Assessing the Economic Value of 3D Geo-Information (2017)


The use of 3D geo-information has rapidly developed in recent years. Technological advances have driven this evolution and reduced the costs involved in the procurement and processing of 3D geo-information. Consequently, National Mapping Agencies (NMA’s) are actively seeking to transform their data operations and processes to produce such enhanced products. However, budgetary constraints in the public sector necessitate a rigorous assessment of costs and benefits before opportunities can be developed. This report is the culmination of a EuroSDR project that undertook a business case analysis over 12 months in collaboration with 11 European national and regional mapping agencies.

Geographical scope

Europe: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom

Non-quantified impacts

The value chain analysis covered six areas in which 3D geo-information could provide benefits. These advantages were discussed and detailed in the workshops and were various in nature. Improved planning processes were a clear theme running through many of the use cases. The benefits of 3D geo-information are easy to conceptualise when considering how to build flood defences, allow access to utility infrastructure or assessing the merits of a planning application. Furthermore, the enhanced depiction of the built environment should allow agencies to operate more effectively in time critical situations such as responding to a medical emergency or to a security incident. Conceivably of equal long-term value is the benefit to citizens from being able to understand how a project could change their community through more sophisticated modelling techniques that, in turn, could allow their concerns to be better reflected in the design process.

The cost benefit analysis of the two use cases that were studied in depth – urban planning and flood defence – both produced strong cost benefit ratios. Urban planning cost benefit ratio was over 2x whilst the flood management use case showed a higher return triangulated for the three approaches evaluated at circa 3x, possibly reflecting the significant economic damage caused by flooding.

The results of the project indicate that there is a significant positive return on investment from 3D geo-information when considering the two use cases in isolation. 3D geoinformation will add value to a number of use cases and whilst the costs of satisfying other use cases will increase incrementally, the benefits of such re-use are additive, meaning that the case for investment becomes stronger as each additional application is implemented. Further work using this methodology could usefully be considered in relation to the following use cases:

  • 3D Cadastre and Valuation – in the consultant’s view this represents the best opportunity to complete cost-benefit analysis for one of the remaining use cases for which value chain mapping was undertaken. The timing of ground-breaking work in Denmark may mean that access to their internal economic assessment might now be publicly released making this a relatively quick and easy extension of the study into a potentially very financially attractive application.
  • Asset management – this should be approached by the creation by the creation of value chains for significant subsets of this large and complex use case, particularly transport asset management and street works. The recent study in Queensland may provide an opportunity for a cost-effective benefits transfer process to be applied.

Quantifiable impacts

Value-chain modelling allows the identification of processes in the chosen use cases where value is added by the use of 3D Geo-information.  In cost-benefit analysis, a number of these processes are examined in more detail and for a subset the benefits are quantified.  These are set against the costs to derive a series of financial ratios that are used by decision makers to approve or reject investments:

  • Urban planning: 2:1 benefit-cost ratio; and a net present value of EUR 22 million after 10 years
  • Flood management: 3.3:1 benefit-cost ratio; and a net present value of EUR 8.9 million after 10 years



Study type

Cost-benefit analysis

Economy sector

Water, Infrastructure (Transport), Public Safety and Security, Disaster Risk Management, Agriculture