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As local governments continue to develop, maintain and fund GIS enterprise systems, there is increasing evidence that the current business model is about to change.
Within the Prince George’s County, Maryland Planning Department, there was increasing internal pressure to display geographic information in 3D. Demand primarily came from the Development Review staff because 3D capability had the potential of greatly enhancing their ability to understand the physical and political impacts especially for proposed large land developments.
Many obstacles had to be addressed while entertaining the idea of moving to a 3D world. The mere suggestion of moving to 3D raised resistance from the technology staff. Concerns included the resources that would be required for a needs assessment study, the lack of experience for 3D implementation strategies, and funding that would be needed for supporting additional storage and training. However, the most prevalent comment was the fear of change, as demonstrated by the common complaint, “Why move to a 3D world when we are still perfecting 2D?”
High level meetings were held with Development Review staff and management to determine if staff should move forward with developing a 3D implementation action plan. Discussion surfaced the various challenges staff currently face when developers present their proposed development in 3D at Planning Board meetings while the staff is limited to 2D presentations. It was decided that staff must be able to provide an alternate view of a developer’s 3D presentation.
While researching for implementation strategies and best practices, little documentation was found available concerning how other planning agencies had transitioned from 2D to 3D technology. Consequently, external assistance was sought to lead the effort and conduct a 3D implementation study. The study included conducting a national planning department survey, evaluating 3D and modeling software tools, conducting an internal user needs assessment, recommending tools and steps to build capacity, and documenting data, staffing, hardware and software requirements.
Key study recommendations included:
- Institutionalize the Tool Selection, Implementation, Application, and Capacity-Building Process.
- Give all staff the opportunity to learn the tools to level of expertise they desire.
- Form an Executive Committee for Tools.
- Designate or hire Technical Leads.
- Implement scalable and adaptable Tools that support the Planning Department’s needs.
- Train staff on the selected tools before deciding where and how to apply the tools.
- Find appropriate applications and pilot projects.
- Develop application tools though Ad Hoc Teams based on the selected pilot, applications and tools.
- Develop application tool in-house.
- Monitor and evaluate the tools for effectiveness.
Additional recommendations included prepackaging data and tools, encouraging GIS and 3D analytical use, revising job descriptions to include both 3D and GIS skill sets, communicating to planning schools to cover the use of 3D and GIS tools in curriculum, encouraging collaboration through mutual education and support, and exploring ways to incentivize learning and communication.
The 3D implementation study was completed in October 2010 (Google: Plan for Capacity Building Using 3D). The final report was well received by the Planning Department and significant progress has been made implementing the recommendations. For example, staff were assigned the responsibility for developing 3D models, and staff have trained on several recommended 3D applications (ArcGIS 3D Analyst, Google Sketch Up and Google Earth Professional) because no single 3D application currently met all demands.
In February 2011, the Development Review staff presented their first 3D model at a Planning Board meeting which was well received by both the Board and developer. Since then, additional 3D models have been developed and presented by the staff, which can be viewed on the Internet (Google: 3D Development Prince George).
One interesting challenge occurred during the implementation process. An important goal was to give staff the ability to use the 3D tools live at Planning Board meetings to enhance the development case discussion. However, a live 3D demonstration turned out to be illegal since the presentation could not be replicated in the future. The current solution is to try and anticipate subjects likely to be discussed at the meetings and create a 3D video that would highlight those issues.
Based on the thorough implementation study, the expansion in to 3D development has been built on a solid foundation. Staff is slowly gaining comfort and confidence in the benefits of 3D. New uses for 3D continue to be developed, such as a 3D model being recently created to show the line of site from a proposed drug store and an historical building.
Demand for information presented in 3D is expected to grow and the Planning Department is now better prepared to address those demands. Particular recognition is given to the hard work and dedication of the planning staff including Chris Rotondo, Keegan Clifford and Lindsey Smith.
For more information, contact Michael Shean at email@example.com.