5+ of the Best Urban Planning Software in 2022.

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Last updated:
January 9, 2023

Urban planning is an integral aspect of catering to the needs of a society. Cities are sprawling, buildings are built higher, and more resources are being utilized, which makes the task of planning more crucial than ever before. There are software applications available that spearhead processes in urban planning. Built with powerful and cutting edge technology, these tools make management easier and may enable planners to carry out their work in a more efficient manner.

3D City Planner
3D city planning is a software solution designed to help urban planners and cities develop a more accurate and realistic view of existing cities, towns, and areas. 3D city planning software goes beyond traditional 2D city planning software. By utilizing three-dimensional modeling, planners are able to create a realistic view of the world around them. This is especially beneficial for urban planners because it allows them to develop a better understanding of the needs of their communities, including how much work is required to bring new buildings up to code or make repairs on existing structures.
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What is the Best Urban Planning Software?

When it comes to urban planning software, there is a never-ending list of options. This fact can easily overwhelm you and leave you wondering where to start. I've taken the time to review a variety of these applications and have listed 5 that stand out the most.

1. 3D City Planner.

Image of 3D City Planner Urban Planning Software

3D city planning is a software solution designed to help urban planners and cities develop a more accurate and realistic view of existing cities, towns, and areas. 3D city planning software goes beyond traditional 2D city planning software. By utilizing three-dimensional modeling, planners are able to create a realistic view of the world around them. This is especially beneficial for urban planners because it allows them to develop a better understanding of the needs of their communities, including how much work is required to bring new buildings up to code or make repairs on existing structures.

Key Features of 3D City Planner:

  • Automatically generates 2D and 3D maps of urban environments.
  • Enables you to add new objects by dragging them from the object palette into the map or model. (You can also remove objects by dragging them back into the palette.)
  • With 3D City Planner, you can also perform analyses on the impact of different types of infrastructure changes. For example, if you're building a new subway line and wanted to understand how that will affect the ability of people in certain neighborhoods to access the rest of their city, 3D City Planner could help you do that.
  • With 3D City Planner, you can also perform analyses on the impact of different types of infrastructure changes. For example, if you're building a new subway line and wanted to understand how that will affect the ability of people in certain neighborhoods to access the rest of their city, 3D City Planner could help you do that.
  • 3D City Planner allows you to generate reports that can be used in processes around urban planning: zoning requests and reports, city council reports, and more.

Pricing For 3D City Planner:

The pricing for 3D City Planner starts around $53.00 /month, but can also vary depending on what you need from a solution.

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2. LotWorks.

Image of LotWorks Urban Planning Software

LotWorks is a cloud-based solution that allows planners to easily organize, manage and share large amounts of spatial data. The software integrates with the client's existing GIS system, allowing the planner to develop maps and perform analysis directly in the client's GIS environment. The data and analysis can then be exported to LotWorks' web service, where they can be shared with other users in real time, while being tracked by LotWorks' automated workflow system.

Key Features of LotWorks:

  • Automatically generate lots, including all relevant data points, such as house types and lot sizes.
  • Manage documents and approvals within the application.
  • Create shareable links to allow clients, contractors, and other stakeholders to view and comment on plans before they're finalized.
  • Create shareable links to allow clients, contractors, and other stakeholders to view and comment on plans before they're finalized.
  • Its facility management tool can calculate square footage per floor, so that users can estimate how much space each floor will take up.

Pricing For LotWorks:

The pricing for LotWorks varies greatly depending on your needs.

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3. Sketchup.

Image of Sketchup Urban Planning Software

So what exactly is SketchUp, and how does it work? In a nutshell, SketchUp is an intuitive 3D modeling program that lends itself to fast visualizations. Think of it as a miniature version of AutoCAD for the non-tech savvy, or more aptly, "the pencil" for architects and urban planners. Certain intricate details need to be left out for the sake of quickness when using SketchUp, but many key architectural components can still be realized.

Key Features of Sketchup:

  • Sketchup is best known among urban planners as a way to visualize city plans without resorting to expensive computer modeling or hiring out artists just so they can make models of what their vision looks like.
  • For collaborative projects, SketchUp provides a variety of useful tools. You can easily share models and solicit feedback from colleagues, clients and friends via email, Dropbox or Google Drive.
  • Sketchup is a cost-efficient option for urban planning because it's free to use for at least 30 days, and it's priced much lower than other software on the market today.
  • Sketchup is a cost-efficient option for urban planning because it's free to use for at least 30 days, and it's priced much lower than other software on the market today.
  • Sketchup is used by many professionals in the AEC industry because of its ability to simulate a real world environment and test out designs from any perspective. As a planner, you can show what ideas look like to relevant stakeholders or visualize a project in 3D before committing resources to it.

Pricing For Sketchup:

The pricing for Sketchup starts around $119/ year, but can also vary depending on what you need from a solution.

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4. ArcGIS CityEngine.

Image of ArcGIS CityEngine Urban Planning Software

ArcGIS CityEngine software is an advanced modeling solution for the efficient design and planning of urban environments. It is used by urban planners, architects, game developers and 3D artists to create smart 3D city models that are based on real-world GIS data. With CityEngine, you can import, prepare, and analyze multiple sources of data in one step and visualize the resulting 3D city model in real time.

Key Features of ArcGIS CityEngine:

  • Access to large amounts of data: ArcGIS CityEngine has access to a variety of different data sets that help urban planners to visualize the cities they are working with.
  • Variety of tools for creating 3D models; ArcGIS CityEngine provides users with a wide range of tools they can use in order to create 3D models of cities and other urban spaces.
  • ArcGIS CityEngine Software provides access to real-time data from various sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S Geological Survey (USGS).
  • ArcGIS CityEngine Software provides access to real-time data from various sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S Geological Survey (USGS).
  • Convert that 2D data into 3D models so you can manipulate those models to model new infrastructure based on future plans.

Pricing For ArcGIS CityEngine:

The pricing for ArcGIS CityEngine starts around $2,000/ year, but can also vary depending on what you need from a solution.

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5. Lumion.

Image of Lumion Urban Planning Software

Lumion software is a program that allows architects and urban planners to create immersive 3D architectural visualizations. Whether you're working on a large project with a team of people or a small project by yourself, Lumion lets you build high-quality 3D renders in minutes rather than hours or days. The idea behind the software is simple: add content to your scene, adjust the light and atmosphere, apply effects and hit render. Lumion does all the hard work in the background so you can focus on the more creative aspects of your projects.

Key Features of Lumion:

  • Easy-to-use interface: You don’t have to be an expert at creating complex 3D models to use Lumion. It has an easy-to-use interface with intuitive controls and a very short learning curve. It also offers a variety of training resources for those who need them.
  • Realistic results: Lumion’s built-in library of thousands of materials and objects allows you to create realistic renderings that look as if they were created by professional architects and designers. You can also import your own 3D models into the program to achieve the exact look you want.
  • Scenes: You can also create scenes and add effects like rain, snow, or fog easily with Lumion Software. These are especially useful for creating atmospheres for different building types or locations.
  • Scenes: You can also create scenes and add effects like rain, snow, or fog easily with Lumion Software. These are especially useful for creating atmospheres for different building types or locations.
  • Another key feature of Lumion software is that it allows urban planners to incorporate videos into their presentations. They can incorporate video from an aerial perspective, showing what their proposed construction would look like from above.

Pricing For Lumion:

The pricing for Lumion starts around 1630, but can also vary depending on what you need from a solution.

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Table of Contents:

What software do urban planners use?

Urban planning is a broad field, and there are hundreds of different types of planners. Some plan neighborhoods, some plan cities, and some plan entire regions. Each job has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the three most common tools planners use are GIS or geographic information systems (GIS), CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) and CAD (computer-aided drafting).

GIS is used for mapping, collecting data and rendering it into maps. The most basic form of GIS is a handheld computer with an integrated GPS unit that can tell you where you are on the Earth. More advanced programs allow for more precise positioning and more detailed mapping.

CAD/CAM tools help designers create product designs in 3D by drawing them on screens. The drawings look like 2D sketches on paper, but they can be used to produce items like cars, planes and buildings in real life. CAD includes a lot of shared components with GIS and CAM; you'll often hear these terms used interchangeably to describe all three.

What is programming in urban planning?

The American Planning Association defines programming as the process of outlining a community's goals and objectives, identifying needs, and then developing strategies for meeting those needs. Programming as a planning tool is particularly useful for capital improvement projects and major community redevelopment efforts.

A programming study typically begins by outlining goals and objectives. These may be very broad in nature, such as improving a community's quality of life or making it more competitive with neighboring communities. Goals are often accompanied by specific performance measures that can be used to assess whether a goal has been achieved. For example, in order to improve the quality of life in a particular neighborhood, one might measure the amount of open space per resident.

Once goals have been established, it is necessary to determine how much money will be available to achieve them. Depending on the type of organization doing the planning (a city government, non-profit agency or private company), there may be several possible sources of funding for different types of activities. For example, a local government may have access to federal grants for infrastructure construction projects but not for cultural programs like art festivals. Non-profit organizations often rely on charitable donations from individuals and corporations.

How do you design urban planning?

Ask questions of the public:

First, you ask questions of the public, listen to their concerns and take notes of their needs in the area. It's critical that you spend time with every person who will be affected by your planning (residents, visitors, contractors, etc.). Ask them how they use the space you're working in and whether or not there are particular problems needing attention. You can learn a lot from listening to others' experiences: what have they tried in the past that hasn't worked? What have they tried that has worked? If you're able to find out ahead of time if people are planning on moving away or if new families/businesses are thinking of moving into town, this information can help predict demand for housing and other facilities.

Interview engineers and maintainers:

The best way to ensure that you include all of the appropriate information in your plan is to interview the engineer and maintainers. These are the individuals who know the ins and outs of current operations, as well as any concerns or issues that need to be addressed. When talking with these people, it's important to ask about their concerns for the future—what do they like about current practices; what would they change if they could?

Assess the physical conditions

In order to design a master plan, you will need to establish the physical conditions of the project area. Defining the physical conditions includes assessing current conditions, as well as anticipated future conditions. You must assess environmental and human conditions and also look at risk factors and economic aspects.

Research the past, current, and future needs

You want to know how to design urban planning? Take a deep breath, because this is going to be a lot of information. To start with, take the time to research:

  • the site's past (demographics, use)
  • the site's current conditions (demographics, use)
  • the site's users (what they like and dislike)
  • what they need now and in the future
  • the site itself and its functions, maintenance needs, cultural significance, etc.

Analyze how the site works

To start, you must understand how the site is functioning. What are people doing there? Is it working as intended? Are any negative consequences being caused? Taking the time to analyze how your site works will help you diagnose any problems and opportunities for improvement. This can be done through observations of patterns and activities, interviews with stakeholders and users, questionnaires, or other methods. Once gathered, use the information to identify key stakeholders who will be affected by an urban planning project at this site. You might ask yourself questions like these:

  • How does the site work? (e.g., are people using it in ways that they weren't intended to?)
  • How doesn't the site work? (e.g., are there any negative consequences occurring on or around the site?)
  • What is the purpose/function of this space? (e.g., is it serving its purpose properly?)
  • Who's using this space right now? (e.g., do we want to continue incentivizing their presence?)

Identify opportunities and constraints

The next step in the process is to identify both the opportunities and constraints that will impact your project.

These include:

  • Environmental conditions (natural, existing built conditions)
  • Social needs and demands
  • Economic factors

Your constraints can include topography (the shape of the land), climate, infrastructure, zoning requirements and existing buildings. Your opportunities can be social needs, environmental needs and economic factors.

What is meant by urban design?

Urban design is the process of giving form, shape, and character to groups of buildings, to whole neighborhoods, and the city. It is a framework that orders the elements into a network of streets, squares, and blocks. Urban design draws together the many threads of place-making, environmental stewardship, social equity and economic viability into the creation of places with distinct beauty and identity.

Urban design draws together the many strands which make up urban life – housing, transport, public spaces and amenities – into an overall framework for development. It needs to balance different needs such as accommodating growth while preserving the environment and existing communities; making cities attractive and competitive without destroying community integrity; providing transport systems which are efficient but not destructive to urban character.