Hardeeville and ArcGIS Urban: Small city facing tremendous growth

Although its population is only 6,500, Hardeeville, South Carolina is experiencing an unprecedented growth rate of 120% since 2010 due to development interests and investments. To help accommodate this growth, the city has annexed nearby land from a neighbour municipality. Given its increasing size in both population and geography, there are multiple proposals for large-scale development. However, with a small planning team, this growth can be challenging to manage.

How Hardeeville planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • To preserve wetlands and keep consistent with the area's rural character, planners use a Wetlands Indicator in ArcGIS Urban to explore impacts and scenarios.
  • More broadly, the ability to visualize plans in context is critical for understanding impacts, facilitating internal workflows and enabling efficient engagement with stakeholders.
“Having zoning codes and use tables in Urban will remove the need to dig through the municipal zoning and development ordinance to find setback requirements, use allowances, and density restrictions”
— Kiel Jenkins, City Planner, City of Hardeeville

Learn more here.
 

4. Honolulu planners visualize short-term rental patterns with an eye on affordability

Honolulu, the fourth-most densely populated area in the US, is challenged by a lack of affordable housing, especially long-term housing. This issue is compounded by short-term rental patterns, such as Airbnb services, that cater to tourists.  As such, City planners must analyze both short-term rentals and resident housing from the view of affordability.

How Honolulu planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • Change zoning code values quickly and easily to observe impacts in 3D within the context of a neighborhood.
  • Create a participatory environment that enables stakeholders in government, business and the community to visualize changes, especially those related to transit.
“Our planners’ eyes got really wide when they realized that they could quickly and easily change values in the zoning code and see what the difference in development would be.”
— Ken Schmidt, GIS Administrator City and County of Honolulu

Participatory environment that enables stakeholders to visualize changes to Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) plan

Participatory environment that enables stakeholders to visualize changes to Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) plan

Learn more here.
 

5. With space at a premium, San Francisco gets creative with smart planning

San Francisco has been a high growth city for decades and this trend is set to continue well into the 21st century. However, growth is not without its challenges. To effectively address issues such as affordability, land supply and quality of life, long-range planners in San Francisco are using a holistic, systems-level approach. This approach seeks to understand the interplay of multiple factors such as employment, housing, transit and infrastructure. Additionally, planners must consult with stakeholders and the public.

How San Francisco planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • GIS helps to integrate the full planning workflow.
  • San Francisco planners recently used GIS to visualize in 3D existing land supply and perform a preliminary estimate of the capacity for new housing units and jobs.
  • 3D visualizations of what-if scenarios yield deeper and more holistic insights than that offered by traditional means such as charts, graphs and spreadsheets.
  • San Francisco planners anticipate the ability to intuitively visualize plans in 3D will provide greater engagement in public planning meetings.
The core long-range planning challenge is how to design the city of tomorrow to provide a rich urban experience within the limits of infrastructural capacity.”
— Scott Edmonson, Senior Strategic Sustainability Planner-Economist, City of San Francisco

Learn more here.
 

6. 3D GIS helped Boston create a digital twin

Historically, the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) used a carved wooden model of Boston’s downtown to help evaluate and develop plans. A major concern for the city, are the shadows that developments cast on the city and parks, especially the Boston Common park. Indeed, as per the Boston Common Shadow Law, new buildings must limit the amount of time their shadows are cast on the park. In recent years, there has been a building boom, which requires planners and developers to examine the shadows these new developments could cast. To explore the impacts of such developments, the BPDA went beyond their traditional wooden model and created a digital twin powered by ArcGIS Urban.

How Boston planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • Boston planners used ArcGIS Urban to create a GIS-based digital twin.
  • The digital twin enables planners to visualize the impacts of a new tower on the surrounding area, such as the shadow it would cast on a nearby park.
  • The digital twin helps to facilitate collaboration between stakeholders, such as developers and the public.
  •  The twin also includes quantitative and qualitative analysis workflows that enable planners to explore scenarios more quickly and efficiently than traditional methods, such as the wooden model.
“We wanted to develop workflows that used metrics and a standardized process and procedure to evaluate projects moving forward.”
— Corey Zehngebot, Senior Architect and Urban Designer, Boston Planning & Development Agency

ArcGIS Urban shows the impacts of shadows cast by new developments

ArcGIS Urban shows the impacts of shadows cast by new developments

Learn more here.
 

7. City of Kingston revolutionizes urban planning with 3D modelling

With more than 1200 heritage properties, planners at the City of Kinston Ontario must ensure that new development blends harmoniously with the city’s historic character.  To help do so, Kingston planners have developed a digital twin using ArcGIS Urban.

How Kingston planners are using ArcGIS Urban

  • Use LiDAR and 3D capabilities to create 3D web scenes of infrastructure.
  • Gain better a better understanding of existing and future development.
“The vision of a digital twin includes all information that is gathered and managed through the project lifecycle. By allowing us to collaborate with the different disciplines involved in a project, like our land surveyor, a city planner, an engineer and the construction trades, we get better situational awareness of what’s being designed, what will eventually be built; ultimately, making Kingston a better place to live, work and play.”
— Philip Healey, Manager, Enterprise GIS Services, City of Kingston

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here

About the Author

Josh Triantafilou is a marketing specialist with Esri Canada. He makes it easy for people to find and evaluate products and services relevant to them. Josh is interested in the power of GIS to make sense of the world and affect meaningful, positive change within it.

Profile Photo of Josh Triantafilou