Why 3D modelling is the way forward for better planning outcomes

Giving the community tools to better visualise development proposals through 3D modelling of our cities is essential, according to Planning Institute of Australia Queensland.

Its president Todd Rohl said governments at all levels needed to use city modelling as part of the planning and development process to reduce conflict between communities, developers and government authorities.

“It’s something we see time and again when planning issues boil over – conflict arises because one group simply doesn’t fully understand what the other is talking about,” Mr Rohl said.

Todd Rohl, Planning Institute of Australia Queensland.

“Incorporating the latest 3D modelling technology is a powerful way to show stakeholders what a planning outcome will actually look like.”

He said that when people were presented with planning changes or proposals they immediately – and understandably – think of the “worst case scenario”.

“Unfortunately our imaginations don’t always do a great job of rendering in three dimensions something we see on a two dimensional plan,” Mr Rohl said.

“3D modelling allows people to get a real sense of how something will look and feel.”

It is a solution already being used by City of Melbourne, Brisbane City Council and other Queensland local governments.

Other advantages of 3D modelling are the ability to incorporate additional data layers such as transport, vehicle movements, potential flash-flood zones and climate change impacts, he said.

“You can integrate all the climate change related information – that is one of the most exciting things.”

The PIA’s Queensland division has just released a “conversation starter” paper on the value of 3D modelling and why it should form part of policy at all levels of government.

Major benefits it identifies also include greater transparency and accountability.

Mr Rohl said that if authorities get 3D modelling right, there are two likely outcomes. The first is that by presenting the model at the early stages of planning, community support can be obtained up-front.

It would identify the impacts of a proposed change to the urban fabric, and allow the community to have a more informed say quickly and with greater transparency in the process.

He said Victoria was already highly advanced in the use of the technology. Globally, 3D modelling is also being used by leaders such as Singapore, which is building on its existing 3D city modelling developing a whole nation-state 3D model.

State and local government in Australia now need to be taken to the next level, with the technology promoted at the national level, Mr Rohl said.

“We have some real challenges to address in our cities and regions, and good planning outcomes will only be achieved with the community, government and the property industry all working together.

“Having intuitive, easy-to-understand tools available – like 3D modelling – is essential for facilitating the dialogue that will lead to better planning.

“We need to be proactive about getting this technology to work.”

One other recommendations is to get all of the educational institutions on board to train practitioners in the application of the technology.

Generationally, planning in future will be done in a different way due to modelling, he said.

Norway is already an example, with 3D modelling used for planning that is then electronically taken across to the approval process where there is a simple “tick and cross” system for determining plans.

Up-skilling all levels of the Australian industry, including existing senior planners, is about “creating the jobs of the future” in the profession, Mr Rohl said.

Currently, however, there is a “fundamental gap” in the training available both to those currently undertaking education and those already working in the profession.

“We need to work with governments to fill that gap and fill it quickly.

“There is no doubt modern 3D modelling can and will reshape the planning profession and how we interact with our stakeholders.”

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