Following their involvement in our Republic of Ireland Development Conference we caught up with VU.CITY’s Charlotte Dove McCarthy on their work across the country and how it’s transforming the planning process…

Q. How has VU.CITY made a transformative impact on Ireland and its urban development? And how do you hope to expand on this?

VU.CITY only recently launched in Dublin, but since then we have seen a great response from organisations across the built environment using us to make decisions faster. This past year has been a challenge for all, but we are helping to speed up planning discussions in Dublin with the use of our digital twin models which are now all accessible via the Cloud. This allows for entire development teams to contribute to a development or regeneration project regardless of their location. Our accurate models are allowing our users to assess feasibility of a scheme in a matter of minutes. With the city centre covered in its entirety, users can look at near and far ranging views. This is when having the city context models really helps. Especially when reviewing taller buildings. We hope to soon support local authorities in the Dublin region with digital planning tools. VU.CITY helps councils across the UK with the planning application process, public consultations, planning committee meetings and even assists with appeals. It is a useful evidence based tool to allow for transparency of schemes, removing ‘opinions’ from planning. We have globally renowned commercial real estate owners and operators, architecture practices, local urban designers, and visualisation studios using us currently with lots of interest from developers and planning consultants too. We plan to be the platform which the entire planning ecosystem can access in order to work together to create better, smarter places. We can help any company looking to review their data in 3D. From insurers, to solar energy providers etc. We are not limited to development teams. 

We’ve worked with Savills, Hines, Foster and Partners, MCA Architects, Reddy Architecture and Urbanism, Faulkner Browns Architects and many more.

Q. Collaboration is key to any urban planning approach, how can the use of VU.CITY’s models help to support this?

We are big believers in collaboration. By working with both private and public sectors, we can assist everyone involved in planning. We like to work closely to ensure that each company is getting the most from the platform – as every project is different. We have a dedicated Customer Success team who guides our users and they are all specialists in specific areas – ensuring they have the expertise to support different use-cases. The platform is becoming more and more collaborative. The cloud access allows all users to access it with an internet connection – this makes the platform far more accessible. We also have the ability to share projects and for development teams to work together on the platform. We are seeing more and more groups of users on a single project since lockdown started. This platforms’ remote capabilities speed up decision making allowing for users to take on more projects. We are also very interested in community engagement and planning ‘for the people’. We are supporting local authorities with the tools to inform citizens of new developments in a visual way, and we hope to do this in Dublin very soon also. We have a number of valued partners and we enjoy the benefits of collaborating. We are continually adding new features as they are requested, so we like to work with our existing clients to make the platform do what they need it to do. The same goes for modelling up new areas. We like to take a collaborative and informed approach on this. We work closely with our co-creators GIA – Gordon Ingram Associates, who are specialists in Rights of Light – with a brand new office in Dublin. A very hot topic at the moment. 

Q. Your Dublin model covers 121 square kilometres, but is accurate down to 15cm, how do you ensure the continual accuracy of your Models?

We pride ourselves on the accuracy of the model and are proud to offer the detail we can offer at scale. We fly over our cities every 3-4 years and we recapture the city and re-model. In that time, we keep our models updated weekly – adding in all new major consents. Our timeline tool allows you to review all schemes which have been granted planning permission, and those which are currently under construction.

We have a dedicated team who scans planning portals and news articles to ensure we are keeping this data up to date. We add approximately 30 new models to our cities each week. The latest consent in Dublin, is UCD’s new ‘Centre for Creativity’ building. The timeline tool gives you a look at the future skyline – allowing the user to design for what is to come. 

Q. How do VU.CITY’s game-changing technologies create a better and more efficient planning process?

These digital tools are a game-changer for those in design and planning. They allow all parties involved in a development to see how it will impact others and how others will impact the scheme. It allows you to see the future before a single brick is laid down. You can get realistic window views from models which are only at concept stage and you can use tools to look at the viability of a design in minutes. It is very easy to learn and grapes and it is very fun to use as it sits on gaming technology. 3D interactive visualisation speeds up planning processes ten fold. The more people use this technology the faster it will become to develop.