3D Modelling and Future of Planning

The Future of City Planning

Globally, we are increasingly seeing a demand from both planners and citizens for more transparent, accessible and interactive ways to engage citizens in the city planning process. With the impacts of Covid-19 ruling out traditional town-hall style community consultation meetings for the foreseeable future; cities, now more than ever, need alternate ways to allow the public to understand and provide feedback on planning proposals.

3D modelling technology is transforming the way cities undertake spatial planning and engage with their communities. It provides developers and city planners new opportunities to better understand and communicate the impacts of existing and proposed developments through a virtual environment.

In 2018, Dublin City Council procured and made open-source a 3D Model of the Docklands Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) from D3D to explore how such a model could bring value to the city.

Following the procurement of the model, Smart Docklands and Dublin City Council held a hackathon where they invited the public to ‘hack’ the 3D Docklands datasets and use it alongside augmented and virtual reality applications to solve city challenges. The outputs of the event highlighted the enormous potential the model brings to help address a diverse range of city challenges including planning consultation, emergency response and energy modelling.

Project Objectives

While there is an increasing shift towards Council’s and developers commissioning 3D models of planned developments, the public’s ability to access these models is often limited to viewing curated videos online or having to physically come into the Council Offices to use the virtual reality headset to access the model.

Smart Docklands is leading an innovative pilot project with Dublin City Council’s Planning Department to understand how 3D Modelling technology can help recreate the planning consultation process on a city scale. The project aims to not only provide a digital alternative to traditional offline methods but also look at how different technologies can better communicate proposals to the public enabling them to make more informed decisions about planning applications and area plans affecting them.

To support this project, Dublin City Council has established a collaborative partnership with Murphy Surveys, one of the leading Survey Companies in the UK and Ireland, and global technology leaders Microsoft and Bentley. The project partnership will explore how we can recreate the consultation process to allow people to access/interact with a model of a proposed development and provide feedback whenever it is convenient for them. Murphy Surveys are using surveying tools such as drones and street capture to create a 3D Model of the Docklands. Through an integration with Bentley’s Open Cities Planner Platform and Microsoft Teams, we will explore new ways of engaging the public in planning consultation.


DCC hopes to create a more accessible consultation process and reduce barriers inhibiting participation such as cost, time and technical knowledge. Ideally, it will increase public participation in the planning process allowing DCC to make more informed planning decisions that are reflective of the community’s values.

DCC’s vision is to have a web based engagement platform where all planning applications requiring consultation are easily accessible for the public to view and interact with in a 3D model format from the comfort of their own home. They want the public to be able to understand the impacts of the development by changing aspects such as the heights of buildings and viewing shading across different times of the day.

Project Outcomes

3D modelling has already demonstrated great value to the city in the planning process. The Docklands model developed by D3D supported the initial design phase for the proposed Bloody Stoney Bridge. Council planners were able to virtually walk along the bridge and experience what it would be like – the result leading to changes in the design of the proposed bridge.

The model was also used to bring to life the designs of the proposed White Water Rafting facility. Gaining over 160k views, this project demonstrates the incredible ability 3D modelling technology provides to enable planners to better communicate proposals and engage the public.


Through the partnership with Murphy Surveys and Bentley we hope to re-create and enhance the consultation process and reduce the barriers inhibiting participation such as cost, time and technical knowledge by allowing citizens to access planning models from their own devices.

Click here to find out more and access our open source Docklands Virtual 3D Model.

Do you find this project interesting? If you have any ideas of projects which might benefit the Docklands, let us know today

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