Skip to main content

How to use 3D GIS to put buildings and infrastructure in context

3D GIS is the gateway to making your curated data and carefully prepared analysis easier to understand for everyone. A 3D scene is as close as it gets to seeing the world with our own eyes. If you were to make your Web GIS solutions available in 3D, I suspect it would trigger new interest from your peers, not to mention new opportunities to promote the use of GIS in your organization. Read this post to get started on your 3D journey.

Use Cases for 3D GIS

Providing end users and decision makers with a true-to-life representation of their communities, or with models of future buildings or infrastructure in the environment that will ultimately surround them, can really accelerate the way decisions are made. Visualizations like this can also help catch potentially irreversible errors.

Don’t forget that once you have models of your buildings and other infrastructure available in 3D, only new construction will need to be added to the models over time. This will leave you with a living 3D representation that you can use for all sorts of applications. It will also provide you with a deeper understanding of the world around you and your projects.

Imagine, for example, that you work in your city’s parks department. You could use 3D GIS to create a web app of your community’s bike trails using 3D scenes to show the trails’ terrain elevation. Residents could consult the app and decide which section of trail is best for their needs. A 3D-enabled app like this could also support new trail development. You could use it to categorize the existing trails by difficulty, allowing you to enhance the trail to meet the needs of all levels of users.

But why stop at terrain elevation when 3D GIS can do so much more?

Let’s broaden the example to a public works or planning context. What if you were to create a digital twin of your infrastructure or a model of your city center? You could create readily available 3D scenes that would reveal points of view never before considered in the planning process. You could also use 3D scenes that speak for themselves to demonstrate the results of a complex analysis.

Take a look at what the Corporation of the City of Kingston is doing with 3D GIS:

For more on what’s possible with 3D GIS, watch our webinar “The Art of the Possible in 3D”.

Training Resources

If you’re just looking to get your feet wet and understand what it takes to work with 3D, I suggest you consider the items included in this self-paced learning plan.

If that’s not enough to satisfy your appetite, consider our new instructor-led course focused on 3D. The course will answer your questions and let you get started right away.

Our instructor will walk you through the basics of 3D, visualization options—including ArcGIS Pro’s exciting new voxel layer capability—, 3D analysis, 3D data storage, editing in 3D, BIM and GIS, and more. Find all the course details and the dates of our next offering here.

Turning your GIS into a 3D GIS takes time and effort, but the payoff is well worth the journey.

This post was translated to French and can be viewed here.

About the Author

Carole Arseneau is a Market Research Specialist at Esri Canada. Over the years, she has advised customers from all industries on how to leverage GIS in their organizations. More recently, she’s been conducting market research to uncover details about the various jobs our customers do each day in various industries. This will help inform Esri Canada’s corporate strategy and better support our customers. Carole holds a Market Research certificate from the University of California, Davis, a GIS certificate from Florida State College in Jacksonville and a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Laval University in Québec City. Being by the water has always made her feel at home and has given her inspiration to keep a positive outlook in life.

Profile Photo of Carole Arseneau