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Parametric Sketchup Urban Design with Modelur Plugin


Speaking earlier this year at our Kettle’s Yard event in Cambridge, Stephanie Veanca HoUniversity of Cambridge Department of Architecture delivered a fascinating presentation centred around the use of parametric urban design software tool, Modelur, developed to help you quickly create conceptual urban massing. Here, Stephanie has provided further insight into the department’s research and work with Sketchup and Modelur on the North East Cambridge Development.

Parametric Sketchup Urban Design with Modelur Plugin The research is undertaken by the Cities and Transport Group, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, supervised by Dr Ying Jin. The Sketchup + Modelur model is made by Stephanie Veanca Ho and the UNITY environment and interface by Amir Soltani. In this project we define ‘built form’ as the assemblage of individual buildings and structures in the built environment and we make use of a wide range of new insights and data to model the evolution of the built form in Britain.  The project aims to produce graphic representation and visualisation using Sketchup 3D modelling and gaming software UNITY so that the complex built form options can be readily understood and explored by non-specialists.  This empowers citizens in their thinking of the future of the UK as well as the local communities, thus closing the feedback loop in analysis, modelling and decision-making for complex investment and development initiatives. 

This blog article focuses on the Sketchup and UNITY visualization example we have developed for North East Cambridge, an area by the Cambridge North Station. Our researchers explore ways to experiment the interrelationships between predictive Data (numbers), Site Strategy (urban scale) and Building Design (unit scale) that govern the outlook of neighbourhood developments. Sketchup plugin Modelur by AgiliCity is used to assist parametric modelling of city blocks and buildings for handling various data variables. For the use of this model’s predictive analyses, see the CPIER report  ( and the first round of UK2070 Commission Reports (

Cambridge North East Development
The proposed development is located at the existing sewage plant north of the Cambridge North Station, bounded by the railway, Cowley Road and A14. It is also adjacent to the Cambridge Science Park and the St John’s Innovation Park. 
We need to figure out a way to get the total GFA per storey data and total unit number efficiently from the vast volumes of buildings created in Sketchup. We came across the plugin Modelur and Jernej Vidmar, Modelur’s creator, who has been very helpful assisting our research and experimental modelling since April.  

Building Type

4 types of building forms and 2 major land uses (housing and employment) are first identified. The respective and total GFA for each type of housing units and employment will have to match the different scenarios acquired earlier from data models. 

Sketchup &  Modelur

Parametric Sketchup Urban Design with Modelur Plugin

Modelur offers us a real-time data break-down report on screen while we change the size, height, combination of mixed land-uses and other town planning variables.  We can hence easily make changes to the urban design strategy and building types while maintaining data accuracy. Modelur also gives warnings to buildings that do not fall into the city block parameters or zoning prerequisites, such as maximum building height, FAR, minimum distances between buildings, etc.

From Sketchup to UNITY

In this project we define ‘built form’ as the assemblage of individual buildings and structures in the built environment and we make use of a wide range of new insights and data to model the evolution of the built form in Britain. The Sketchup model here focuses on the Cambridge North East site (the existing sewage plant near the Cambridge North Railway Station).

Further Research

Sketchup, Modelur and UNITY

Modelur is also capable of generating data reports and in the most recent version, of importing much more complex and layered GIS datasets. Modelur has proven very useful accompanying the 3D capacity of Sketchup for handling large-scale urban forms. The plugin has enhanced the output accuracy of the digitally-built environment which can then be taken on for further research.

SketchUp is available on our web store as a perpetual and annual subscription.

Modelur is available with personal and team annual subscription options.