Teamwork: Making 3D a Reality in Massachusetts

It invigorates us when a city joins the 3D movement by incorporating it into their GIS and planning workflows. Thanks to a unique, collaborative environment, the cities of Boston and Cambridge are moving to the forefront of civic 3D technologies. The Community Development Department (CDD) and GIS teams are working together to create and maintain 3D citywide model that reflects the city’s visualization and planning efforts. The eventual goal is to establishing a digital, 3D model submission requirement for local developers. With CyberCity 3D supplying the 3D data, Esri providing the GIS platform (CityEngine), and Paul Cote of pbcGIS consulting, these cities are well on its way toward a leading-edge, 3D city management architecture.

As seen in the graphic at left, the model management architecture developed by pbcGIS provides a way of handling model assets developed for specific development projects. Once finished, these resources can be shared with the design community and re-used in future applications of the citywide 3D model. With this system of continual maintenance and updating, the city, along with local stakeholders and developers, can be confident that the 3D GIS they are all referencing is consistent and currently accurate.

The value in this system lies in the various layers that the citywide database contains. From local tree points to CyberCity 3D’s high resolution 3D models, users will be able to pull data to create web scenes in CityEngine that apply to their specific project. With these browser-based scenes, designers can share plans and proposals with other stakeholders for real-time evaluation and feedback.

Down the road, pbcGIS, CyberCity 3D, and the city envision a digital submission requirement for the design review process, with developers submitting proposed 3D building “shells” in the context of the existing environment. We’re proud to be a part of the 3D trailblazing that’s going on in Boston and Cambridge, and are confident that this collaboration will set a standard for how the private and public sectors can work together to design, analyze, and build cities into the future.

Proposal Visualization: Local developers will be able to insert their project into the context of a citywide 3D model
Development Potential: Using the model to visualize unused zoning height potential of existing buildings
View Corridor: Examine how new development affects the visual landscape in CityEngine web scenes

To learn more about the model, visit

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