Building Footprint Data & 3D Data Visualization – Part 1

A powerful combination for creating insightful and actionable data visualizations

When we talk to location intelligence experts about building footprint data we describe the heightened ability to locate, analyze and visualize spatial information using our data.  Building footprint data allows you to create data visualizations that are challenging (and frequently impossible) to make with address point or parcel data.

One of our favorite ways to visualize building footprint data is with any 3D functionality.  We wrote this two part article to describe many of the ways that we see our customers making use of building footprint data with 3D, using ArcGIS with 3D Analyst.  With these examples we want to get you thinking about what is possible with building footprint data and 3D

Demographics by floor

Your geospatial solutions may require a level of demographic detail beyond Census boundary studies.  For numerous spatial solutions we apply micro-demographics to the individual building level; for each building what is the median household income, population, household count, race or other variables for people within the building?  Two dimensional views of this highly detailed data can provide the insight that you need to connect these micro-demographics to your solution.

Where can 3D visualization fit in?  If you have detail of the demographics within the building you can use 3D visualization to evaluate that detail.  For the building outlined in the image above we have micro-demographic data at the individual floor level and we can use that for visualization.

3D allows us to see the average income within this specific building. Any data that you have by floor – demographics, rental property prices, business firmographics, construction data and more – can be used to create this visualization. If your work requires high accuracy analysis within buildings, our data and your 3D analysis are vital to ensuring accuracy within your workflow

Viewshed analysis

Who can see something at a given location?  What can I see from a given location? You may be placing signage for maximum impact, minimizing a viewshed as you site a piece of infrastructure, understanding the value of a location’s viewshed for a residential property, or performing urban planning activities.    These applications are just the starting point for calculating a field of view – a viewshed – a valuable use for building footprint data with height information.

Building footprint data with height information and your 3D analysis can show you what is visible from multiple points of view. With 3D, you can easily see what buildings are able to access your 5G network installation to determine the best placement as well as potential blind spots. Alternatively, a viewshed analysis allows you to know what is visible from a certain floor of a building.  Hunting for a specific location and optimizing based on visibility? High quality viewshed analysis helps you make the right decision.

Viewshed is critical for public safety applications such as determining where to place security at high risk events. Our analysis allows you to ensure that all areas of your event will be visible and secure throughout the entirety of your event.

Viewshed analysis isn’t done with using a single view.  Evaluate viewshed from multiple vantage points – above, from the side, from the point of origin or at furthest reaches of the viewshed.

Flood Analysis

Flooding rates have increased since 1950 making accurate data even more critical to governments, insurance companies, and developers alike. Port Arthur, TX was devastated by flooding after Hurricane Harvey. Combining our building foorpint data with 3D visualization, these images show what a 1 meter storm surge would bring to this area.

Here we can see the Harvey storm surge in Port Arthur from above.  This can provide support for basic queries such as which buildings were impacted.

There are very few who see flooding from a perfect aerial view like our first image does. What does the flooding look and feel like on the ground?  To truly get the most accurate representation, you have to get closer to the ground, like our 3rd image. We first look at each building with a basic 3D building:

And then we look at the dramatic impact of the storm surge with each building displayed in 3D, with the accurate storm surge data.


3D visualization of flood and storm surge provides a point of view that enables a viewer to understand the magnitude of damage and the dramatic and powerful forces of nature that impact a community.

Building Development and Planning

There are fewer big events in the life cycle of a city than when new construction is happening.  New buildings are a sign of growth and investment. Any new construction can generate opportunity – follow-on growth in the neighborhood for businesses and residences – and can have a negative impact as well – noise, restricted views, traffic and more.

Visualizing existing and new or planned construction in 3D is one of the first steps for you to understand the potential impacts – both negative and positive.   If you are already looking at your neighborhood or city in 3D, you can drop in additional buildings showing the plans. Layer additional information – business locations, demographics, street and traffic data and more.

All constituencies benefit when maps provide transparency.  Owners of new construction can see the opportunities. Local residents – business and households – can begin to understand the impact.  Community planners have information that lets them put necessary guardrails around projects.


In part 2 we’ll show you more examples of how building footprint data and 3D can be used together.  Have an idea that we haven’t covered? Send us a note to and we can talk about the art of what is possible.

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