Given the current trend of urban densification it is important to understand the effects this will have on the urban climate and pedestrian comfort, especially considering a future possible rise in temperature and extreme weather conditions. Environmental parameters in the city, such as air pollutants, solar radiation, wind and other types of comfort data, while important for our experience of the city, are still difficult to present in a comprehensible manner. The accessibility to data connected to these parameters is low. As a result, these factors often get a low priority in urban planning processes.

By visualizing abstract environmental data in spatial 3D planning models, a better understanding for various environmental aspects can be reached which consequently have an impact on the planning of new areas and buildings. Such models already exist today – in most cases presented in a planar view. However, street level perspective is important for evaluating e.g. densification projects. Misinterpretation of data may be a problem, and various trends for visualization and ways of analysis is another challenging factor. In order to facilitate the communication to end users, the data must be presented in an engaging and easily comprehensible form.

The objective of this project is to develop a dialogue toolkit for visualizing environmental data in urban 3D models. The aim is to provide better understanding of how wind, solar radiation, air pollution and noise affect how the existing city is experienced, and how urban transformations affect these values. In the project different design concepts for visualization of various types of invisible environmental factors are developed and evaluated, displayed in an interactive 3D city model, primarily from a street view perspective. Particular challenges concern how to display multiple types of parameters simultaneously, and how to visually use symbolism and photorealism in the same model. We present a user-centered design approach in the development of the methodology for representations, by utilizing an iterative, user-informed process throughout the entire design and development cycle. The research, still a work in progress, joins competences from academic research groups at Chalmers University of Technology (Dept. of Applied IT, and Dept. of Architecture), together with an environmental officer and a GIS strategist at the City of Gothenburg, consultants from the community development company Tyréns and representatives from Johanneberg Science Park.

The results from the project will contribute to that the development of digital dialogue tools better can support dialogue between stakeholders in the planning processes. The knowledge gained can also be applied to other areas dealing with invisible values such as health, social equality, justice, safety and architectonic and urban spatial qualities. A visual planning tool of this kind can further be used for local climate work, for example to predict different scenarios linked to climatic factors. Thus it can enhance interaction between research and design practice. Such cooperation can provide the tools for identification and solution of problems, which are clearly noticed by users of 3D-modelling but so far not consistently scientifically addressed.