One might ask what benefits a local government would get by modeling
their community in a 3-D environment and the answer is simple, a great
deal. The idea of modeling the real world on a computer was once a
difficult task and usually only existed in video games. However, with
technology advancing at an alarming rate this once difficult task has
now become more of a normal occurrence.
Community and Economic Development Departments at the local
government level have consistently searched for ways to evaluate the
structure of their town in order to see what implementations may be
working and what areas might need improvement. Usually these types of
reviews are done by outsourcing the project to an external consultant in
return for a 3-D representation of the study area. Although this
method is quite efficient, it often costs a community extra money. For
the City of Park Ridge it was decided that to keep this type of work
in-house and use the resources of the Geographic Information System
(GIS) to review the “Higgins Road Corridor” project in a 3-D environment
would be beneficial.
By using the data that the city collects annually the GIS Department
was able to create a 3-D model that included buildings, driveways,
sidewalks, roads and parks for the “Higgins Road Corridor.” The basics
of creating this model entailed using GIS tools to extrude each feature
listed above to its true elevation height above mean ground level.
While this data is extruded it is also converted to a specific file type
that can be imported into Google’s SketchupTM application.
Once the data was exported to a useable Sketchup file it was then
imported into the Google SketchupTM application allowing it to be
displayed properly by applying specific colors and textures to all
features in order to make them more realistic to the real world. In
addition, text labels were added to call out all of the major roads and
parks within the study area making the 3-D model ready for production.
One of the benefits of using the Google SketchupTM application is that
it allows for easy layout creation and final conversion to a PDF product
for printing. Once in a PDF format these products can be printed and
mounted for display purposes at city board meetings, this being the
method that City of Park Ridge practiced for this particular project.
In conclusion, it is easy to visualize how the functionality of GIS
along with other applications allowed the Community and Preservation
Department of Park Ridge the ability to stay in-house with this
particular project and administer more control during production time.
Furthermore, representing a portion of the real world in a 3-D
environment allowed city board members to conceptualize what impacts
might be endured by redeveloping the “Higgins Road Corridor”, such
impacts that are not always seen in a 2-D environment.