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Jeff Thurston — “Communication is a key role for 3D data in CAD, increasing the speed of the design process. This has huge returns on investment and improves time to market drastically. In terms of GIS, 3D really begins to put the power of a GIS to work, modeling reality closer, managing and analyzing spatial processes better.” 

Matt Ball — “Model interoperability has major implications for holistic infrastructure management. The GIS/CAD divide is primary a matter of process now. The efforts to create sustainable infrastructure should help bridge disciplines to bring process and visualization together.”

What is the role of 3D in both CAD and GIS and how does this relate to sustainability? Is there a relationship?

The role of 3D in CAD / GIS has always been to represent reality. That has not been easy to do because of many factors including,  technological challenges, cost, understanding and need, to name a few. The representation of 3D environments has many important applications. For example, making measurements for wiring in the AirBus 380 using 2D, results in different lengths of wires needed as compared to 3D measurement – which impacts project completion and costs.

Knowing the terrain elevation is important for determining hydrological flow processes across landscapes, line -of-sight analysis and variable rate farming. Other examples involving 3D, involving CAD construction, can speed up the design process and enable improved communication, thereby shortening project life-cycles and improving quality.

By and large, the application of 3D within GIS applications relates to spatial analysis applications. They also involve applications where volume is a primary consideration such as atmospheric events, flooding and so on. One might argue that constructing a geospatial model partially of 3D data and 2D data raises certain questions as to its possible use.

Communication is a key element of cartographic visualisation, but I think we can see improvements in communication where 3D building design data is present and 3D city models are being used, particularly where they link-in high quality data. The re-use of information is improved where 3D data is involved, more people like 3D fly-throughs rather than 2D panning, for example.

For sustainability applications, involving forestry and land use planning, utility developments and transportation, 3D offers the possibility for improving use across disciplinary borders (over and above interoperability) as well as enabling organizations to quantify sustainable indicators more accurately – because they represent reality better. Finally, 3D information in CAD / GIS enable people to enage data and design personally, walking in buildings and along rails or roads, before they are constructed.

The tools for 3D in CAD / GIS are currently present and their future is bright and will lead to higher quality living. The question now is, “have we got our minds around 3D so that we can use it effectively?”

Are you ready for 4D?

  The GIS/CAD divide is primarily a matter of process now. The divide between these two systems breaks down completely when you get to the model view. The efforts to create sustainable infrastructure can contribute greatly in bridging disciplines and bringing process and visualization together.

At present, there are many 3D model makers with varying toolsets and skills, differing disciplines that they serve, and many purposes for building their models. Architects and urban planners are accustomed to using computer-aided design (CAD) tools for model development. GIS users are increasingly exploring the use of 3D data and visualization tools for public outreach and cross-disciplinary planning.

The varying degrees of model realism are primarily due to the model builder’s purpose as well as the software tools with which they’re accustomed. GIS practitioners, for example, typically extruded buildings or textured the building faces, without any interior information. CAD users often develop detailed building interiors and exteriors, but struggle with placing a building in its larger urban context.

It’s obvious that bringing the CAD and GIS model creators together would bring great benefit to both camps. Within large engineering organizations that house both CAD and GIS specialists, this integration is being tackled with stellar results. However, there are still quite a few GIS or CAD-centric communities that don’t know where to begin the integration process, and don’t have the relationships to bring about the exchange and integration of models.

Individual projects serve as the primary catalyst to bring model views together, but what is needed is an entity to take over the role of brokering model integration. Until we get to the point of an engaged city or other entity that acts as a central brokerage for the integration and interaction of intelligent models, the virtual worlds will suffer from a lack of realism and won’t be sustainable.

On the consumer side, there’s a great deal of progress. The public has come to expect rich 3D experiences, with greater realism in both Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth and greater interaction in virtual worlds such as Second Life. It’s time to work diligently on bringing visualization and simulation platforms into the spatial fold, adding spatial intelligence to models.

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