Participatory 3D Design

Participatory 3D Design derives from Participatory 3D Modelling (P3DM), which is a mapping method usually used in developing areas integrating local spatial knowledge with three-dimensional data. Participatory 3D Design not only collects local information from participants, but also empowers participants to create their design/plan in a virtual 3D environment. With the three-dimensional information provided by locals, planners can create a 3D model of the study area. On the other hand, planners can illustrate potential plans that are easier to be understood to the locals with the help of a more realistic modelling.

Basic Information on the Method
Mode of communication
Group size
31 and more
Geographical scale
Public space, Neighbourhood
Skills required
Average, Advanced
Resources needed
Level of Involvement
Level of involvement
Involve, Collaborate
Type of knowledge enabled
Convergence (Broad public), Convergence - Small groups
Additional Criteria
Planning phase
Initiatiion, Planning & Design, Evaluation & Research
Methodological approach
Expressive, Organisational

How to use the method

Base map and model building

A base map that provides necessary background information of the target area, as well as the 3D model of the known geographic landscape, are the first requirement to start participatory 3D design. The 3D model can be generated by software like ContextCapture[1]. Elements such as cartographic clarity, date, detail level, etc., should be decided in this step.

Participants training

To empower the participants to freely explore the base 3D model, a training session is recommended. Participants should know how to read 3D maps and how to input their information.

Data/proposal collection and textual information transposing

According the project topics, participants may provide local information or create their preferred design/plan. No matter in which case, participants may provide textual information that they cannot transfer into visualisation by themselves, so organisers should transpose that data/information to the 3D model.

Documenting and publishing the models

3D models generated in the previous steps can also benefit future design and other aspects of planning such as energy, transportation, public services, etc. Publising the models as open data could encourage the public and other third-party organisations to contribute to the area in a sustainable and long-term way.

What are the outcomes

  • 3D mapping and modelling with local information.
  • A deeper understanding of the geography of the target area.

Skills required

Skills: average, advanced

  • Provide three-dimentional information
  • Participate in 3D design
  • Skills of operating relevant software

Resources needed

Resources: high

  • Resources to creat 3D models
  • Resources to document and maintain the 3D models and data

Strengths and weaknesses

  • Enhance community’s knowledge about available resources and thus lead to better management
  • 3D model as a visual language can overcome language barrier and create common ground for discussion
  • Once the 3D models are published as open data, they have the potential to benefit from the public’s and third parties’ continuous contribution over a long period.
  • The outcomes can be utilized for other purposes such as energy consumption, transportation mamagement, etc.[2]
  • Model maintenance and integration with other data environment (such as BIM, GIS) require more resource input and further technical development.
  • The required computer skills and devices with adequate performance may exclude certain group of people.

Use cases


In 2018, city of Hyvinkää, Finland, invited its citizens to provide photographs of the facades of buildings in the city. After that, citizens also process the photographs and attach them as facades of vectored 3D building in a browser-based 3d city model.

Try one of these tools & resources

  1. [1]
  2. [2] City of Helsinki, Kalasatama Digital Twins Pilot Project’s Final Report.
  3. Joshi, G., Dangol, G. S., Bajracharya, B., Murthy, M. S. R., & Wesselman, S. (2016). A manual on participatory three-dimensional modelling (P3DM). Kathmandu: ICIMOD, ICIMOD Training Manual ISBN, 978(92), 9115.