The VI-Suite: a set of environmental analysis tools with geospatial data applications

Ryan Southall, Filip Biljecki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Background: The VI-Suite is a free and open-source addon for the 3D content creation application Blender, developed primarily as a tool for the contextual and performative analysis of buildings. Its functionality has grown from simple, static lighting analysis to fully parametric lighting, shadowing, and building energy analyses. It adopts a flexible, mesh geometry based approach to the specification of calculation points and this has made it suitable for certain types of 3D geospatial analyses and data visualisation.
Results: As this is the first academic paper to discuss the VI-Suite, a history of its development is presented along with a review of its capabilities of relevance to geospatial analysis. As the VI-Suite combines the functionality of 3D design software with performance simulation, some of the benefits of this combination are discussed including aspects that make it suitable for the processing and analysis of potentially large geospatial datasets. Example use cases with a 3D city model of the Hague are used to demonstrate some of the geospatial workflows possible and some of the result visualisation options.
Conclusions: The free and open-source nature of the VI-Suite, combined with the use of Blender mesh geometry to define calculation points, has encouraged usage scenarios not originally intended by the authors, for example large scale urban shadow and radiation analyses. The flexibility inherent in this mesh based approach enables the analysis of large geospatial datasets by giving the user refined control over the distribution of calculation points within the model. The integration of GIS analysis into a digital design package such as Blender offers advanced geometry/material editing and specification, provides tools such as ray casting and BVH tree generation to speed up the simulation of large datasets, and enhanced visualisation of GIS simulation data including animated city fly-throughs and high quality image production. The VI-Suite is part of a completely open-source tool chain and contributions from the community are welcome to further enhance its current geospatial data capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Number of pages13
JournalOpen Geospatial Data, Software and Standards
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2017


  • Shadow maps
  • Radiation maps
  • Blender
  • Radiance
  • Python
  • OA-Fund TU Delft

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