Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Add 3d Buildings to a Campus Map


At the most basic level a university campus map should allow visitors to quickly find and identify their destination within a university. One of the most effective ways to help visitors identify individual buildings on a campus map is to provide extruded building footprints.

One way to achieve this is to use a custom overlay on top of an interactive map. The University of Oklahoma online campus map is a great example of using a custom overlay with the Google Maps API.

The university has used a custom map of the campus overlaid on top of the normal Google Maps tiles. The custom map image is nicely integrated with the underlying map tiles so that the custom map integrates seamlessly with the Google road map.

The university's custom map includes 3d building footprints, which provides a great navigational aide for visitors to the university. For example, if you were visiting the university to attend a football game it wouldn't take you long to identify the Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on the map.


While a custom map overlay can be very effective it is only possible if you have a great custom map of the campus to begin with. If you don't have a custom map you can instead use polygons to create extruded building footprints.

The DTS Dallas Theological Seminary campus map uses polygons in this way to create the effect of 3d buildings on its campus map. The effect is partly possible because of Google Map's 45 degree aerial view. This bird's eye view imagery is perfect for creating polygons for the roofs and the visible walls of a building, which combined create the visual effect of a 3d building.


Creating the individual polygons for each university building can be very time consuming. Luckily OSM Buildings has already done most of the work for us. OSM Buildings is a JavaScript library for visualizing OpenStreetMaps building geometry on interactive maps.

The University of Leicester has made a very nice campus map using OSM Building data to highlight the individual university buildings on the map. A really nice effect in OSM Buildings is that the building shadows move depending on your point of view. Pan around the University of Leicester's interactive campus map and notice how the building shadows change to match your perspective of the map.
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