January 24, 2023

How to Display Buildings in 3D in Global Mapper

Written by: Amanda Lind


One of the best visualization tools in Global Mapper is the 3D viewer. Displaying your data in 3D can help you see your work from a new perspective, show potential clients a planned structure, and better communicate your data. In Global Mapper, you can display any data in the 3D viewer that has elevation/Z data as an attribute. Here are a few easy ways you can find, create, and display buildings or vector features in Global Mapper. 

Creating/finding vector building data 

Building features can be created in Global Mapper, or imported as a file from an external source. There are quite a few open source datasets that provide vector building data, including GeoJSON files freely available from Microsoft’s building footprints database. You can also download building footprints from OpenStreetMaps through Global Mapper. Select OpenStreetMaps Vector Map Download in the Online Data tool, found under Worldwide Data, to open the site in your default browser with OpenStreet Map’s viewer automatically zoomed to match the extent and location of your view in Global Mapper. 

If you have lidar data, you can use Global Mapper to extract 3D building features from loaded point cloud data and display them. First, classify buildings with Global Mapper’s automatic classification tools, and then use the Feature Extraction tool to create polygons based on those classified points. These extracted polygons will inherit elevation values from the lidar. More information on using the automatic classification and extraction tools in Global Mapper can be found HERE.

Buildings can be extracted from lidar data with Global Mapper’s built-in tools.
Buildings can be extracted from lidar data with Global Mapper’s built-in tools.

How to add elevation data to existing polygons

Adding elevation information to existing polygons in Global Mapper can be easily accomplished either manually, or with the Apply Elevations to Selected Features digitizer tool. This tool finds the nearest elevation value from an existing elevation layer or point cloud, and applies it to the area features vertices. This method is effective for features at ground level as it applies elevations from a digital terrain model for surface features, like building footprints. If you need elevation data, try looking at the available sources in Global Mapper’s Online Data tool. 

Manually add building height to the buildings by creating an attribute. In the Attribute Editor, create a new attribute from the right-click menu and add values describing the building height above ground. Next, in the Vector Options elevations tab, change the first dropdown to your newly created building height attribute and click apply. Using the created building height attribute values as the feature elevations should now display the building features at the correct height. Be sure to change the Area Style to solid fill and add a color to better render the 3D walls.

Slide to see how changing the Area Style will extrude the walls to the ground when the option is set in Configuration.

Adjusting 3D display 

Does your building look like a floating polygon? Here are a few important settings that may help. First, be sure that the polygon has a set style. A feature style can be set or modified in the Style tab of the Vector Options, in the Modify Feature Info dialog, or by choosing a Feature Type that has a solid fill. If the area feature has no fill, you will only see the top frame, without the sides. Next, try enabling the Extrude 3D Areas to Surface setting found in Configuration 3D view Properties > Data Display. When this option is enabled, Global Mapper will automatically add walls to your buildings by extruding the feature to the ground. 

Are your Vector features not displaying in the 3D viewer at all? Be sure they are enabled in the 3D view settings, as shown in the screenshot below. This setting should be on by default. 

Have you imported vector data with existing elevation values that Global Mapper isn’t displaying? Check the elevation tab in the layer’s Vector Options to be sure it’s pointing at the correct attribute. The default setting will pull the first attribute in the file named elevation, Z, or similar.

Be sure these two settings are enabled when working with vector features in the 3D viewer.

These settings should help you display any 3D vector data in Global Mapper’s 3D viewer. As always, please send any questions to our technical support team at geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com with screenshots and any relevant data. 

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