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Visualization: Bringing Projects To Life

Gender Road Roundabout

Originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of Ingenium magazine.

5/29/2015 - : Today “there is an app” for this, or an easier way to do that. Click a few buttons and BAM! You have what you need. What if there was a way to take the final visions for a project and voilà, make them into an easily interpreted and aesthetically pleasing final product that comes to life before your eyes? And, in the process, arrive at solutions/decisions more quickly, represent a real final project, greatly reduce change orders, offer more confidence with design decisions, and save time on the project?

EMH&T Landscape Architect Dan Schneider, PLA, ASLA, does just that via Sketch-Up 3D modeling techniques for a variety of project types. “3D modeling gives a better grasp of reality,” he said. “Visual graphics are like magic, they make things look like you want them to look.” Schneider takes a hard look at stakeholder requirements, project footprint, ground and aerial photography, and area usage to bring the project details to life. He also works in tandem with the project engineer focusing on the project parameters, schedule, and final design requirements.

Sarah Street in Tiffin had a number of unique challenges and stakeholders, but with Schneider’s “magic” put to work, the City had little doubt their vision would become reality.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and made the difference on the Sarah Street project.” said EMH&T’s Transportation Division Director Ed Kagel, PE, who is the project manager for the City of Tiffin.

Within the Sarah Street project limits, was the need for total reconstruction and aesthetic improvements in tandem with ODOT District 2, the City of Tiffin, and Heidelberg College; however, a number of overhead utilities impeded the proposed pavement widening and future pedestrian facilities. Using Sketch-Up 3D to produce renderings in concert with plan sets, the City of Tiffin was able to visualize the finished product.

Tiffin’s Mayor Aaron Montz said, “The street renderings helped us see right of way impacts, utility conflicts, and how the final product would look and function for our community.”

By seeing the proposed final version of EMH&T’s design through 3D graphics, American Electric Power (responsible for the overhead electric line relocation) clearly saw an opportunity to move overhead utility lines, originally designed to remain in place, along the corridor. AEP partnered with the City to redesign the existing pole locations within the corridor (eliminating poles where possible), while keeping the proposed aesthetics complementary to the surroundings - all after seeing Schneider’s handiwork.

“EMH&T also uses 3D modeling for quality control purposes before, during, and after final design.” said EMH&T Project Engineer Dan Reinke, PE. “A 3D model personalizes a project and makes it come to life.”

Reinke has successfully modeled a number of projects in order to verify constructability within the project scope while minimizing impacts. His techniques visualize what can’t be seen on a flat, two-dimensional plan sheet. For the HAM-75-7.85 project (3.5 miles of major interstate rehabilitation including the elimination of one interchange, improvements to two other interchanges, and widening of mainline I-75 from 6 lanes to 10 in Cincinnati, Ohio), Reinke modeled critical elements of the project area using the design files from multiple subconsultants and was able to demonstrate ensured continuity within the corridor. Subsequently, critical elements of the design were evaluated for consistency and accuracy, the construction footprint was well defined, and the result is a high level of confidence in the final design.

“By taking advantage of this valuable visual quality control tool in our toolbox, we were able to keep the project moving forward by integrating design work from several subconsultants into a single product quickly and efficiently” added Kagel. Valuable returns are gained when EMH&T’s 3D capabilities bring forward technical specifics through detailed renderings. The public sees the results of a roadway reconstruction, bridge rehabilitation or – in the case of the City of Canal Winchester - a roundabout come to life. Visualizing a long-term strategy from black and white plan sheets with notes, quantities, and lines, is difficult for the untrained eye. For the Gender Road project (Phase 3 of the Gender Road Reconstruction and the pivotal conclusion to this grand roadway reconditioning) design of a roundabout meant safer traffic options for the community. With help from 3D graphics, the idea of this traffic design alternative clearly revealed to the public its opportunities: lessened right of way impacts (more ROW acquisition would have been needed for a traditional signalized/widened intersection) and an aesthetically pleasing and safer traffic alternative.

“EMH&T’s preparation of our public involvement materials helped us significantly as we planned our community’s first roundabout,” said Canal Winchester Administrator Bill Sims.

“The combined team of Dan Reinke and Dan Schneider have an innate ability to know what to do when it comes to 3D modeling,” Kagel said. “These refined skill sets differentiate us from other firms by providing the in-house talent to visualize improvements quickly and accurately, while adding a significant return for our clients.”

If you would like us to help you visualize your next project, please contact Ed Kagel at 614.775.4600 or by email at

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