Building mass study


The City of Highland Park Department of Community Development
Planning Division is in the process of creating a new master plan for
the continual development of the Central Business District. Building
mass is one of the issues currently under review for this plan.
Building mass is the study of size, height. and volume of buildings
within an area to gauge the density of commercial and residential use
with in that particular area.

The Planning Divisions wants to understand how existing the
distribution of mass with in the current structures relates to the
overall area of the Central Business District. Of Special concern, are
areas that contain low densities of building mass. It may be important
to determine if the current building mass distribution under serves
these areas. Building mass is also a tool for ensuring that development
is occurring equally throughout an area. This avoids situations such
as having a downtown with historically low structures ringed by towering
condominiums or office buildings.

The Planning Division met with the GIS Department to determine what
tools were available to analyze building mass. They determined that
using ESRI’s Arc SceneTM application provided the best option. The GIS
added all the required layers and extruded the features to create a 3D
model. The image shown on the right displays a sample of the final
product. As the reader will note it easy to see the mass of each
building and quickly locate areas of low building mass. Because the
terrain model provides the base elevations, one can even see how the
relief of this area affects the building heights.

By using GIS, the Planning Divisions received a good visual product
that is useful for visual analysis and as a graphic supporting a report.
They are also able to look at building mass in ways that are
impossible with paper maps.