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The combination of CAD and GIS produces a powerful toolkit for ‘Online Planning’ and Virtual Brisbane developed by the Brisbane City Council in Queensland Australia is a great example.

The project is still in its early stages and currently is utilised principally for plan scenario testing, development assessment and community engagement. The aim is to continue for the model to be utilised by Neighbourhood Planning and other City planning sections in order to communicate complex planning scenarios in an effective way.
What was traditionally consigned to artist impressions and 2D maps can now be presented to the community in an accurate way which is easy to grasp. This fosters a more informed community and gives residents the potential to collaborate more deeply in the planning process.
The movie below provides an insight into the model:

The model base data was produced using oblique aerial images and LiDAR data. The LiDAR data was used to generate the digital terrain model which was then textured with rectified ortho imagery. The buildings were created by taking point cloud data from the LiDAR scans and extruding the building forms. Structures were then textured using images harvested from the oblique imagery.

The model is run within a real-time system on a spatially accurate digital globe which is capable of viewing GIS information through the SHP file format. This is key as it allows any other spatial dataset to be visualised and queried within the model.

Hats off to Brisbane for putting the model to use for public consultation. As readers will know sadly our own efforts five years ago failed due to issues with copyright on the base data (see The Guardian Article for full info). Its also nice to use the term ‘Online Planning’ again as it was the title of our PhD thesis.

Planning is about communication, the communication of space and place in relation to built form. The advent of digital networks provides the opportunity to radically change the concept of communication within not only the urban planning system but also wider fields related to the development of the built environment.

How we communicate is increasingly becoming digital and the rise of the Internet in particular during the last decade has freed planning from the constraints of working hours and the reliance of specific locations and times to portray information.

Information can now be visualised, communicated and manipulated at any location, any place, at any time, as long as we have the political, cultural, and economic means that gives us access to the relevant technologies. These technologies are on the edge of a new revolution in our ability to design, communicate and plan at a distance.

The revolution on the horizon is one of inhabited virtual place; a place where the environment is represented digitally in three dimensions and communication is achieved through avatars, defined as an individual’s visual embodiment in the virtual environment. Avatars in these emerging environments are the stakeholders, the occupants and the commuters of the digital realm. As such they are also the citizens that will design, occupy and manipulate built form in the development of digital planning and they will have a say in the future planning process. These developments contribute towards a digital, ‘Online’ planning system, which is explored in a series of working examples throughout the thesis.

You can read the Online Planning/Digital Urban PhD Thesis here (15Mb PDF).

Take a look at Virtual Brisbane.

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