3D Visualization of Zoning Plans

1 november 2010

Traditionally, zoning plans have been represented on a 2D map. However, visualizing a zoning plan in 2D has several limitations, such as visualizing heights of buildings. Furthermore, a zoning plan is abstract, which for citizens can be hard to interpret.
Therefore, the goal of this research is to explore how a zoning plan can be visualized in 3D and how it can be visualized it is understandable for the public.
The 3D visualization of a zoning plan is applied in a case study, presented in Google Earth, and a survey is executed to verify how the respondents perceive the zoning plan from the case study.
An important factor of zoning plans is interpretation, since it determines if the public is able to understand what is visualized by the zoning plan. This is challenging, since a zoning plan is abstract and consists of many detailed information and difficult terms. In the case study several techniques are used to visualize the zoning plan in 3D.
The survey shows that visualizing heights in 3D gives a good impression of the maximum heights and is considered as an important advantage in comparison to 2D.
The survey also made clear including existing buildings is useful, which can help that the public can recognize the area easier.

Another important factor is interactivity. Interactivity can range from letting people navigate through a zoning plan area and in the case study users can click on a certain area or object in the plan and subsequently a menu pops up showing more detailed information of a certain object.
The survey made clear that using a popup menu is useful, but this technique did not optimally work. Navigating in Google Earth was also being positively judged.

Information intensity is also an important factor Information intensity concerns the level of detail of a 3D representation of an object. Zoning plans are generally not meant to be visualized in a high level of detail, but should be represented abstract.
The survey could not implicitly point out that the zoning plan shows too much or too less detail, but it could point out that the majority of the respondents answered that the zoning plan does not show too much information.

The interface used for the case study, Google Earth, has a substantial influence on the interpretation of the zoning plan. The legend in Google Earth is unclear and an explanation of the zoning plan is lacking, which is required to make the zoning plan more understandable.
This research has shown that 3D can stimulate the interpretation of zoning plans, because users can get a better impression of the plan and is clearer than a current 2D zoning plan. However, the interpretation of a zoning plan, even in 3D, still is complex.