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What Architects Need to Know About 3D Rendering and Site Planning

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What Architects Need to Know About 3D Rendering and Site Planning

If you have a vision for a new building, structure, or site that you want to plan, a simple 2D site plan simply won’t do.


3D rendering is an excellent way to bring architectural ideas to life without the flatness of a 2D drawing. In fact, many architects and contractors use 3D rendering as the industry standard during the site planning process.


But what exactly is 3D rendering, and how is it done? Let’s take a look!

Related: How Site Plan Rendering Can Help You Convey a Breathtaking Property Design

What is 3D Rendering?

3D rendering is the process of generating a creative image using computer software. Typically, a 3D rendered image is created by following these steps:


  • A 3D designer will model the scene or work with an architect to draft a 2D design.
  • Materials are set up in the actual program, such as glass, concrete, steel, etc. to match the ideal textures.
  • Lighting sources are established for a more realistic and authentic image.
  • The 3D rendered image is computed.

3D rendering is used for many things, not just architecture and site planning. 3D rendering is used for entertainment animations, medical imaging, and a number of other industries.

3D Rendering and Site Planning

In the context of building site planning, 3D rendering is very important. The overall goal for using 3D rendering is to create an extremely photorealistic image of the structure that is going to be built.


For site planning, 3D rendering can be used to project an image of the building as a whole, its interiors, 3D floor plans for apartments or homes, and even virtual reality tours. 3D images are often used for clients who wish to purchase a still-conceptual building or for architects to use as a reference in the planning and building process.


Because 3D rendering of a site involves strict adherence to a specific vision and plan, it can involve quite a long process to bring to fruition. Typically, the steps in the rendering process for site planning will follow this structure:


  1. The 3D designer will need to understand the client’s vision clearly. In order to build an excellent model, the designer will need as much information from the client as possible. This will involve taking drafting 2D drawings, established building plans, blueprints, and other items to really visualize the project correctly. The vision is set during the initial meeting, and most designers will establish the correct camera angles based on the information provided.

  1. Modeling software is then used to create a digital model. During this step, the designer or designing team will work diligently to make sure the base model is as close to the physical structure or concept as possible.

  1. The designer will then add textures and 3D images to the model to make the image look as photorealistic as possible. Some clients may not necessarily want an extremely lifelike image, especially if they are using the 3D rendering for architectural planning. Clients who wish to use the 3D image in brochures for the building itself, however, will often opt for extremely realistic imagery to give potential buyers the most accurate idea of what the building will look like. This step will take the longest amount of time.

  1. Once the image and its textures are added to the model, lighting is established. Lighting is incredibly important in 3D rendering because it brings the image to life and makes it look as real as possible. Real-world lighting will be replicated in the image and will include natural lighting (sunlight, moonlight, etc.) and artificial lighting (lighting fixtures, ambient room lighting, street lights, etc.). This process is not dissimilar to a photographer setting up lighting before a photo shoot. The biggest difference is that 3D designers will need to create that light digitally.

  1. Once the lighting is complete, it is time to render the project. Rendering can be defined as a computer generating the 3D image from the scene creating in the rendering process. It’s like taking a snapshot in the real world. Rendering can be extremely quick or take several days, depending on the complexity of the project. In the context of site planning, rendering often takes less than a day to complete in most cases.

  1. Once rendering, the image will then go through a refinement process. This involves sending the image to the client for feedback in a lower-quality format. The client can make notes of what should be changed or added to the image before the final rendering process begins. The artist will make the revisions to the image until the correct results are complete.

  1. Once the refining process is complete, the 3D rendered image is delivered to the client. The image is usually provided with various file sizes and resolutions for the client to choose from.

This process is so vital for site planning, and while it is complicated and long-winded, the results are usually fantastic and very useful.

Related: 10 Best Floor Plan Software of 2019

MySitePlan as a 3D Rendering and Site Planning Solution

Site planning with 3D rendering is clearly not the most simple process. More often than not, 3D rendering will involve a team and require some time to do properly and accurately. Luckily, there are options.


MySitePlan is a site plan drafting company with note site visit required, an ultra-fast 24-hour turnaround for standard site plans, and guaranteed acceptance. MySitePlan can provide both residential and commercial site plans, so any project you might be drafting can be planned with ease.


MySitePlan has a talented team of drafters who can create an excellent 3D design with a simple 2D blueprint or drawing. The result is gorgeous and accurate 3D rendering to help you (and potential clients) see the grand potential of a new property. Don’t have a current design? Don’t worry! MySiteDesign can help you bring your vision to fruition with a free consultation.

Related: Conditional Use Permit


What do you think of 3D rendering for site planning? Tell us what your experience has been like using this particular medium in the comments below!

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  • Ryan Crownholm
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