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Digitization, 3D modelling and BIM are essential of city planning

city planning

Successful innovations are typically launched ‘just in time’. That is no easy task, though. Only when technology is ready and able, only when there is a certain demand, only when the all-important ‘killer app’ has been fully implemented and moreover, only when the momentum for change is there, only then one will succeed. So, where to start then?

Oftentimes, enthusiastic pioneers simply proclaim: ‘Just kickstart your project’. There’s a sound reasoning behind this. You will not get there by dreaming, philosophizing and thinking. And, now the 3D revolution is merging into digital twins of complete cities, and sometimes even full countries, one might wonder: Is it true what they all say? Should I just start this project, go from there and hope for the best? “The interesting thing is that it’s totally possible to do both”, says Jan Blaauboer of J-Con Advies. “It’s not like you need to stop dreaming, philosophizing and thinking when you start a new project. Even better still: once you have started thinking about digitization, 3D city models and BIM, you have in fact already started your project. There is nothing wrong about thought processes and thinking out loud to find out what it is what you are thinking. You are definitely moving forward.”

The next step


In his days as government account manager and business developer working for Bentley Systems in Europe, Blaauboer has seen hundreds of European municipalities struggling with their ‘next step’. “Oftentimes, you have already taken that first step without even realizing it. For many municipalities, it can be a real eye-opener when policymakers ‘discover’ that their trusty MicroStation set-up has been 3D ready for a good fifteen years. Stereo photogrammetry: it’s all in place.” Problems generally arise, when general discussions are elevated into all-too detailed technical checklists for future ambitions. “The use of ‘GeoJSON’ or ‘BIM Level 3’ are not of your direct concern,” says Blaauboer. “The most interesting moments arise when you realize where the gaps are in your organization. Surprisingly enough, they are oftentimes of an organizational nature. How many 3D evangelists invite the tax division over to sit around the table? They might be your biggest sponsors!”    

Technical professionals leading the way


At the same time, Blaauboer is quick to assess the value of having technical professionals leading the way for a future in 3D. “City marketeers will turn out to be the greatest ambassadors for a digital twin of your city, but you don’t want them to decide on the technical platform that’s lying underneath. They will need sound advice on the practical need for accuracy, integration possibilities with architectural models and connectivity with underground infrastructure.” When discussions over the technical nature of a digital twin fall flat, this will not be the end of the world, according to Blaauboer: “Even when it is  decided that the department of city marketing is going to part ways to build their own interactive full-colour 3D model based on a nifty game engine with absolutely no accuracy, you will have sharpened your mind when it comes to smart city modelling. You will have grown, and your solution will turn out to be useful and sustainable for the business-critical needs of a smart city.”

International clients


Typically, J-Con Advies e-newsletters are stated in Dutch, workshops are in-house trainings in the safe environment of municipality clients. “I am happy to share my experiences with international users of CAD, geospatial and BIM technologies, though. You can easily find me at numerous big events all over Europe. However, I would urge smart city stakeholders to find someone local. Someone like me, yeah, probably… but it needs to be someone familiar with the local environment, preferably with some basic knowledge of the realities of the place. Someone with an independent mind, brave enough to ask the question: why do you think you need a 3D city model in the first place? It’s all about opening your minds.”

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