Plans afoot for a virtual Australasia

The Virtual Australia and NZ Initiative seeks to digitise terrain and buildings over the whole of the Australasian region

A plan originating in the state of Victoria seeks to digitise terrain and buildings over the whole of Australia and New Zealand.

The Virtual Australia and NZ Initiative (VANZI) would be a cooperative exercise by owners of government and private property, who will each own the digital model of their own property. The federated database will be surrounded with a legal apparatus to govern ownership of, and access to, the digital representations of properties.

Each property’s building information model (BIM) will be related to the appropriate part of the terrain model (GIS) and to the services, such as electricity and drainage, connected to the property, using standards and ‘extract translate load’ tools to provide interoperability.

There will also be a relationship along the time axis in terms of the workflow of any alterations to the property - the consents required and the resources brought to bear to make each change.

The scheme “also involves the dynamic modelling of buildings for compliance with building codes for resilience against earthquake, fire, flood and wind, as well as simulation of shadowing, energy and water use, together with traffic flows and the movement of people, etc within city precincts - to optimise designs for liveability and sustainability,” says a report of a July meeting of VANZI stakeholders.

Michael Haines, CEO of VANZI, the consortium leading its implementation, admits it will take several years to formulate the legal apparatus. The technology is the least of the problems, he says.

Apps are available now for the iPad and fly-through quad-copters to assemble a set of camera shots taken by the owner into a basic three-dimensional model of the property, which can then be refined by the addition of detail.

The main challenge is to evolve a legal framework to encode this new concept of ownership of virtual property. Initial discussions have taken place with government agencies in Victoria, New South Wales, and New Zealand, and interest has been expressed from more than 100 stakeholders, Haines says.

A “major law faculty” has proposed that a research council be established among the universities to assist the various governments to design a new legislative framework over the next two-three years, says the meeting report. “While this may sound optimistic, it is not as difficult as it may first appear as we are talking about an entirely new area of law where we can take a fresh start – as there are currently no 3D datasets that are specifically defined for ‘property related purposes’ in any jurisdiction.”

An extensible web services architecture and open APIs are another important part of the solution, Haines says.

As with physical property, it will be at the property owner’s discretion to permit other parties access to the digital model and the rights to alter parts of it to reflect changes in the real world.

Allowing organisations such as architects, construction firms, local authorities, banks and insurance companies access to an existing model, will save them the expense of maintaining their own digital models and will eliminate the risk of inconsistencies among the models, says Haines.

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