CityCAD 2.1

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Last year AEC Magazine looked at an innovative UK-developed modeller for urban design called CityCAD. With a new version out, Martyn Day went in for an upgrade.

CityCAD is developed in the UK by Holistic City Software, which comprises a small team of ex-town planners. In essence, the software allows users to very quickly build a parametric 3D model of up to 200 ha to assess sustainability, liveability and quality in the early stages of the design process.

Buildings can be shaded according to their distance from the nearest underground station, making it easy to identify areas which need better transport.

With many global customers, CityCAD is being used both in the UK and abroad to assist building developers in existing cities as well as planning new ones in the Far East.

The Windows-based design application enables the rapid creation, editing and testing of multiple development solutions, providing a huge amount of quantitative analysis: energy usage, carbon footprint, liveability areas, densities, residential mix, car parking, waste management, costings and phasing scenarios. CityCAD really is a virtual model of the city and can be used to aid decision support or asset in the development of policy.

Starting a new model can be done from within CityCAD’s own extensive 3D library or imported from industry standard files, such as a DXF and then turned into intelligent elements.

The basic components are blocks, routes and trees. Blocks define and model buildings with mixed or single use, roads is pretty self-explanatory and trees provides allocation of green spaces. These are drawn on the city grid. Each element comes with a whole load of information embedded which is used for the calculations and reports.

By changing the types of land use / mix of dwelling types / roads the system will automatically update the analysis results. By placing thresholds in the design the system will automatically alert you should they be breached (maximum distance to school, bus stops etc.) and supports BREAM Communities and LEED Neighbourhood developer standards.


New in town

The main concentration with this update has been on performance and stability. This has mainly come from users really pushing the boundaries of the size of models. In the previous version custom parameters could only be applied to blocks but this has now been expanded to roads. City models now graphically reflect distance and liveability queries with shading — for instance blocks which do not meet the minimum distance to bus stops will change colour.

DXF blocks can now be imported and stored for multiple use and the company is now actively evaluating IFC import. Basic snapping is now supported when drawing over line underlays. The help and support have been completely redone and they are now very comprehensive.

Launched earlier this year, there’s also a free CityCAD viewer which enables clients to open and view CityCAD models, and interrogate the data themselves. Annotations and notes can be added but the model can’t be edited.

Holistic City Software has had a number of requests to develop models for clients who don’t want to create the city models themselves. To meet this need the company is set to launch a services business to work with clients to build CityModels for possible live design workshops.

CityCAD can also be used to model underground structures for analysis, such as city transit systems.


CityCAD is an extremely thought provoking product. Its graphics are ‘cute’ and vivid enough to give an impression of the project. The real depth is in the information and data that can be hung off the core objects. While Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the future of building design, City Information Modelling (CIM) with products like CityCAD is the future of urban design.

NB CityCAD is not a boxed product and is only available for a monthly service fee of £200 per month per seat. For yearly contracts support is given free.

Product Info

Product: CityCAD 2.1
Supplier: Holistic City Software
Price: from £200 per year


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