Urban Planning

As the technical director of HCL I have been in charge of the development of a range of tools for urban masterplanning. These include standalone 3D CAD tools, integration with databases for data-driven analysis and online urban planning and design apps.

CityCAD 3D CAD Tool for Urban Planning

A sophisticated 3D conceptual masterplanning tool for urban designers, planners and developers. It was launched in 2008 and was the first major CAD application dedicated to urban design.

CityCAD is used for 3D masterplanning of sites from 1 hectare up to about 200 hectares in size. The user sketches a layout of streets and adjusts the sizes of buildings or the densities of blocks. CityCAD then estimates usable areas, dwelling numbers, performs financial appraisal, movement and liveability analysis. This is all done in real time with changes in the model instantly reflected in the computed parameters.

A range of shading options, 3D views, 2D plan outputs, reports and spreadsheets with raw and computed data is available for generation. This allows the users – architects, urban planners, developers and local government – to generate multiple high-quality options for a proposed development. It can be done in a fraction of the time it would take to use conventional combination of CAD and data analysis tools. The options can be then easily modified by actions such as simple dragging of roads to different positions or modification of key variables such as construction costs.

CASS Facilities Planning Tool

CASS was designed in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and is currently in use by their facilities planning department. It combines an intuitive 3D visualization with sophisticated data management and analysis features, allowing different arrangements of space uses within buildings and changes over time to be modelled and analysed in a single application.

The tool integrates a user access system with a centralized database of land uses, case scenarios and settings with a modified version of the CityCAD CAD package. Once logged in, the user can review, create or modify a scenario for a time-dependent plan for campus facilities. Buildings can be created, modified and demolished at various points in time – with a time slider allowing the user to modify the overall model at different stages. The user can keep track of data and view charts – for example how the quantity of a given space use varies over time.

As well as a rich array of customisable graphs, 3D overlays and shading, the tool generates full HD animations highlighting facility development over time and PDF reports. Side by side comparison of alternative facility development options and the sensitivity analysis to key financial parameters provide the more in-depth functionality.

Abu Dhabi USDM Online Street Design Tool

HCL worked with the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) and Otak International to deliver an online street design tool, now used by engineers and planners to create street designs and analyse them against the background of Abu Dhabi's new street design policies.

The tool provides an intuitive online interface for the planners to design their own street layout or pick from a catalogue of established layouts which can then be modified. The user can then add or edit various elements such as travel lanes, medians, parking, pedestrian areas, transit lanes, stations, trees and street furniture. A collection of 2D plan and cross-section views with optional animation is updated in real time with user input.

The tool performs computations to check compliance of the user-defined road layout with USDM guidelines, highlighting any issues. Street design information and computed parameters can be exported to XML, DXF (CAD drawing), PDF (one-page summary) and CSV (Excel data). The entire UI has full bi-lingual functionality with easy switching between English and Arabic.